New Book Tackles the Death Penalty


Nationally recognized death penalty expert and judicial reform advocate Andrea D. Lyon has been fighting for social and judicial reform in the U.S. for most of her professional life. As an award-winning criminal defense attorney and the first woman to be lead counsel in a death penalty case in the U.S., Lyon has seen firsthand why the death penalty remains a deadly political tool in the United States.

“The Death Penalty. What’s Keeping it Alive.”

She has tried more than 130 homicide cases, more than 30 of which were potential capital cases. Of those cases, 19 clients were convicted and found eligible for the death penalty.

None of those clients received the death penalty.

In her just-released second book, “The Death Penalty. What’s Keeping it Alive.” (Rowman & Littlefield), Lyon delivers a stinging indictment and impassioned brief against the American death penalty from her singular vantage point as a criminal justice insider. She explores the key issues surrounding the death penalty past and present; takes the media to task for its role as a “messenger of death” in sensationalizing high-profile capital cases; and sends a shot across the bow of prosecutors’ offices that often use the death penalty as a political tool to win their cases, stroke their own egos or obtain personal gain.

Lyon also argues that the combination of religious and moral convictions play a critical role in the death penalty debate, as does media coverage of crime and punishment. But she firmly believes politics is the 800-pound gorilla in the courtroom and remains a lethal political tool in most of the United States (18 states and the District of Columbia have banned it; the remaining states have not).

About Valparaiso Law School Dean Andrea D. Lyon, J.D.:

Lyon’s criminal defense and law school teaching career spans positions with the Chicago Public Defender Office’s Felony Trial Division and Chief of the Homicide Task Force; founder and Director of the Illinois Capital Resource Center; Assistant Professor of Clinical Law at the University of Michigan; and as a Clinical Professor of Law, Associate Dean of Clinical Programs and Director of the Center for Justice in Capital Cases at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. She was an integral player during former Illinois Governor George Ryan’s efforts to declare a moratorium on executions and later commute all death sentences to life; along with pardoning four Death Row inmates based on innocence (The Illinois Legislature abolished the death penalty in 2012). Lyon was named Dean of the Valparaiso University Law School in June 2014.

In addition to her latest book, Lyon has also authored “Angel of Death: My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer,” and the American Bar Association book, “Team Defense in Criminal Cases.” She has appeared on a number of national news programs and has written extensively on the promotion of social justice, equity and improvement in the criminal justice system. For more information on Andrea D. Lyon or

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