Natasha Cooper

Secrets & Despair

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

By Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Flatiron Books 322pp £20 order from our bookshop

The existence of capital punishment in the USA horrifies many people, both in that country and in the rest of the world. Large numbers of American law students have worked during their holidays for lawyers defending death row prisoners. One such is Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. While a student at Harvard, she went to work for Clive Stafford Smith’s law firm in Louisiana, arriving there not long after he had saved the life of Ricky Langley, a paedophile who had murdered a six-year-old boy. As Marzano-Lesnevich watched the tape of Langley’s original confession, she realised that she wanted him to die for his crimes. Shocked by her own reaction, she later writes, ‘I came here to help save the man on the screen. I came to help save men like him. I came because my ideals and who I am exist separately from what happened in the past. They must. If they don’t, what will my life hold?’

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