He Called Me Sister: A True Story of Finding Humanity on Death Row

Morehouse. Feb. 2023. 240p. ISBN 9781640655959. $29.95. REL
Arguments surrounding the death penalty often pit statistics and idealistic rhetoric against devastating narratives of the victims of violence and their loved ones. Robertson (former Tennessee Bar Journal editor) tells the story of her family and Cecil Johnson, who was convicted for the 1980 murders of three people, including a 12-year-old boy. Johnson maintained his innocence but was executed in 2009. What starts for Robertson as a vague sense of biblical duty to visit people who are in prison soon gives way to Cecil’s horrific story. Most poignant in the book is the 15-year bond that develops between Johnson and the Robertson family. After Johnson’s execution, Robertson passes through her own veil of grief and delves into the question of his guilt. She finds a system where the felt horror of some crimes tragically perverts the course of justice. The book shows that some believe they have the right to extinguish that opportunity. The author’s only comfort being that somewhere along the line, Cecil found humanity.
VERDICT This deeply moving book is a personal challenge to doctrinaire notions of justice verses the Christian conviction that each person is redeemable.
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