WVU journalism professor publishes legal-themed book

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 13, 2009


MORGANTOWN -- A West Virginia University journalism professor recently published his second book.

John Temple, 39, teaches reporting and writing courses at WVU and serves as the associate dean of the journalism school.

Temple's latest book, "The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates" tells the true inside story about a team of North Carolina lawyers who work exclusively with death row inmates. The story is centered around one lawyer in particular—Kenneth Rose.

"I wanted to find out what drives these lawyers to do what they do," Temple said. "Why did this group of lawyers want to work with death row inmates, and what happens during these cases?"

"The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates" was released Sept. 24, and follows Rose and his defense of Bo Jones, a North Carolina farmhand convicted of a 1987 murder.

Temple said he spent about 4 1/2 years following Rose and the other lawyers as they worked with Jones' case.

"Sometimes these types of cases can go on for decades. Jones' case did, but I was only there for the last 4 1/2 years," Temple said.

Temple made an agreement with the lawyers when he first started working on his book.

"In exchange for letting me work with them, I had to agree not to publish anything until the case came to some kind of conclusion—whether it is the inmate's execution or something else," Temple said. "It was challenging because there was no guarantee that this would happen. I could've spent all this time and work and then never get to publish anything."

During the 4 1/2 years that Temple worked with Rose and his group of lawyers, he said he made 17 trips down to North Carolina.

"Sometimes something would happen with the case and I would have to drop everything I was doing and go down to North Carolina. It took a lot of patience," Temple said. "I even moved down there for a month at one time."

Rose called the case his most frustrating case in 25 years, according to the book description.

Temple said he always knew he wanted to be a writer.

"I read a lot when I was younger, and in third grade I knew I wanted to write books," he said. "I love the challenge of pulling together a long and complicated story."

Temple is also the author of "Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner's Office," which was published in 2005 and follows the exploits of a diverse team of death investigators at a coroner's office in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Before teaching at WVU, Temple said he taught and studied creative nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned an M.F.A. He also worked as a reporter in Pittsburgh, Pa., Greensboro, N.C. and Tampa, Fla.

Temple currently lives in Morgantown with his wife and two sons.

For more information about "The Last Lawyer: The Fight to Save Death Row Inmates" or Temple's other book, go to www.johntemplebooks.com.

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