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Desire Street: A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans

Desire Street: A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong.

In a New Orleans supermarket parking lot in the fall of 1984 ,two disparate lives become inextricably bound for the next fourteen years. The first, the life of Delores Dye, a white housewife and grandmother. The second, a young black man with a gun in hand. Moments following their maybe not so chance encounter, Mrs. Dye lay dead on the sunbaked macadam, and the killer had made off with her purse, her groceries, and her car. Four days later, following a tip, authorities arrested a known drug dealer and father of five named Curtis Kyles. Kyles would then be tried for Mrs. Dye's murder an unprecedented five times, though he maintained his innocence throughout each trial. Convicted and sentenced to death in his second trial, he would spend fourteen years on death row. After a fifth jury was unable to reach a verdict, New Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr., finally conceded defeat and dropped the murder charge.

But the case slowly yielded a deeper drama: The crime turned out to have been the side effect of an intricately plotted act of revenge. That police and prosecutors may have been complicit in the vengeance that framed Kyles cuts to the heart of a system of justice for Southern blacks in the era since lynch mobs were shamed into obsolescence. A compellingly written legal drama that has at its heart passionate intrigue and justice gone awry.

Jed Horne is the city editor of New Orleans's daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune. This is his first book.

A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year
An Edgar Award Nominee
An Honorable Mention Book for the ABA Silver Gavel Awards
 
A shot rings out in a New Orleans parking lot and a routine purse snatching turns deadly. Within two days the law has a bead on a twenty-five-year-old suspect: a hustler, a father, a ladies' man, a thief, and a fence. For the police and for District Attorney Harry Connick, the stakes are high. New Orleans is in the crosshairs of the global media as the site of the 1984 World's Fair, and Connick is a week away from a citywide vote on his bid for re-election. Less than three months—and two trials—later, Curtis Kyles is sentenced to death for the murder of a sixty-year-old white woman named Delores Dye.

Kyles had spent fourteen years in Louisiana's hellish prisons when, in the late 1990s, he walked free—to howls of disgust from a community convinced of his guilt. How he disentangled himself from his legal snares is as astonishing as the zealousness of the prosecutors who took him to trial another three times after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the original conviction. In the official version of the case, the murder is seen as the work of an urban predator—a young man with a gun to the head of a defenseless woman. But over time, as witnesses grow stale and courtroom tactics lose their punch, another reality begins to emerge, a tableau with three figures. One is Kyles. Another is Pinkey, the woman who bore him five children. The third is an acquaintance of theirs—a man in the grip of sexual obsession and drug addiction.

Was Kyles framed? Or did an informant lead police, however deviously, to the right man? With a compelling narrative that has been compared to In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Desire Street takes us deep into the underworld of America's most exotic and duplicitous city in search of the truth about Delores Dye's murder, and about the fascinating—and troubling—man who was sent to death row for it.

"Jed Horne, the city editor of The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, follows each twist and turn of Mr. Kyles's legal ordeal, relying on a mountain of court transcripts and interviews with many of the people involved in the trial, including Mr. Kyles . . . The facts speak for themselves in this compelling portrait of life, death, and the justice system at the bottom of the social scale."—William Grimes, The New York Times
 
"Relying on his years as a reporter 'working the wrong side of the tracks,' Horne spins out the moving saga of the 25-year-old Kyles—an underemployed black man living on the fringe of the law with his common-law wife and their four children . . . Horne, who is white, paints . . . an accurate portrait of a poor, black subculture. He has the same feel for the street as George Pelecanos, a Greek who writes about the seamy, largely black, side of Washington, D.C., to great acclaim. Horne narrates an early meeting in which he calls himself 'a honky' to Kyles and has the good grace to tell us Kyles laughed in possible derision."—Rebecca Porter, Trial
 
"What Jed Horne does in this book is show you a right and wrong that runs beside guilt and innocence like the New Orleans streetcar runs beside heavy traffic. In a state where the lines of the law have blurred into wrongdoing for two centuries, Horne shows what can happen when a rush to convict overrides the protections of the system. Grippingly written."—Rick Bragg, author of All Over but the Shoutin

"Jed Horne forces you to look into the dark heart of justice in America and defies you to look away. Desire Street is a tour de force of the storyteller's art—a profoundly insightful book deserving of the highest praise."—Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"This is a breathtaking true crime story that is at once the portrait of a complex city, a finely drawn gallery of memorable characters, and a passionate inquiry into the ever-thorny ambiguities of race. It's destined to become a New Orleans classic and to provoke a wide-ranging discussion about some of our most deeply held platitudes."—Andrei Codrescu, author of Wakefield

"Only in New Orleans could a true story like this read so much like a novel or have such an amazing cast of colorful characters. Jed Horne has produced a fascinating tale about a man accused of a murder that is more complex than it seems, and a system that almost railroaded him into the electric chair. Anyone who cares about race and the justice system must read it." —Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"Desire Street is more than an important and resonant tale of race and crime—it is a page-turner, with a complex and magnetic criminal at its heart. It isn't easy to put this book down."—Daniel Bergner, author of In The Land of Magic Soldiers

"Behind its devil-may-care front for tourists, New Orleans is troubled by a long history of corrupt law enforcement and neighborhoods afflicted with crime. Jed Horne knows this bizarre city, and he has delved into its darkest corners for this compelling story of murder, betrayal, false witness, and official connivance."—Curtis Wilkie, author of Dixie

"A highly readable legal drama and story of desire and revenge, this book will grab you from the first page; more important, through Horne's accurate depiction of the tormented lives of Southern blacks, we begin to understand their fear, rage, and desperation. From understanding comes hope for change."—Christine Wiltz, author of The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld

"In the fall of 1984, Delores Dye, a housewife and grandmother, was shot and killed in a grocery store parking lot in New Orleans. Four days later, Curtis Kyles was arrested and charged with the crime. Horne (city editor, the Times-Picayune) traces the case in detail as Kyles is tried five times for the murder and ends up on death row for 14 years, maintaining his innocence throughout. His first trial ended in a deadlock, which resulted in a mistrial. In the second, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Eleven years later, his appeal case went before the U.S. Supreme Court, and he was granted a reversal. In both the third and the fourth trials, the jury was deadlocked and the case declared a mistrial. In 1998, after a fifth jury failed to reach a verdict, District Attorney Harry Connick (Sr.) conceded defeat, and Kyles was set free. Over the course of the five trials, it came out that Kyles had been framed by an acquaintance and that police and prosecutors may have been complicit. This interesting and well-written book is a worthy purchase for large public libraries, especially where there is local interest."—Library Journal

"The city editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune analyzes an extraordinary sequence of events that turned a cut-and-dried murder case into a protracted, racially tinged mangling of due process. Horne's first book opens with a grisly recounting of the 1984 murder of white housewife and grandmother Delores Dye, accosted in an outlying section of a supermarket parking lot and summarily shot in the head, apparently for purposes of robbery and carjacking. There were eyewitnesses, one close enough to be terrified for his own life, and in due course a known drug dealer named Curtis Kyles was arrested and brought to trial. This is not a straightforward retelling; from the outset Horne lets the story marinate in redolent language as poverty, hopelessness, and a daily diet of black-on-black crimes seep into the picture from Kyles's flat on Desire Street in the infamous Ninth Ward. Kyles was brought to trial twice, convicted, and sat on Death Row for more than a dozen years through an unprecedented three subsequent trials while noted District Attorney Harry Connick (Sr.) marshaled his minions to reshape a capital case that a jury might buy. During the ordeal, rumors surfaced: Kyles was actually set up by his opposite number in a love triangle; the cops knew about it and went along, 'inclined to cut corners in the name of getting another nigger off the street.' The rumors gained plausibility from New Orleans' well-known proclivity for extremes in good and bad times, not to mention its endemic political corruption. After 14 years, with the case still essentially unsolved, Kyles was released. Horne sums up the story as a study in 'the persistence of a determined prosecutor [and] the persistence of racism in the post-segregation South,' with the objective of justice for Delores Dye long since relegated to oblivion."—Kirkus Reviews

Synopsis:

In a searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong, Horne investigates the 1984 murder of a white housewife and the black man who spent 14 years on death row, convicted of a crime that may have been an intricately plotted act of revenge.

Synopsis:

A searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong.

In a New Orleans supermarket parking lot in the fall of 1984 ,two disparate lives become inextricably bound for the next fourteen years. The first, the life of Delores Dye, a white housewife and grandmother. The second, a young black man with a gun in hand. Moments following their maybe not so chance encounter, Mrs. Dye lay dead on the sunbaked macadam, and the killer had made off with her purse, her groceries, and her car. Four days later, following a tip, authorities arrested a known drug dealer and father of five named Curtis Kyles. Kyles would then be tried for Mrs. Dye's murder an unprecedented five times, though he maintained his innocence throughout each trial. Convicted and sentenced to death in his second trial, he would spend fourteen years on death row. After a fifth jury was unable to reach a verdict, New Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr., finally conceded defeat and dropped the murder charge.

But the case slowly yielded a deeper drama: The crime turned out to have been the side effect of an intricately plotted act of revenge. That police and prosecutors may have been complicit in the vengeance that framed Kyles cuts to the heart of a system of justice for Southern blacks in the era since lynch mobs were shamed into obsolescence. A compellingly written legal drama that has at its heart passionate intrigue and justice gone awry.

 
Desire Street is a 2006 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Fact Crime.

About the Author

Jed Horne is city editor of The Times-Picayune (New Orleans). This is his first book.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780374138257
Subtitle:
A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Author:
Horne, Jed
Subject:
Murder
Subject:
Trials (Murder)
Subject:
Murder - General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20050203
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8 Pages of Photographs
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 in

Related Subjects

Desire Street: A True Story of Death and Deliverance in New Orleans
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Product details 352 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374138257 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In a searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong, Horne investigates the 1984 murder of a white housewife and the black man who spent 14 years on death row, convicted of a crime that may have been an intricately plotted act of revenge.
"Synopsis" by ,
A searing anatomy of a New Orleans murder trial and a system of justice gone wrong.

In a New Orleans supermarket parking lot in the fall of 1984 ,two disparate lives become inextricably bound for the next fourteen years. The first, the life of Delores Dye, a white housewife and grandmother. The second, a young black man with a gun in hand. Moments following their maybe not so chance encounter, Mrs. Dye lay dead on the sunbaked macadam, and the killer had made off with her purse, her groceries, and her car. Four days later, following a tip, authorities arrested a known drug dealer and father of five named Curtis Kyles. Kyles would then be tried for Mrs. Dye's murder an unprecedented five times, though he maintained his innocence throughout each trial. Convicted and sentenced to death in his second trial, he would spend fourteen years on death row. After a fifth jury was unable to reach a verdict, New Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr., finally conceded defeat and dropped the murder charge.

But the case slowly yielded a deeper drama: The crime turned out to have been the side effect of an intricately plotted act of revenge. That police and prosecutors may have been complicit in the vengeance that framed Kyles cuts to the heart of a system of justice for Southern blacks in the era since lynch mobs were shamed into obsolescence. A compellingly written legal drama that has at its heart passionate intrigue and justice gone awry.

 
Desire Street is a 2006 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Fact Crime.

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