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The Nellie Bly First Place Blue Ribbon

The Execution of Robert Butts (2005-2018)


The deadly sins of poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities, mental illness, racism, drug abuse, incest, sexual abuse, and societal disinterest are endemic in indigent defense work. These sins conspire to damage generations of people.

I tell the story of Robert Butts, a young man from Milledgeville, Georgia, who I befriended while working on his appellate case.


Summarized as “one victim, one gunshot wound, and two men executed,” I explain how the failures of the legal system put him on death row, but it was his family, teachers, social services and the community who failed him through his young life.


Robert was doomed from birth. This is Robert’s story, from our first meeting to our final conversation 13 years later.


This essay won a first-place ribbon in the 2022 Nellie Bly Book Awards for Journalistic Non-Fiction, a division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards. It will be published in my upcoming book, Southern Lies and Homicides: Tales of Betrayal and Murder.

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