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The Lifer and the Lawyer

The Lifer and the Lawyer

A Story of Punishment, Penitence, and Privilege


George Critchlow


Biography / Memoir

Publish Date

December 16, 2020

Short Description

A true crime story that is both literary and visceral; a story of darkness and redemption; and a story of friendship that evolved over five decades between two men -- a broken and dangerous young black man who grew up on the streets of Chicago and the young white, privileged lawyer apppointed to defend him on crimes in Eastern Washington for which he was sentenced to life in prison.


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The sentencing was a long time ago and it is strange to think that it occurred before I had lived most of my life. Now, I am nearing old age, looking back more than ahead. My client, too, is getting old—a great-grandfather, a committed, longtime man of God, and still behind bars after forty-two years, even though he has killed no one and has been a law-abiding, model prisoner for three decades. His name is Michael Anderson and he inspired me to write this book. As a child, Michael never once heard anyone tell him “I love you.” For him, this is very much a story about emerging into the light out of a dark background, a story about trauma, redemption, transcendence, and learning how to love. For me, a product of privilege, the tale of our connected lives raises questions about how we become who we are. Is it our nature or is it determined by the conditions to which we are born? Can we change who we are by an act of will? And what is the role of faith? For forty years, I wondered about the consequence of our different skin colors and family histories. Most significantly, I questioned whether Michael’s spiritual and moral metamorphoses came from correctional coercion, inborn will, or divine influence. We imagine our paths are freely chosen. But there is a need to account for biology and history, the random intercession of other people, culture, race, and the mystery of the transcendent. The variables make it difficult to predict the course of any individual life even though there are those who claim expertise in such matters. This book is a collaborative account of my long journey with my old client, and what we have learned: about the effects of childhood trauma, the importance of communicating love, the pernicious effects of racism, the purpose of punishment, and the redemptive power of faith and self-knowledge.


Available in paperback, Kindle, and Audio

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George Critchlow

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