Books: Did I Do It?

BRIEF AGAINST DEATH by Edgar Smith, with an introduction by William F. Buckley Jr. 364 pages. Knopf. $5.95.

On March 5, 1957, the body of 15-year-old Schoolgirl Victoria Zielinski, her brains splattered about, was found along the bank of a sandpit in Mahwah, NJ. Within three months, Edgar Smith, 23, a knockabout machinist, was charged, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for her murder. Eleven years later, challenging the death-house limbo record set by Caryl Chessman, Edgar Smith is still alive, fighting—and writing—for his life.

Brief Against Death is a detailed did-I-do-it? Smith's...

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