Jim B's Reviews > Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate

Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean
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Jun 12, 11

bookshelves: christian, nonfiction
Read in March, 2003

Sister Prejean describes her experiences with two death row inmates, Pat Sonnier and Robert Wille, both guilty of gruesome murders. By examining both cases and how the court system handled them she makes her case against the death penalty.

Sister Prejean believes the death penalty is immoral in all cases, that the government never has the right to kill under any circumstances. While her own position is so extreme that she has to ignore or dismiss Biblical statements that contradict her (though she quotes Scripture to make it sound as though the Bible is anti-death penalty), her book serves to show how arbitrary and flawed our human justice system is. In one particularly disturbing section she described how one governor used his power to pardon through a carefully orchestrated system of bribery with the result that an innocent man died.

Sister Prejean draws very complete portraits of people, revealing evil and good existing side by side.

The last section of the book dealt with the victim's side of crime. In an unusual twist that is a tribute to Sister Prejean's character, she becomes a close friend of the Harvey's, whose daughter Faith was murdered by Robert Wille. The Harvey's are her firm political opponents, believing the death penalty is good and just. They lead her to see how the justice system is unfair to the families of victims. Sister Prejean becomes a catalyst for a victims' rights movement!

Sister Prejean is frank about her own perceptions, fears, and ambivalence and this keeps the book from becoming pompous or condescending.

The audio version of this book was read by Barbara Caruso in a voice that sounded like a sharp thinking nun!
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