Journal of Social Philosophy 31 (3):307–315 (2000)

Michael Byron
Kent State University
The 1995 film, Dead Man Walking, concerns the life and execution of a convicted murderer in Louisiana. It is based on the experiences of Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who found herself caught up in the case. The film is not really an anti-death penalty piece: the convict’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, no mistaken identity or extenuating circumstances relieve the prisoner of responsibility. The viewer is told that the convict committed the brutal double rape and murder for which he was sentenced to die. If anyone deserved the death penalty, this man did, and the film captures this horrible truth. And yet the humanity and compassion of Sister Prejean in her dealings with this man still raise questions about the justifiability of the death penalty. Only a remarkable piece of art can convey both sides of a passionate debate with such a clear-eyed sense of the truth
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DOI 10.1111/0047-2786.00048
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