Author of 'Dead Man Walking' brings campaign against death penalty to Fort Worth

Posted Friday, Apr. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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FORT WORTH -- It's been nearly 20 years since Dead Man Walking was published, and its author, Sister Helen Prejean, still travels the country, speaking about the horror of government-sponsored execution and the pain that killers cause to the families of the murdered.

The Roman Catholic nun, based in New Orleans, was in Fort Worth Thursday, urging people to stretch their arms around convicted criminals and the families of the people they harmed.

Regarding the death penalty in America, much has changed but much remains the same, she said.

"In the past six years, six states have done away with the death penalty," Prejean said. "What frustrates me is that we can't get the word out fast enough.

"If more people knew what was going on, they would not support the death penalty."

Dead Man Walking was based on her experience as a spiritual adviser to a Louisiana Death Row inmate, Patrick Sonnier. Later, as she worked with other condemned men, she came to believe that some were not guilty of the crimes they were convicted of. Her second book was The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions.

On Tuesday, Ricky Lewis of Tyler became the 494th person executed in Texas since executions resumed in 1982.

Six executions are scheduled in Texas in April and May, and five more through July.

Prejean argues that the United States should abolish the death penalty and urged churches and others to stand closer to the families of murder victims.

The movie of Dead Man Walking, which garnered actress Susan Sarandon an Academy Award for her portrayal of Prejean, has been turned into a play, which film director Tim Robbins has turned over to young people because he believes that they are the best hope for success in ending the death penalty, Prejean said.

Some Trinity Valley School students who performed the play in March attended Prejean's lecture at the Polytechnic United Methodist Church sanctuary on Thursday.

Prejean said she will visit Robbins in Chicago this week and talk to him about the work students are doing to increase understanding of the issue.

Everyone can have a role in changing the trajectory of this issue in Texas, Prejean said.

"Maryland just did it and don't think you are so different because this state executes more people than any other place in the world," she said. "The situation is bad here, but the people are good."

Mitch Mitchell,


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