Dead Man Walking
The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate
Publication Date: May 31, 1994
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In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison. In the months before Sonnier's death, the Roman Catholic nun came to know a man who was as terrified as he had once been terrifying. At the same time, she came to know the families of the victims and the men whose job it was to execute him--men who often harbored doubts about the rightness of what they were doing.
Out of that dreadful intimacy comes a profoundly moving spiritual journey through our system of capital punishment. Confronting both the plight of the condemned and the rage of the bereaved, the needs of a crime-ridden society and the Christian imperative of love, Dead Man Walking is an unprecedented look at the human consequences of the death penalty, a book that is both enlightening and devastating.
"Deeply moving...Sister Prejean is an excellent writer, direct and honest and unsentimental; her accounts of crime and punishment are gripping, and her argument is persuasive.... She almost palpably extends a hand to her readers." —The New York Times Book Review
"Destined to become the most influential anti-capital punishment statement since Albert Camus wrote' Reflections on the Guillotine ' in 1957.... This unblinking book about the deliberate killing of human beings refuses to turn a blind eye to the sins of the murderers--be they prisoners or prison officials. The author, Sister Helen Prejean, is a Roman Catholic nun who has lived and worked with poor black families in New Orleans. Walking explores her personal and spiritual evolution into both a death penalty opponent and victims advocate, an evolution that begins when she serves as the spiritual advisor to two condemned men." —Washington Post Book World
"This arresting account should do for the debate over capital punishment what the film footage from Selma and Birmingham accomplished for the civil rights movement: turn abstractions into flesh and blood. Tough, fair, bravely alive--you will not come away from this book unshaken." —Bill McKibben