Sister Helen Dead Man Walking Essay

When I first asked her about doing an interview for a book about writing and resistance, she answered: “Bring it on!

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The reason, for instance, most people are on death row is because they didn’t get a really good, top-notch lawyer.

If you don’t have a lawyer who raises a formal objection to so many things, you are in trouble.

” And you begin to see how arbitrary the whole thing is, and you can’t apply it—or you make a mess of applying it. That book is about how someone could be innocent and still be thrown into the death machine.

This is nothing to say for the biggest mistake: the huge number of innocent people we’ve wrongfully convicted, put on death row, and then exonerate—162 and counting. For it, I had to learn a lot about the appeal courts.

NOR Most of the prosecutors don’t allow for a plea bargain? She heads up the ACLU John Adams Project, which puts millions of dollars into the defending of people accused and targeted from 9/11. But you’ve got to define child, because when you have a law you always have to have a cutting-off point.

She says the death penalty rests on the premise that we can entrust the government and the courts to set up criteria in some kind of predictable, reasonable, and lawful way to select and punish with death the “worst of the worst”—and do this according to norms of the Constitution. NOR So there are two trials—one for the guilty or not guilty determination, and the other for sentencing? Which is partly why the death penalty will always be more expensive than any other kind of trial. So you begin to have this hierarchy or this meritocracy: what is the status of some victims, that their killing would automatically make their killer eligible for the death penalty, but not others? So you can have parents come in before the judicial committee and say, “Our son was killed!

PREJEAN I’ve never thought of the rooting question. NOR It’s helped me—when I feel like a character is too goody-goody or too unreliable—because as long as you’re rooting for the character, you want to see them get over whatever challenge they’re facing. Tim Robbins remarked once that I was “the nun who was in over her head,” and that is just what people thought, and rightly so, when they saw me getting into this.

I knew nothing about the courts, the criminal justice system, how politics work—nothing.

As Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice, pointed out, your life experiences have a lot to do with the way you interpret words.

You have privileged white people, who went to privileged schools, interpreting words such as “equal justice under law” whereas those from humbler backgrounds, like Marshall, have an entirely different take on what those words mean.


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