Sister Prejean signed a copy of her book for Wallace ‘Buck’ Fugate
but he was never able to see it.
Warden Head would not allow me to send it to him!
Click here to see the encouragement Sister Prejean wrote.
EXCERPTS FROM A FEBRUARY 15, 1996 SPEECH
BY SISTER HELEN PREJEAN
This speech was part of a "Community Discussion on the Death Penalty" held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and sponsored by The Catholic Life Center, The Louisiana Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, The Bienville House Center for Peace and Justice, Amnesty International, and St. Albans Institute for the Humanities.
DEAD MAN WALKING - THE FILM/THE BOOK
I just want to maybe share a little bit with you about the making of the film and the film is a miracle. Producers were not exactly knocking at my door saying 'hey, we want to do a film of this book.' If you wanted to do a Hollywood sensational movie and you're willing to have the nun have a little romance with the death row inmate or maybe help him escape or if the guy was really innocent and there'll be a last-minute intervention... But somebody guilty? And no romance between him and the nun? Which is mostly gonna be scenes where they're talking and encountering each other? Nah, they didn't.
Tim Robbins said, "Of course it's about the death penalty but this film is really is a film about our belief in God and Christianity and what our deepest spiritual values are as a society. It's a form of art and in art what you do is you bring people to a place and present it to them in a way that their hearts can respond in a way they never have before."
Sean Penn said, "When you read a script and you find your tears falling on the page, you know it's something you got to do. I wanted to be part of this
film because I just knew that it would be something substantiative that we
would be offering in this film and I want to be a part of it."
I have a lot of confidence now in the book because I know that the book can really help people. And, so it's brought the book to the number on the New York Times best-seller list. It's moving into it's second or third week there. So people are coming out of the theaters going right over to the bookstores and so they're reading the book. This to me is the work of the Gospel.
The work of the Gospel and the way we live Christianity is very important. And the way Christianity is being lived in this country - sometimes I wonder what Jesus would say or do and if he would recognize what he began, the fire he began on the earth of love and compassion and not returning hate for hate. And what we've done to Jesus.
And I think it's at the heart this film, I've been reading things like when she says to me, I want the last face that you see to be a face of love. Is
that Christian? Is that compassion or is that unmarried to the sympathy to a
terrible murderer who does not deserve to live and who deserves to die. That's
the question that we're really faced with. Are some people so beyond
redemption by what they do that they really are disposable waste and we have a
right to kill them. That's a question raised by the movie. And then the movie
takes you into all the arenas. It takes you over to the murder victims'
families. It shows you one family, the Percys who are for revenge and you
understand why. It doesn't just show them as just wild-eyed crazy people, they
have suffered such a loss that the only thing they can think that will help
ease their pain is to see this man die. And it's understandable, but yet, you
see Earl De La Croix, another victim's family trying to get beyond or out of
the hatred that he feels to move on with his life.
And you see an unseen victim's family - the family of the one who's executed. That scene in the death house with Little Troy and the two brothers of Matthew Ponselett and his mother and what they go through and telling him good-bye before the state kills him, is something nobody ever sees. They never see that family that also now is going to have a funeral and somebody's being killed just as really as if a lone gunman put a gun to his head and killed him. The fact that it's the state killing him does it change, does it change the moral lessons of it for Little Troy who's 10 years old and who's about to lose his brother or for his mother? And what are we doing? What are we doing as a
society by doing that?
The Robert Lee Willie story. Faith Hathaway was brutally killed but there was a young couple that was abducted. She called me up after when the word came out about the film and she said you will know me as the 16-year-old from Madisonville. And this couple was abducted by Robert Lee Willie and Joe
Vaccaro. The boy was shot - Mark Brewster was shot. He was partially paralyzed. He's had to deal with this for the rest of his life now. His speech is affected. She was raped. Took for two days and two nights, terrifying days and nights sitting between Robert Willie and Joe Vaccarro with a gun to her side and she - they let her go at the end.
Lloyd LeBlas is one of the most extraordinary people I've ever met in my life. His son was murdered, I go to pray with him in this little chapel in St. Martinville and he has forgiven. And he has moved on in his life. I mean he knelt by the body of his boy when he identified him and said the Our Father and he had been taught the Our Father, and when he came to the part of the Our Father that said and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, he forgave the people who had killed his son.
It's incredible, not that you ever do it and it's done forever. Every day of his life he has to deal with it. See people tend to think that forgiveness is a kind of weakness, that it's kind of condoning - oh it doesn't matter that he killed my son. What it really is, is a spiritual strength that the hatred is not gonna overcome you.
Mostly politicians' rhetoric saying look, we have these terrible crimes, these people deserve to die but then when it comes to executing a person we hire basically 12 people from the state of Louisiana whose job it is to kill the man. We all read about it in the paper the next morning and now the media is not even too interested in the stories. Maybe it will be buried back on page 10.
The system is so - people have no idea how inhuman and imperfect and frail and biased and you know the whole thing is. I think it's worse in that the rhetoric about the death penalty is that it's reserved only for the most heinous crimes and the most terrible crimes and that we know for a fact - I don't know how many people we - we've executed 22 people here in Louisiana. Pat Sonnier, I do not believe of first degree murder.
The US Supreme Court said you do not have a constitutional right to a hearing in a federal court when you have evidence of innocence. Innocence and evidence of innocence is not in and of itself - does not give you a right to a hearing in a federal court. They said the proper forum for it are the state pardon boards. That's supposed to be your hearing for innocence. And so I mean I'm hoping against hoping we're really doing, we're taking steps, as many steps as we possibly can take to try to deal with this.
Join Me in the Call for a
Halt to the Death Penalty!
Now, more than ever,
we need you to help spread the word.
The Death Penalty
Does NOT stop violence. Is Racist. Is unfair to the poor. Costs more than any alernative. Is arbitrary. Is irreversible. Is a symbol, not a solution.
P.O. Box 13727, New Orleans, LA 70185-3727
Phone (504) 864-1071
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