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Dead Man Walking Research Papers

Dead Man Walking research papers report on the book by Prejean about capital punishment from the eyes of a sympathetic nun who befriends a death row inmate. You can have a custom written project about the book by Prejean, the movie that starred Sean Penn and Susan Serandon or about capital punishment and the ethics of the practice.

The book, “Dead Man Walking”, written by Helen Prejean and published by Random House,Inc. in 1993, recounts the story of a Roman Catholic nun who confronts the state of the condemned and takes a spiritual pilgrimage on the way to capital punishment.  Sister Helen Prejean, tries to find religious and moral clarity in the ambiguous area of the death penalty.

Helen Prejean was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on April 21, 1939.  She has lived there all her life.  While growing up, she took witness to several acts of racism that was so common in that era of time.  She makes reference to a lot of her childhood memories throughout the book and compares them to the happenings of her visits with Patrick Sonnier. 

Life of Sister Helen Prejean

  • Dead Man WalkingAt the age of 18, Sister Helen joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille.  Later on, they demonstrate their devotion to her by helping her out during emotionally trying times. 
  • In 1963, she received a B.A. in English and Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College, and then received an M.A. in Religious Education from St. Paul’s University. 
  • She then went to St. Thomas, Louisiana to serve the poor, in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. 

While doing her work there, Chava Colon from the Prison Coalition, invites her to become a pen pal for a death-row inmate.  She agrees.

Sister Helen Prejean’s views on capital punishment which is punishing a convicted murderer by death, and the whole justice system, were pretty naive. She asked to review Sonnier’s files and is given the word for word transcripts of the trial. These are the same papers attorneys would review when they represent death-row inmates in their habeas corpus appeal which is a review by the federal courts to make sure the state courts have upheld the defendant’s constitutional rights.  At first she was afraid to befriend such a man as Patrick Sonnier, a convicted murderer and rapist.  She decides to correspond with this inmate anyway. After some research on the death penalty and the execution of someone by electrocution, Sister Helen determines that if she were to be murdered, “I would not want my murderer executed. I would not want my death avenged. Especially by government-which can’t be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill”.

After Sister Helen Prejean and Sonnier exchange letters for sometime, she decides to visit him.  At first, she is reluctant to meet him because pictures of him in newspapers depict a scowling demon who showed no repentence for the evil deeds he carried out. This is not the face, however, that she meets at the Louisianna State Penitentiary in Angola. This is a handsome, smiling man.  A likeable man.

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