Books and Multimedia Resources

Books

A Lesson Before Dying
Ernest J. Gaines

A young man who returns to 1940s Cajun country to teach visits a black youth on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. Together they come to understand the heroism of resisting.

Dead Man Walking
Helen Prejean

In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers. In the months before his death, Prejean 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. Out of that dreadful intimacy comes a profoundly moving spiritual journey through our system of capital punishment.

The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions
Helen Prejean

In her second book Prejean focuses her argument on the ways in which an unjust system may be killing innocent people.

The Death Penalty: An Historical and Theological Survey
James J. Megivern

A comprehensive history of the death penalty in the west, this book explores the development of the death penalty chronologically and through the early, medieval and modern periods while also providing geographical surveys.

Audio/Visual/Interactive Resources

Dead Man Walking
Produced by MGM, 1996

Superbly adapted from the nonfiction book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean. In examining the issue of capital punishment from a humanitarian perspective, the film urges thoughtful reflection on the justifications for legally ending a human life. 

Do No Harm
PBS/NOW, 2006

As capital punishment becomes more clinical, doctors and nurses are being given medical responsibilities as part of the execution team. This website follows up on the show with exclusive features and up-to-date information.

The Exonerated
Court TV, 2005

This film places the audience as observer to personal interviews with ex-cons whose death row convictions were overturned. It is a biting commentary on the tragic state of racial and socioeconomic inequality and abuse, which then highlights severe failures of the U.S. legal system.

Redemption
Produced by fX Network, 2004

Redemption tells the story of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, founder of the Crips L.A. street gang. The story follows his fall into gang-banging, his prison term, and his work writing children’s novels encouraging peace and non-violent conflict resolution which earned him multiple Nobel Peace Prize nominations. After exhausting all forms of appeal, Stanley Williams was executed by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison, on Dec. 13, 2005.

The Green Mile
Castlerock Entertainment, 1999

This prison drama, set in 1935 Louisiana, depicts a death-row guard (Tom Hanks) who comes to believe in the innocence of an inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan) whose miraculous healing powers affect those around him in startling ways.