Helen Prejean’s passionate testimony against the death penalty on this day in 1998 came soon after one of the highest profile executions in the U.S.
Just weeks before, Karla Faye Tucker had been put to death by the state of Texas for killing two people with a pickaxe.
Prejean, a Roman Catholic sister, has outspoken about her opposition to the death penalty for decades. But when she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph in Baton Rouge, she was seeking a quiet, personal relationship with God. She had no interest in politics.
“There is no humane way to kill a person, because human beings have consciousness and emotions and when condemned to death imagine and anticipate death and die a thousand times before they die.”
In 1982, she began a pen-pal relationship with a convicted murderer in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The experience gave Prejean insight into the process involved in executions, and she began using her voice to speak out against capital punishment.
On March 23, 1998, she testified before the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, speaking on behalf of the non-profit “Hands Off Cain.”
In her testimony, she argues that the death penalty is a form of torture. “There is no humane way to kill a person,” she says, because human beings have consciousness and emotions and when condemned to death imagine and anticipate death and die a thousand times before they die.”
Prejean’s 1993 book, “Dead Man Walking,” inspired a Hollywood movie and sparked a national debate.
Now in her 80s, she keeps speaking out against what she calls “the machinery of death.”
(Photo: AP / Mark Humphrey)
© Copyright 2021
Want to talk? Reach me at email@example.com