Sister Helen Prejean: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions

Sister Helen PrejeanSister Helen Prejean, international author and activist, will give a talk about her experiences with inmates on death row and her attempts to save the lives of those she believes to be innocent at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, 2009, in Schneebeck Concert Hall. The free lecture, "The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions," is part of the Swope Lecture Series on Ethics, Religion, Faith, and Values. The public are encouraged to order complimentary tickets in advance. Sister Prejean, a recent recipient of the World Methodist Peace Award, may be available for media interviews. Please see details below. A reception and book signing will be held after the talk in Wyatt Atrium.

Sister Prejean has worked for more than 25 years to change public policies and prevent wrongful executions. During that time she has published two books: Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States and The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. The first book recounted her experience as a pen pal of Patrick Sonnier, a convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the electric chair at Louisiana's Angola State Prison. On Sonnier's request, Sister Prejean acted as his spiritual advisor. The book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1993, and topped The New York Times best-seller list for 31 weeks. It was later made into Dead Man Walking, a motion picture starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn.

The second book, published in 2004, tells the story of two men whose lives Sister Prejean shared until their executions. One was found guilty based mostly on conjecture and speculation. The other was convicted on the evidence of an inmate who later admitted lying. Sister Prejean vividly describes the thoughts of the two as their bids for clemency fail, and details the seemingly unstoppable legal process that put them to death.

A native of Baton Rouge, La., Sister Prejean received a master's degree in religious education at St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Canada, before pursuing a career in prison ministry in 1981. She is the founder of Survive, an advocacy group in New Orleans that counsels both inmates on death row and the families of murder victims.

The Swope Endowed Lectureship was established at Puget Sound through a gift from Major Ianthe Swope in honor of her mother, Jane Hammer Swope. The lectureship is intended to promote discussion, critical thinking, and ethical inquiry about matters of religion, such as its role in public life and contemporary ethics.

Complimentary tickets are available from Sunday, Feb. 15, by contacting Wheelock Information Center, or order by credit card by calling 253.879.3419. Seating is limited. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Please note that at 7:20 p.m. any unclaimed seats will be allocated to those waiting to attend-so all unused tickets will be void at that time.

For press interviews with Sister Prejean, contact Media Relations Manager Shirley Skeel (phone 253.879.2611; cell 510.684.6715; or e-mail sskeel@pugetsound.edu).