Sister Helen Prejean
The author and narrator of the book. Prejean is a
Catholic nun who began a life of social activism in 1981. Her work
with the poor eventually leads her to the criminal justice system,
where she becomes a spiritual advisor to two death row inmates.
After witnessing the executions, Prejean dedicates herself to working
for the abolishment of the death penalty.
in-depth analysis of Sister Helen Prejean.
Frank C. Blackburn
The warden of Angola during Robert Willie’s execution.
Major Kendall Cody
The man responsible for the death house. Despite
his opposition to the death penalty, Major Cody plays an important
role in each execution. He maintains a relationship with the men
on death row and is haunted by the role he plays in each execution.
friend from the Prison Coalition. Chava is the person who first
invites Prejean to work with death row inmates.
head of the Prison Coalition and a close friend of Helen Prejean’s.
A lawyer, Tom plays an important role in helping Prejean fight Patrick’s
Governor Edwin Edwards
The governor of Louisiana. Governor Edwards does
not personally support the death penalty, but he condones executions
for political reasons.
death row attorney from Atlanta. Millard works tirelessly to save
Patrick Sonnier’s life. His strength and dedication to abolishing
the death penalty and providing legal counsel to men on death row
is an inspiration and source of hope for Helen Prejean.
The mother of murder victim Faith Hathaway. Elizabeth,
like her husband, is a vocal advocate of the death penalty and a
strong supporter of victims’ families’ rights.
Hathaway’s stepfather. Vernon cannot move beyond the grief and anger
he feels about Faith’s murder. He becomes an advocate of the death
penalty and an advocate for victims’ families. Although he disagrees
with Prejean’s opinion of capital punishment, he respects her views
and maintains a friendship with her.
in-depth analysis of Vernon Harvey.
murder victim of Robert Willie and David Vaccaro. Faith had recently
graduated from high school and was preparing to enlist in the army.
teenage boy murdered by Eddie Sonnier.
father of murder victim David LeBlanc. Lloyd reprimands Prejean
for failing to contact the victims’ families. He talks openly with
Prejean about his family’s grief and his desire to see Patrick executed.
The Pardon Board Chairman. Howard recognizes the
arbitrary and biased nature of the death penalty, yet, as Pardon
Board chairman, he continues to support executions. He is later
convicted of taking bribes while serving on the Pardon Board. Howard exposes
the corruption within the Pardon Board system to Prejean.
warden of Angola during Patrick Sonnier’s execution.
C. Paul Phelps
head of the Louisiana Department of Corrections. Phelps does not
personally believe in the death penalty, but he supports it nevertheless.
A kind and compassionate man, Phelps helps institute a number of
necessary prison reforms.
death row attorney in Louisiana. Bill Quigley is a deeply religious
man who has dedicated his life to working for the poor. He assists
in Patrick’s case.
Captain John Rabelais
The prison official responsible for Camp F, the prison
bloc that houses the death house where Patrick resides. He is sympathetic
Sonnier’s brother. Eddie and his brother, Patrick, have been convicted
of murdering two teenagers. During their trials, Patrick and Eddie accused
each other of pulling the trigger, but only Patrick has been sentenced
to death. Eddie confesses to murdering David LeBlanc and Loretta
Bourque. He is haunted by his role in the murders and by the knowledge
that his brother will be executed for a crime he did not commit.
Elmo Patrick Sonnier
The first death row inmate counseled by Prejean.
Patrick’s first real experience with love comes in prison with Prejean.
In the months leading up to his execution, he expresses remorse
for his crime.
in-depth analysis of Elmo Patrick Sonnier.
Willie’s accomplice in the murder of Faith Hathaway.
Robert Willie’s mother. A hardworking woman, she
has a terrible time dealing with her son’s execution.
second death row inmate Prejean advises. Robert has been sentenced
to death for the rape and murder of Faith Hathaway. Strong-willed
and defiant, Robert has been in and out of jail since he was fourteen years
old. He dies peacefully after apologizing to Faith’s family.
in-depth analysis of Robert Willie.