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Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean

Chapters 10–11

Chapter 9

Chapters 10–11, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 10

After the execution, Vernon Harvey tells reporters that Robert died too easily. Elizabeth Harvey says Robert was unrepentant, and her fourteen-year-old daughter says that Robert’s execution was the best Christmas present. Prejean tells the reporters that Robert’s execution accomplished nothing, and that he did show remorse.

The next day, ABC Evening News interviews Prejean. Her opinion about the death penalty is contrasted against the Harveys’ and that of syndicated columnist George Will. Vernon Harvey says he wishes every victim could see his or her killer executed. Prejean says she believes that if people could witness executions, they would see what a horrible and brutal act it is. The death penalty is surrounded with euphemisms that pretend torture and killing are dignified, and that mob vengeance is noble, she says.

When public executions were public events, Prejean says, the cruelty of the punishment was at least honest and apparent. She references a study that was done in the United States that found twenty-three people innocent after they were executed. In England, the hanging of an innocent man led to a moratorium and eventual abolition of the death penalty, but in the United States, the death penalty is still accepted.

At Robert’s funeral, his mother and stepbrothers huddle close together. His mother faints while staring into the casket. After the burial, they return to Elizabeth’s house and look at old pictures of Robert.

Summary: Chapter 11

Prejean says that after Robert’s execution, she decided to avoid the Harveys, but two years later they attended a seminar organized by Prejean’s abolition group and invited her over. The Harveys help other victims’ families by informing them of their rights, which they themselves never knew. They tell Prejean how poorly the D.A. and the police treated them after their daughter’s murder, and how their friends stayed away from them. Prejean tells them that Robert’s last words were sincere. Vernon, unable to let go of his grief, begins to cry.

After a weeklong abolition march, Prejean runs into the Harveys, who are staging a counter demonstration. Elizabeth Harvey speaks to the crowd, asking people to write letters protesting Congress’s plan to cut victims’ assistance funds. They meet again outside of another execution, where the Harveys defend Prejean against their pro death penalty friends. Vernon invites Prejean to a Parents of Murdered Children’s Meeting. She relays some of the tragic stories she hears at the meeting. She is amazed by how many people feel victimized by the D.A. and police. She organizes a victims’ families’ assistance program in the inner city with the assistance of local churches and federal funds and advocates for a reform that would allow for victim restitution and addresses the rise of violent crime. In August 1988, the victim assistance group is established. Prejean takes the new program director, Dianne Kidner, to visit the Harveys to seek their assistance and opinions.

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