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Dead Man Walking

Sister Helen Prejean

Chapter 6

Chapter 5

Chapter 6, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

Millard tells Prejean about Robert Lee Willie and Joseph Vaccaro, who went on an eight-day rampage, raping and murdering Faith Hathaway, raping another young woman and paralyzing a young man. Prejean has heard Faith’s stepfather, Vernon Harvey, give interviews saying he cannot wait to see Robert’s execution. In addition to this murder, Robert was involved in two other murders. Robert and Vaccaro were tried in the same courthouse. Vaccaro received life in prison, while Robert was sentenced to death.

Prejean is terrified, but Millard says she will find a child behind Robert’s macho exterior. Prejean writes to Robert asking him if he wants her to be his advisor. He says yes. Since Patrick’s execution, bad rumors have been spreading about Prejean. People say she was emotionally involved with Patrick and caused problems for the staff by fainting. In addition, the two Catholic chaplains are trying to bar any female spiritual advisors.

Prejean meets with Frank C. Blackburn, a lay Methodist minister and the new warden of Angola. Prejean challenges him on the death penalty, but he says he sees no contradiction.

Prejean wonders how Jesus’ nonviolent teachings are so easily brushed aside by people. She says she can’t accept the idea of an angry, wrathful God. She grapples with the role Christianity has played in accommodating violence throughout history.

Blackburn gives her permission to serve as Robert’s advisor. Prejean moves out of St. Thomas into a house near death row attorney Bill Quigley. In October 1984, she visits with Robert, a short young man in his mid-twenties. She tells him about her life, faith, and opposition to the death penalty. He asks her if she wishes she were married. She tells him that she has all the intimacy she needs in her life. Robert says that he is part of a class action suit on behalf of death row inmates.

On October 26, Prejean and forty others begin their three-day march to Baton Rouge. During the march, Prejean presents facts about the death penalty, such as the cost of execution and the lack of effect the death penalty has on the crime rate. She also presents the moral argument that if murder is wrong, it is wrong for everyone. In Baton Rouge, Prejean and her companions find a counter-protest waiting for them. Vernon Harvey is there.

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