Dead Man Walking

by: Sister Helen Prejean

Robert Willie

Characters Robert Willie

Robert Willie is Helen Prejean’s second death row correspondent. He has been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of Faith Hathaway. Although Robert claims he did not stab her, his role in the murder remains uncertain. He is a complicated and mixed figure, at once contrite and defiant. Unlike Patrick, Robert knows his execution is inevitable and approaches it with false bravado. Robert has been an outlaw since he was fourteen, constantly in and out of jail. Prison has been a second home for him, perhaps more real than the one in which he grew up. In the days leading up to his execution, he gives interviews in which he expresses admiration for Hitler and Castro and touts the supremacy of the Aryan race. Like his steely determination, the interviews play up Robert’s constructed image of himself as a rebel and outlaw. Robert implicitly acknowledges the falsity of his act when he says he regrets the remarks he made to the press and expresses a desire to die peacefully. Robert opens himself up to Prejean’s love, believing that he has accepted the truth and that it will set him free. Robert does not protest or fight during his last moments of life but instead talks lovingly with his family. Just before he is executed, he says he hopes his death will bring peace to the parents of the woman he helped kill.