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.
The warden of Angola during Robert Willie’s execution.
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.
Prejean’s friend from the Prison Coalition. Chava is the person who first invites Prejean to work with death row inmates.
The 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 execution.
The governor of Louisiana. Governor Edwards does not personally support the death penalty, but he condones executions for political reasons.
A 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.
Faith 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.
The murder victim of Robert Willie and David Vaccaro. Faith had recently graduated from high school and was preparing to enlist in the army.
The teenage boy murdered by Eddie Sonnier.
The 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.
The warden of Angola during Patrick Sonnier’s execution.
The 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.
A 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.
The prison official responsible for Camp F, the prison bloc that houses the death house where Patrick resides. He is sympathetic to Prejean.
Patrick 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.
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.
Robert 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.
The 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.