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Liz Scott tells Prejean that the Harveys feel Prejean
used them. Robert’s execution date is set for December 28, and Prejean
visits him every week. His attitude is unchanged. He has to wear
a black box that severely restricts his hands because an inmate
told the warden Robert was hoping to escape. The lawsuit against
the Department of Corrections has won the inmates some minor concessions,
such as more televisions and food items. Robert says he worries
most about his mother. Prejean tells him that even real men cry.
She asks him to consider the suffering he has inflicted and talks
about Faith’s relationship with her mother. Robert says he is sorry.
Prejean tells him that his last words can be words of hate or of
love: the decision is his.
Major Kendall Cody, the man responsible for death row
inmates and guards, asks to speak to Prejean. He says he is not
sure how long he can keep participating in the executions, because
after talking to the men on death row, he can tell they are just
“little boys.” Prejean gives Robert a box of Christmas cards and
asks him if he wants her to be there for the execution. He says
he does. He doesn’t trust anyone on the prison payroll because they
are participating in his death. Robert says he is prepared to die.
In his interviews with the press, he says the government shouldn’t
kill people, that he admires Adolf Hitler, and that Aryans are the
master race. He says if he could change his life, he would bomb
Robert is moved to the death house on Christmas Eve. Prejean returns
to the death house the day after Christmas. She notes that the procedures
are more lax since her last visit with Patrick. After five executions,
the state knows that it was overly prepared. Robert says he can
sleep well because he has told the truth.. He asks Prejean for a
lie detector test to prove he didn’t kill Faith Hathaway. Prejean wonders
if he is lying about the murder, and if so, why he wants the polygraph.
Prejean asks him about his statements on Hitler and bombing buildings.
She tells him violence is a simple solution to a complicated problem.
He tells her about his admiration for men of action like Hitler
and Castro, and the sense of family that came with the Aryan Brotherhood.
He talks fondly about his time spent in Marion.
Robert admits that he regrets spouting off in his interviews.
Prejean finds a family friend to administer the lie detector test
that he wantsbut warns Robert that it will be difficult to obtain
accurate results because of the stress he is under. In her meetings
with Robert, Prejean also addresses the evolution of religion and
violence over the centuries. She places the biblical quotation regarding
“an eye for an eye” in its proper context, noting that it was a
call for restraint in a chaotic time; further, the Bible also advocates
death for a number of other minor infractions, something that would
never be adhered to in today’s world. She presents Elaine Pagels’s
argument that Christianity moved from nonviolence to compliance
with more violent policies. She contrasts this with the nonviolence
movements of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, both of whom believed
nonviolence was an aggressive form of social protest.
When Prejean arrives at the prison on the twenty-seventh,
Robert’s mother, aunt, and stepbrothers are there. Robert teases
and talks affectionately with his brothers. Warden Blackburn asks
the family to leave three hours early, and Robert doesn’t protest.
Prejean tells him the polygraph tests were inconclusive because
of the stress he is under, which could either be from lying, or
from facing imminent death. They have a conversation about Robert’s
prejudice against African Americans. He eats his last meal and talks
about his childhood and the jobs he has held. Prejean tells him
what’s going to happen next. He calls his mother for the last time
and finally cries. Guards shave Robert’s head, and Robert walks
to the chair with his usual jaunty walk. He tells the Harveys that
he hopes his death brings them relief and that killing is wrong.
He is strapped into the chair and winks at Prejean. She watches
As Robert’s execution draws closer, he becomes an increasingly complicated
figure. His motives for wanting a polygraph are unclear, as is his
involvement in the murder of Faith Hathaway. Prejean points out
her own doubts about the murder without revealing whether or not
she thinks he is guilty. Given his long history of violence and
his willingness to blame Joe Vaccaro for much of what happened,
it is difficult to believe that Robert didn’t kill Faith. His desire
to take a polygraph test just before he dies could be a last-ditch
effort to con Prejean and prison officials, rather than a genuine attempt
to prove that he wasn’t responsible for the stabbing.
Robert’s interviews with the press seem almost deliberately
self-destructive, as if he knowingly tries to paint himself in the
worst light. By asserting his support for Hitler and Fidel Castro,
Robert is clearly trying to paint himself as an outlaw, as a man
beyond the reach of the government who laughs at death. His desire
to be buried in his boots is part of the same act. He wants to present
an image of himself as untouchable. Yet as Major Kendall Cody notes,
most of the men on death row are just little boys, and Robert’s
displays of bravado are those of a little boy. He knows how hollow
his words are, and as his execution draws closer, he regrets his
statements to the press and becomes remarkably passive. He does
not protest when the warden denies him further access to the press
or when his family leaves early. When the polygraph test results
come in, he hardly raises a word of protest. For a man who spent
his life defying authority, Robert’s last few hours are surprisingly
Major Kendall Cody is the first prison official who not
only registers his objection to capital punishment but also understands
and accepts his responsibility for perpetuating its existence. His
appearance in the narrative is brief, but tragic. Cody is closer
to the condemned men than any other prison official, and his belief
that the men on death row are just little boys makes it nearly impossible
for him to strap them into the electric chair. Cody’s thoughtfulness
and self-conscious acceptance of his responsibility make him a sympathetic,
The last moments of Robert’s life are spare and unemotional compared
to Patrick’s. The execution is anticlimactic, and everyone from
the guards at the gate to the official who comes prepared with an
extra meal for Prejean knows the routine. During Patrick’s execution,
Prejean needed the support of Millard Farmer, and following it,
she vomited on the drive home. Prejean attends Robert’s alone, and
as she notes in the closing line, she keeps her eyes open and watches
the entire execution.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Dead Man Walking!