Capital Punishment Issues


Helen Prejean

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Sister Helen Prejean discussed issues of capital punishment at The University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center on February 21 at 6 p.m. Sister Helen’s visit to Tulsa was in support of Tulsa Opera’s production Dead Man Walking, opening February 25.

Sister Helen, a Catholic nun from Louisiana, became the spiritual adviser to Patrick Sonnier and witnessed his execution. In 1993, she documented her life-changing experiences in a best-selling book, Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, which was later adapted for an Oscar-winning film featuring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen in 1996. In 2000, the San Francisco Opera commissioned the adaptation of the book and film into what became one of the most revered American contemporary operas.

“The TU College of Law is pleased to partner with Tulsa Opera in presenting a lecture by Sister Helen Prejean, who will speak about the death penalty,” said Janet Levit, Dean and Dean John Rogers Endowed Chair. “This event is a perfect fit for TU Law, as one of our professors, Lyn Entzeroth, is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the death penalty. Sister Helen’s presentation is also a great example of how diverse entities from art and higher education can join to enrich the community.”

Dead Man Walking and Sister Helen’s latest book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, will be on sale at the lecture.

A Nobel Prize-nominated activist and advocate, Sister Helen has witnessed multiple executions and describes herself as “an ordinary person who got involved in extraordinary events.” She continues to travel the world bringing the issues of capital punishment to a public forum. “Larger-than-life and down-to-earth, she is truly the kind of person that makes the perfect opera heroine,” said Kostis Protopapas, Tulsa Opera artistic director.