Perkins School of Theology hosts the final two weekly programs in Death Penalty Matters, a series presented by the Embrey Human Rights Program, SMU.

11/11  Scott Langley – “The Death Penalty Documentary Project”

Dead Man Walking (pieces)

Mr. Langley will discuss The Death Penalty Documentary Project, a collection of photographs exploring capital punishment through the photographer’s lens.  The project began with an assignment for Prof. Rick Halperin’s Human Rights class in 1999 at SMU--photos of an execution night at Huntsville, Texas.  That assignment has now grown to over 800 images, and has been exhibited internationally.

The evening will also feature Virginia Dupuy, Professor of Voice (Meadows School of the Arts, SMU) and John Holbert, Lois Craddock Perkins Professor of Homiletics (Perkins School of Theology, SMU) performing pieces from Jake Heggie’s award-winning opera, Dead Man Walking.

This event begins at 7:00 pm in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall.

11/18   Sister Helen Prejean – “A Life’s Mission – Restorative Justice and the Death Penalty”

Sister Helen’s Meditations (from Dead Man Walking) sung by Professor Virginia Dupuy (SMU).

Sister Helen Prejean began her prison ministry in 1981 when she dedicated her life to the poor of New Orleans. While living in the St. Thomas housing project, she became pen pals with Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers, sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana's Angola State Prison.

Upon Sonnier's request, Sister Helen repeatedly visited him as his spiritual advisor. In doing so, her eyes were opened to the Louisiana execution process. Sister Helen turned her experiences into a book that not only made the 1994 American Library Associates Notable Book List, it was also nominated for a 1993 Pulitzer Prize. Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States was number one on the New York Times Best Seller List for 31 weeks. It also was an international best seller and has been translated into ten different languages.

In January 1996, the book was developed into a major motion picture starring Susan Sarandon as Sister Helen and Sean Penn as a death row inmate. Produced by Polygram Pictures, the film was directed and written by Tim Robbins. The movie received four Oscar nominations including Tim Robbins for Best Director, Sean Penn for Best Actor, Susan Sarandon for Best Actress, and Bruce Springsteen's "Dead Man Walking" for Best Song. Susan Sarandon won the award for Best Actress.

The book was the basis for a new opera. It was presented by the San Francisco Opera and premiered in October 2000. The libretto was written by Terrance McNally. Jake Heggie, composer of numerous operas, including Moby Dick—which recently premiered with the Dallas Opera Company—composed the music.

This event begins at 7:00 pm in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall.

Death Penalty Matters is a presentation of the Embrey Human Rights Program, SMU.