Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States, will speak at 7 p.m. April 21 at Nazareth College, 4245 East Ave., Pittsford. The talk will be held in the Golisano Academic Center’s Linehan Chapel.
Sister Prejean, CSJ, gained international fame in the mid-1990s when her book spent 31 weeks in the number-one slot on the New York Times best-seller list. Her book was later turned into a major motion picture starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Sister Prejean.
The inspiration for Sister Prejean’s book came in 1981, when she began writing to convicted killer Patrick Sonnier, who was imprisoned in Angola State Prison in Louisiana. She later became his spiritual adviser and became very familiar with the execution process in Louisiana.
Sister Prejean published her second book, The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions, in late 2004. This book chronicles Sister Prejean’s experience of witnessing the execution of two inmates she believes were innocent.
Through her books and approximately 140 speaking engagements each year, Sister Prejean encourages people to reflect on the moral issues surrounding the death-penalty debate, especially the issue of wrongful execution of the innocent. She has been a board member and former chairperson of the board for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and currently is a member of Amnesty International.
She also is an honorary member of Murder Victim Families for Reconciliation and honorary chairperson of Moratorium Campaign, which is pushing for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. The group is collecting signatures in support of its mission, and in December 2000 Sister Prejean presented 2.5 million signatures to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Sister Prejean will discuss her two books during the Nazareth event and will be available for a book signing afterward. Her free lecture is open to the public and is sponsored by Nazareth’s office of multicultural affairs.