Normally, due to the pain and suffering content, I do not partake in the viewing of movies such as Dead Man Walking; directed by Tim Robbins; starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. However, this is an opinion paper and I enjoy expressing my opinion when asked. The film is based on the nonfiction book by Sister Helen Prejean. In the film, a Louisiana nun becomes spiritual advisor to a convict on death row, and tries to get him to accept responsibility for his actions. I believe religion and the death penalty are the two main focuses in the film. The convict, portrayed by Penn, has been on death row for six years. He was one of two men convicted of a double murder and a rape. The other guy was not sentenced to death, only life without parole. Through self enlightenment and the study of the law, Penns character is able to right his own motion to the Court of Appeals. However, being the impoverished inmate that he is, he cannot find an attorney to try his case, therefore, he cannot file the motion. He calls on Sister Helen, a nun against the death penalty played by Sarandon, for comfort and to help him find a lawyer to file his motion. All of his appeals are denied and his execution date is set.Just minutes before his sentence is carried out he confesses one of the murders and the rape to Sister Helen in order to redeem himself to the Lord. With his last words he apologizes to the families of his slain victims. He is finally executed as Sister Helen, his lawyer, and the families look on. At the end of the movie there is a serene tranquil feeling as if a heavy burden has been lifted from everybody.
I was astonished when Penn admitted his guilt to Sister Helen at the end of the movie. I believed he was innocent up to that point. I had begun to feel sorry for him, thinking that he had been wrongfully accused of such a horrible crime; however I feel that it is a crime that his cohort did not receive the same punishment as he. I cannot say that I agree with the death penalty, but I have never been put in that situation. At this point in my life I do not believe that one who murders should be murdered. After all death is the great escape, right? People see or hear about people, on the news or in the paper, that voluntarily kill themselves just to get away from it all. I feel the greatest punishment for any man to endure is the obstruction of freedom. Surely death is no worse than watching ones own life waste away in a cold dark prison cell. If a man is sentenced to death rather than life in prison, he is lucky. Of course, if I were in the shoes of the parents of the victims I might be singing a different tune. If one of my children were in the ground, and the perpetrator was still breathing, I know I would probably want him to suffer as much pain if not more than the pain he caused my child. However, I do not have any children and I do not exactly feel this way at this point in my life. Right now I feel that murdering a murderer is not the best punishment. Every time I hear about a criminal being sentenced to death I feel as if we, as in the American public, are sinking to the criminals level.
When debating on the issue of the death penalty people like to bring the Bible and God into the argument, yet in this issue I feel that the Bible contradicts itself. The Bible says: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, yet killing someone out of anger and despair- which are the two main emotions streaming through the body after the loss of a loved one- is considered to be Wrath. Now correct me if I am wrong, but is Wrath not one of the seven sins? Apparently it is not, as long as it is undertaken by the government or in the name of God.
Throughout human history more people have been killed in the name of a God due to differences in personal beliefs. People will fight and die for their religious beliefs. It is how wars are started. Although, I did admire Sarandons character as she demonstrated great poise and unconditional compassion for the convict and for the victims parents, even though they were not very congenial towards her. I do believe under a name other than the Lords, her poise and compassion would be mistaken for naive ness. Her title as Sister Helen ads to the courtesy and respect she receives from others.
I do not consider myself a religious person. I do believe in God, and occasionally I do attend church, but there are many parts of religion that are hard to swallow. However, when one wakes in the morning to find oneself in Matthews situation, God is really the only option. I could not imagine knowing the date and time at which I will cease to be. It must be a pretty nerve racking experience.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie, except I felt we needed to know a little bit more about Matthew; from his past, before he committed the crime; and the six years he spent in jail prior to when the movie begins. As far as Matthews fate; in my opinion he got what he deserved and I think the fact that he took responsibility for his actions is what settled the mood at the end of the film. I did feel sympathy for Matts mom and brothers. I wondered how Matts mother and the parents of the victims would react to each other if they were all put in the same room, seeing as how they have all lost children now at each others expense.
If the families would like to be involved in determining punishments in capital crimes then that is their choice. I was raised to live and let live. If you do not bother me, I will not bother you. As for the government that is supposed to be for the people by the people, bah humbug. We all know who the people voted for in the last presidential election and we all know who won it. Point being that the government is going to do what the government wants to do. People say I can make a difference. Sure, me and a hundred million of my supporters. Poor ole Matthew sure made a difference, did he not?