Keely D Gordon
Ms. Allison Boldt
31 March 2010
The Value of Life
I watched a man die last week, and I watched our country kill him. The man’s name was Matthew Poncelet, and he was, without a doubt, guilty of the crime for which he was executed. “Dead Man Walking” is an entertaining social problems film that gives viewers an inside look on the America’s highest form of punishment—the death penalty. In this movie, Poncelet is charged with the rape and murder of a teenage couple and sentenced to die by lethal injection. Sister Helen Prejean, a nun who befriends him, tries to get his death sentence overturned. When this proves impossible, Sister Helen agrees to counsel and stand by him until his execution. In this movie, one not only sees the struggles that a condemned man goes through before he is executed, but also the effects this crime had on the victims’ families. This movie is full of excellent examples of why capital punishment should be abolished. One problem with the death penalty is the inadequate defense provided by the state. To represent the poverty stricken Poncelet in his murder trial, the state appointed a tax attorney who had never tried a capital case before, and he was unfortunately sentenced to die. Poncelet did not act alone in the murders of these teenagers; a man named Carl Vitello assisted him. Vitello, however, was able to pay for an attorney who established enough reasonable doubt to take the death penalty off the table. His sentence was life in prison. As the saying goes, “Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment.”(Prejean) According to our constitution, every person has the right to be represented by council. Miranda rights state that “if you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you.” This is where problems arise. If a person cannot pay for a descent lawyer, the court will appoint one, but there is no guarantee that this attorney will have any idea how to defend his or...
Cited: Dead Man Walking. Dir. Tim Robbins. Polygram Films, 1995. Film.
Koch, Edward I. “Death and Justice.” New Republic 1985. Print.
Prejean, Sister Helen, “Would Jesus pull the switch?” Claretian Publications 1997. Print.
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