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Capital Punishment in Dead Man Walking

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Essay title: Capital Punishment in Dead Man Walking

Capital Punishment in Dead Man Walking

“This is not a nice man … innocent is not a word that suits him in any way,” says Brian Webster when speaking of Matthew Poncelet, the man on death row in the movie Dead Man Walking. Many people feel that the death penalty is immoral and it should not be used; however I feel completely opposite. I believe that capital punishment is a fair sentence for a murderer to receive. In the movie Dead Man Walking, the main character Matthew Poncelet, is on death row waiting for the lethal injection that will soon put him to death for good.

Dead Man Walking shows the audience what life is like for a man on death row, who was sentenced for the murder of two young adults. I feel that the movie does not support the death penalty and it tries to show that a person can be redeemed for his actions and therefore should not be put to death. “The film definitely has its opinion on the death penalty, it is against it” (Williams). Even though I support the death penalty, I still feel that the movie accurately described what life on death row was like for Matthew Poncelet. At the beginning of the movie Matthew Poncelet had no respect for life and death, he had never really thought about the life he was taking away from the two young adults. However, he transforms from a murderer to an actually human being, thinking logically as his life and the movie come to an end.

For each of us, death is a subject that not only fascinates, but creates fear in our hearts as well. Death is something we avoid in our minds with the hope that it will not touch us. As a society we all fear death; especially in violent cases, which occur naturally and arise through the unusual forces in our society. When such an event takes place we want revenge. In Dead Man Walking, the parents of the murdered girl are left with so much anger that they verbally attack Sister Helen Prejean, when they find out she is still on Matthew Poncelet’s side.

"Ain't nobody with money on death row,” said James Berardinelli when speaking about the possibility of Matthew being too poor to hire a lawyer. I feel that the movie is totally wrong when it suggests that Matthew Poncelet is on death row because he was poor. I do not feel this has anything to do with him being on death row. He is on death row because he murder two innocent people. In essence, trying to say that he should not be put to death for the cold blooded attacks, should make society wonder what kind of foolish message this movie is trying to display. “I defy anyone to sit unaffected through Dead Man Walking,” states Berardinelli. This statement shows how powerful the message is that the move is presenting.

One reason why the movie is wrong in its suggestions about abolishing capital punishment is because murders such as the one described in the movie happen in everyday life. A great example of a real life case was presented in the International Herald Tribune where a 15-year-old boy was shot to death, after refusing to hand over his leather jacket to a young man in a passing car. The killer was arrested and convicted, then served 14 years in prison. After his release, he shot and killed an elderly man and his wife on their farm in eastern Washington State. Later, in a rural community north of Seattle, an attractive young woman was washing windows outside her home with her 3-year-old daughter at her side. An attacker threatened her daughter's life if she wouldn't submit to his sexual desires. He was caught and convicted and served five years before being placed in a work-release program. Then he fled the work-release program and went back to his victim's home. She was having coffee and cookies with a neighbor woman along with her daughter, now at the age of eight. The rapist, armed with a knife, killed both women and the girl by slitting their throats. After 10 years of costly legal appeals, all at taxpayer expense, their attacker was put to death. It took place at midnight (Jones ed. 2).

All of these innocent lives would have been saved if his sentence would have been the death penalty when he was first convicted of murder. This is only one example of this type of case occurring; however, there are many people who get away with murder. I believe that once a person has convicted a serious murder they should be put to death, no questions asked; if not they could get out of jail and commit the same types of crimes numerous times again.

In my opinion, this movie is too compassionate towards Matthew Poncelet for murdering those two innocent people. “I do have some criticism of the movie; first it is too sympathetic to the killer. Watch how they make him into Christ at the end of the movie (Rhodes).” This is the weakest part of the movie showing Matthew as a hero, because

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