Reading: “The Death of Innocents”

The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions by Helen Prejean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It seems odd to say that I was surprised at what a good book this is. I had expected for the content to be compelling, even riveting, in describing the injustices heaped on people who get railroaded by the criminal justice system, but I hadn’t expected for Sister Helen Prejean to be such a good writer. I was familiar with Prejean in the way most people are – through the movie Dead Man Walking and through news stories about death penalty – but I had not read any of her work before. Prejean’s ability to weave her way through complex scenarios, to jump back and forth in time, to provide background seamlessly and without confusion were all impressive— which made the book’s content even more heartbreaking, because I wasn’t stumbling through her narrative. Prejean focuses first on two death row inmates who may well have been innocent, then Justice Antoni Scalia and his – according to her – misunderstanding of both Catholic doctrine and the law. In the final section, the reader gets an overview of the problems with the death penalty in America, attacking the issue piece by piece with statistics, facts, and anecdotes. The narrative does get a tad redundant in spots but not bad. Overall, The Death of Innocents contains a convincing, well-thought-out, and exceptionally humane perspective on a major problem in American culture and in the practical application of modern Christian ethics.

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