by Bil Aulenbach


I met Sister Helen Prejean at Irvine United Congregational Church in 2010. She was a petite woman with a giant message about the death penalty. I bought a copy of her book, Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate, which was written in 1994 and made into a movie. She autographed my copy, which I treasure because she is one of my heroes.

In 2019, Sister Helen published River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey, which I read on my Kindle and could hardly put it down. I noticed that she had written another book in 2004—The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions. I bought a used copy but found it tough to read for many reasons:

  • It was depressing.
  • It made me angry.
  • I can hardly believe that all this took place in our country, which is supposed to provide liberty and justice for all.
  • Capital punishment is barbaric.
  • Too many innocent people have been sent to prison and destroyed by our so-called judicial system.
  • Racism runs rampant in our country.
  • I’m not sure we can do much about #BlackLivesMatter until #JusticeMatters.

As I read The Death of Innocents, the current get-tough administration performed the first federal execution since 2003. This decision was barbaric and proved to be nothing but another international embarrassment.

In The Death of Innocents, Sister Helen tells stories of innocent people who were murdered by our injustice system—by corrupt police, attorneys, crime labs, judges, and the Supreme Court. This book was published sixteen years ago, but I suspect this rampant injustice is worse today.

Sister Helen ends her book with pleas to end this barbaric system and to eradicate capital punishment forever in our country.

I think the actions of many police departments and prosecution attorneys are as bad as some of the crimes the accused are alleged to have committed. Some police officers and lawyers lie on the witness stand, hide evidence, or bribe people to lie for them. Some of them have little to no regard for human life.

#JusticeMatters implores the judicial system to severely punish any person who withholds any information or evidence from the court.

Too many defense attorneys do little to nothing for their clients.

#JusticeMatters requires that every person accused of a felony have the power to choose his or her attorney and receive the best defense possible.

#JusticeMatters demands that attorneys and judges be vetted for any biases and prejudices they might have.

The Supreme Court can never be allowed to ignore any last-minute pleas for stays of execution (this happened many times in the past).

Until #JusticeMatters, #BlackLivesMatter cannot become a reality. I recommend reading The Death of Innocents for more convincing evidence that our justice system is badly flawed—not only for people of color but for everyone who can’t spare millions of dollars to buy justice.

Could you afford to buy justice?


Image courtesy of Legal Gavel (CC BY 2.0)

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