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)

10 thoughts on “#JusticeMatters”

  1. In 1981 I served on a jury as the foreman. I motel owner had been robbed and shot and was in the Tulsa hospital. Two black teenagers were arrested for the crime and the police were taking them to the hospital to see if Mr. Ware could recognize them. He did. And then he died. The boys wer brought to trial. Their mother was absolutely sure her boys would not do such a thing and so she snooped around the black community. She heard of two boys who were bragging that they had done the crime but had got away with it. But no one in law enforcement believed her. Then an 8 year old boy tld his mother that he had been with those two other boys and they had asked him to hold the gun while they took the money. Mr. Ware moved to open the cash drawer and the boy shot him. The mother told the police. We were deliberating and all ready to convict the two boys that the police had. They interrupted deliberations to tell us about the confession and they had arrested the other couple of boys.

    Mr. ware recognized the two boys because they had had their girl friends to his motel.

    That was a close call. Ever since that incident, I have followed the innocence project. John Grisham says there are hundreds of innocent people in prison. Thank God for the Innocence Project. They do save some.

  2. Justice? A.G Griffin Bell appointed one of my uncles to head a group to work with the State Supreme Court Justices of every State, I think it was titled, Justice Reform. This was of course i the ’70s. Uncle Bill advised me at the time, not to call it the Justice System…it is our Legal System, and he also advised that on too many occasions, the world Legal did not as some folks express, ‘does not fit to so very well’!
    Hmmmm. in some things changes do not occur.

  3. Many prisoners, guilty or not, are victims of our social system. There will be no justice until we change our social system to where all people are respected and treated alike, given equal employment opportunities and equal pay and given the community services, educational services and health care services (including mental health and addiction services) that they require and equal access to rental and purchase of homes at whatever location they choose. We badly need systemic change.

  4. Yes. Capital punishment is barbaric and inhumane. I fear for the life of every convicted person wondering if it was a legitimate conviction or not. Thanks for writing this one Bil. Even if it opens one person’s mind about this issue, it is worth it.

  5. There is a scandal in Orange County now with the chain of command of evidence involving possibly a thousand cases. My daughters case is one of those. Police are supposed to book all evidence they have collected before they check out for the day. In the case of our son-in- laws death, there was some important evidence that was not booked until nearly three years after his death.

    • Thank you Iris for reading my blog and responding. Annie and I worked at Musik and Theo Lacacy where we saw and hear awful stories. It was very difficult to walk thru the jails to get to our students because we saw the constant dehumanizing of inmates. But the sheriff is still there. I heard little outcry when he stated that his deputies would never enforce wearing of masks. Yikes! W
      Let’s defund the OC Sheriffs.
      PeaceLove Joy Hope

  6. Thanks for shedding a light on the legal systems’ issues with meting our justice equitably. those wanting a more spirit filled life will be rewarded If they care about this and/or donate $ to Innocence Project. It’s an action that matters.

    • Thank you Jeanne for reading my blogs and responding. The Innocence Project is a great organization and has saved many lives but what a travesty about justice that we have to have organizations to fight the justice system because they don’t do justice. One reader made an interesting quote from a law professor: We don’t have a justice system,. We have a Legal System that sometimes has no justice.

  7. Thanks for this, Bil. Do you loan out Sister Prejean’s books? If so, put me on the list of “eager readers.”

  8. I am trying to have hope. What I have witnessed out in the open these last 4 years gives little hope which is not usual for me. The Supreme Court of Louisiana’s recent ruling involving the appeal of a black man who tried to steal shears years ago and was sentenced to life makes me sick at my stomach.


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