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Nun to speak against executions

‘Dead Man Walking’ author plans to visit UNM Sunday

Sister Helen Prejean, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of “Dead Man Walking,” will speak about the death penalty at UNM’s Continuing Education Auditorium Sunday.

Kathleen Brockle, American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico development director, said Prejean is visiting the New Mexico Legislature because of a recent close vote for repealing the death penalty.

She said the repeal was defeated by only one vote and those people in favor of it should contact their legislators and let their voices be heard.

“The time is right to try and persuade folks about this,” Brockle said.

Prejean will speak at the UNM Continuing Education Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Brockle said, then will meet with legislators and Gov. Gary Johnson Monday.

She said Prejean has traveled the country and argued for the repeal of the death penalty because of her personal experience.

Brockle said Prejean, who is a New Orleans native, became a nun in 1957 and was assigned to be a spiritual director for men on death row in New Orleans. She said that was how Prejean met the man who became the subject for “Dead Man Walking.”

She said that when Susan Sarandon read the book, she contacted Prejean about doing a movie.

“It took off from there,” Brockle said.

Brockle said she picked the UNM Continuing Education building because she thought it would be attractive to students.

She added that Prejean is currently working with Moratorium 2000, a nonprofit group that specifically advocates for the repeal of the death penalty across the country.

According to its Web site, the Moratorium 2000 project “includes a coordinated global petition drive, and, worldwide, over 3.2 million people have signed the petition for a moratorium and the number is growing.”

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The site said that Prejean is leading the death penalty repeal effort in the United States.

“In a protracted war, the first step towards peace is a cease-fire,” Prejean said on the Moratorium Web site. “Peace always comes in steps and the first step is to cease and desist from killing which, of course, is a moratorium.”

The “Dead Man Walking” screenplay was co-written by Prejean and Tim Robbins and the movie, starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, was released in 1995. Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for best leading actress for her portrayal of Prejean in the film.

Prejean’s speech is free and open to the public.


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