Dead Man Walking Death Penalty

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Rising in popularity, the Death Penalty has remained a hotly debated, controversial topic that is consistently spurring numerous moral and ethical arguments. Seen as a straightforward concept, a black and white situation, the death penalty has clearly divided the world in two divisions. One division holds the belief that it is a threat to human life and dignity, that it should be illegal. While the other supports the legitimacy of the death penalty and believe in the good it can bring. Regardless of the differing views, Dead Man Walking illustrates the doubled sided coin that is the death penalty to assert the value of human life and the toll it takes on an individual. Highlighting the importance of personal responsibility allows Helen Prejean…show more content…
According to Prejean, taking responsibility for one’s actions is the first step towards atonement, yet through the vocalization of Ryan she questions if any further steps beyond “[sitting] in a room with all the people...harmed by [the] crime” are truly necessary (Ryan 232). When presenting Matthew Poncelet in Dead Man Walking, he is originally portrayed as a cold heartless killer, a bigot who “is not a person [but]... an animal” (Dead Man Walking). But through the progression of the film, he becomes pitiable, finally reaching full escalation when recognizing responsibility for his role in the crime. By arranging her piece so the climax is his confession, Prejean is able to create a sympathetic atmosphere among her audience, while entwining reminders of what led to this position, through the belief that he has suffered enough and resolves the situation through his acknowledgement of his wrongs to the victim’s families. Prejean presents her case against capital punishment citing “killing is wrong, no matter who does it” and that personal responsibility is the only appropriate punishment for these “monsters” (Dead Man Walking). While Prejean argues this, Van Den Haag counters with “the criminal volunteered to assume the risk of receiving a legal punishment” and “the punishment he suffers is the punishment he voluntarily risks” (Van Den Haag 3). But through…show more content…
For society, the struggle between their aspirations to be moral and just and the greater, more abstract moral cost they pay every time they condone a state-sanctioned murder is a never ending battle. No one wishes to be the person who “heard her cries for help but did nothing while an attacker stabbed her to death”, no one wants that on their conscience (Bruck 581). In order to compensate for this occurrence, they try to reconcile themselves by exerting the harshest punishment known upon the perpetrator while distancing themselves from the person. With this first instinct of “an eye for an eye”, capital punishment made its debut with the thought “the advantages, moral or material, outweigh [the cost]” (DMW, VDH 2). In the film, Prejean battles this preconception with the claim that the moral cost society pays far outweighs any benefits it poses. She and Hilton Barber, Poncelet’s lawyer, initiate with the goal of making Poncelet’s humanity obvious to the court, employing the logic “it’s easy to kill a monster, but it’s harder to kill a human being” (DMW). Through the disillusion of Poncelet’s barbarity, a greater a toll is taken on the morality of those who condemn him therefore lessening the impact of their justifications. By showing the humanity of a convict, it removes any detachment formed through the belief that they are a monster and instead shows them a fellow human being- a . This in
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