'Dead Man Walking' Author Pushes Death Penalty Repeal - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

'Dead Man Walking' Author Comes to Dover to Push Death Penalty Repeal

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Sister Helen Prejean is shown speaking during an anti-death penalty rally held Tuesday in Dover, Del. (Photo: WBOC) Sister Helen Prejean is shown speaking during an anti-death penalty rally held Tuesday in Dover, Del. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - A well-known anti-death penalty advocate came to Delaware on Tuesday to try to put life back into an effort in the First State to repeal its death penalty.

Sister Helen Prejean is a Catholic nun and the author of "Dead Man Walking." In 1995 that book became a movie, in which Susan Sarandon played Sister Helen. Sarandon won a best actress Oscar for the role.

That movie - and the book that inspired it - chronicled the relationship between Prejean and a Louisiana death row inmate, played in the movie by Sean Penn.

It was last March that Delaware lawmakers began debating the elimination of the state's death penalty. The repeal bill narrowly got through the Senate but stalled in the House. Sister Helen came to the First State to try to get the bill un-stalled.

"Delaware - you can just feel it. It's ready," she said.

Sister Helen had an upbeat tone as she spoke with repeal supporters at Christ Episcopal Church in Dover Tuesday.

"It's the way a wave hits a shore. The waves churn. When the build up is there, the momentum is there, it hits the shore. Delaware to going to repeal the death penalty."

She knows there are still a lot of people in Delaware who support the death penalty.

"The death penalty you believe in is not the one Delaware has," she said. "In fact, when you look at who is selected in Delaware, you have one of the highest percentages of minorities on death row."

The repeal bill is stuck in the House Judiciary committee - six against, five for. Rep. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, is one of those against. He says people spoke to him Tuesday about repeal. But he has no intention of becoming the sixth "for" vote that would allow the bill to move forward.

"It absolutely will not be my vote," he said. "I've talked to a lot of people in my district. The feedback I've gotten from the district has been overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the death penalty."

Law enforcement and corrections organizations have been outspoken in their opposition to repeal.

Someone who hasn't been outspoken, or really said much of anything, in either direction, is Gov. Jack Markell.

"I'm hopeful at the very least that he will support it," said Sean Dwyer, with DE Repeal. "This could be a victory for the caucus, for the state. I think it would be a victory for him and his governorship, too."

It's a victory Sister Helen is hoping she helped move Delaware closer to with her visit.

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