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Nun sees world moving to end death penalty


By J. Michael Parker
Express-News Religion Writer
Tuesday, June 9, 1998
Source: San Antonio Express


The United States will be under increasing pressure from other nations to end the death penalty, and most Americans -- including Texans -- favor abolishing it when
good alternatives are in place. That's the contention of Sister Helen Prejean, the Louisiana nun whose ministry to death row inmates led to a best-selling book and an Oscar-winning film, both titled "Dead Man Walking."
But she said society must give more active support to murder victims' families, who often are abandoned by friends who don't know how to help them cope with their
grief. Prejean spoke Tuesday to 300 people at an interfaith luncheon at Temple Beth-El and addressed an interfaith prayer service at San Fernando Cathedral. Both events
were sponsored by the Texas Journey of Hope, an educational campaign against the death penalty. "The world community is moving toward abolition. The United States is the only civilized Western nation that still has the death penalty, and in time, I believe U.S. politicians will feel more and more pressure on this," Prejean said, adding:
"(Other nations) are already beginning to accost the United States on its human rights violations." She said the United States signed the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserting that every human being has rights not to be killed, tortured or subjected to degrading punishment. Prejean said the capital punishment process violates all three rights.
While Texas leads all states in executions and polls show a vast majority of Texans favor the death penalty, Prejean said Americans are deeply ambivalent about the death
penalty, and Texans are no different. "They're scared and worried about violence and safety, but when a state has alternatives such as life imprisonment without parole, support for the death penalty drops." Prejean said outrage is legitimate and killers must not be turned loose, but added: "Executing them means using the same violence we teach our children they can't commit."

SueZann Bosler of Miami, who was stabbed by the man who stabbed her father to death in December 1986, said she saved his killer from Florida's electric chair by
testifying in court that she and her father both opposed the death penalty. He's serving a life sentence now. "I was very angry at James Bernard Campbell for a long
time, but June 13, 1997 -- the day I forgave him -- was my day of victory. "It brought me peace," Bosler said. "I can now go on with my life."