Death penalty abolitionist Sister Helen Prejean to speak at Notre Dame


Sister Helen Prejean, who for decades has been the leader and moral conscience at the heart of the anti-death-penalty movement in the United States, will participate in a fireside chat from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 23 (Friday) in the Eck Visitors Center Auditorium at the University of Notre Dame.

The event, “Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty in America: A Fireside Chat with Sister Helen Prejean,” is hosted by the Notre Dame Law School Exoneration Justice Clinic and the Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights. Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law G. Marcus Cole will conduct the conversation with Sister Prejean.

Sister Prejean grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and joined the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Medaille in 1957.

In 1993, after ministering to death row inmates, she published the book “Dead Man Walking,” an autobiographical story of her relationship with death row inmates and opposition to the death penalty. “Dead Man Walking,” which was adopted into both a feature film and an opera, led Sister Prejean to become the nation’s most prominent opponent of capital punishment. In 1996, due to her advocacy against capital punishment, the University of Notre Dame awarded her with the Laetare Medal, the most prestigious award given to American Catholics.

Sister Prejean has also been a vocal advocate against wrongful convictions in the United States. In 2004, she published her second book, “The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions,” which told the story of two innocent men whom Sister Prejean accompanied to their executions. She has written and spoken to audiences worldwide on the grave miscarriages of justice caused by wrongful convictions, the problems that lead to wrongful convictions and the intersection between wrongful convictions and the death penalty.

Among other organizations and projects on which she works, she is a member of the board of advisors for the Notre Dame Law School Exoneration Justice Clinic.

“Sister Helen has long been a pillar of the movement to abolish the death penalty and a fervent advocate for the wrongfully convicted. The Notre Dame Exoneration Justice Clinic is honored to host her here on campus,” said Notre Dame Law Professor Jimmy Gurulé, director of the Exoneration Justice Clinic.

The fireside chat with Sister Prejean will be conducted in-person at the Eck Visitors Center and recorded for later viewing on Notre Dame Law School's YouTube channel and the Exoneration Justice Clinic’s website.

In-person seating is limited and will be guaranteed only for those who register in advance. Register here.

Originally published by Kevin Murphy at on Sept. 2.