discussion questions initial reactions and feelings dead man walking 1

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Discussion Questions Initial Reactions and Feelings • “Dead Man Walking” is a very powerful film. What feelings and/or reactions did you have while viewing it? • What scenes and images in the film stand out for you? What meanings do these have for you? • How did the film affect you? About the Film • What do you think of Sister Helen’s attempt to minister to both sides – to the murderer and to the families of the murder victims? • What changes did you see taking place in Matthew Poncelot during the film? What brought about these changes? • What new information about the death penalty did you learn from viewing this film? • What new understandings about the experiences and needs of murder victims’ families did you gain from viewing the film? • What new understandings about the experiences and needs of the families of those on death row did you gain from viewing the film? • Sister Helen’s family presents the argument that her community of faith would benefit more if she were to help “honest” people. Do you agree? Howcan serving those on death row or their families benefit your community of faith? About the Issues Raised • How were your own beliefs regarding capital punishment affected by watching this film? • Did you find yourself supporting Matthew Poncelot’s execution, or hoping that his life would be spared? • Early in Matthew’s relationship with Sister Helen, he tells her that he didn’t kill anybody, but ultimately he confesses his real involvement in the crime. If Matthew’s original story to Helen had been true – that he had been present and had participated in the crime by threatening the two young people but had not killed anyone – how would that affect your view of whether he should live or die? • We are not told of alternatives to the death penalty in Louisiana, but if you knew that the alternative punishment was life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, would you support the death penalty for Matthew Poncelot or the alternative? Why? • Do you believe victims’ families should have a role or a voice in determining the sentence in a capital case? Should they have a role in the clemency process? Why or why not? • How does healing come to families grieving the loss of a murdered child? How can faith communities help promote healing? • How does healing occur for the family members of someone convicted of a capital crime, or executed by the state? What is our role in assisting with their healing? • Many death penalty abolitionists believe that capital punishment denies the humanity of the individual and the possibility of rehabilitation. How do you feel about a convicted murderer’s capacity for rehabilitation?

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