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Death Penalty Moratorium: Sister Helen Prejean and Death Row Survivor William Nieves

December 18, 2000

Sister Helen Prejean, famed anti-death penalty activist, delivered a petition today with 3.2 million signature to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Signatories from around the world are asking for a moratorium on the death penalty. The petition included some 300,000 people in the United State along with 1100 city councils.

Prejean, a Catholic nun, wrote "Dead Man Walking" which was turned into the Oscar-winning film by the same name. She has played a prominent role in a movement opposing the death penalty that has been gaining ground around the country. The number of executions in most states has declined, with the particularly egregious exception of Texas. There, Governor, now President-Select George W. Bush presided over the country’s busiest death house where death certificates for those executed read: "state ordered legal homicide."

Opponents of capital punishment cite not only moral grounds, but the numerous executions of people later found innocent. Gov. George Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on executions after 13 men were freed from his state’s death row after judges concluded that they were wrongfully convicted.

Prejean is accompanied by William Nieves, who spent 6 years on Pennsylvania’s death row before evidence presented at a new trial vindicated him. He was the 89th innocent person to come off death row.


  • Helen Prejean, Catholic nun, who does death row ministry and author of "Dead Man Walking," the Oscar-winning film starring Susan Sarandon.
  • William Nieves, former Pennsylvania death row inmate, later found innocent and freed.

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