Dead Man Walking (1995) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A convicted murderer on Death Row and the nun who befriends him. Through the portrayal of finely drawn characters and their interactions as the days, hours, and minutes tick down to the condemned man's execution, powerful emotions are unleashed. While Matthew Poncelet and Sister Prejean desperately try to gain a stay of execution from the governor or the courts, scenes are intercut from the brutal crime, gradually revealing the truth about the events that transpired. In addition to her temporal help, the nun also tries to reach out spiritually and assist as a guide to salvation.

  • Sister Helen Prejean as she visits with the convicted murderer, Matthew Poncelet, during the final week before his state-ordered execution. Through her ministries as a nun, Sister Prejean works in the poor African-American St. Thomas Projects of New Orleans and first comes into contact with Poncelet through his letters sent to her order. She responds to Poncelet's letter, which leads her to visit Poncelet in jail. Though inexperienced in criminal chaplaincy, Sister Prejean becomes Poncelet's spiritual counselor and connects Poncelet with lawyer Hilton Barber, who helps Poncelet appeal his conviction with the State Board of Capital Punishment, Governor Benedict of Louisianna, and the State of Louisianna Supreme Court without success. After Mr. Delecroix, one of the victims' father, scolds Sister Prejean on helping Poncelet, Sister Prejean visits the victims' families and listens, teary-eyed, to their stories of pain, suffering, and anguish. Comforted with a tidal wave of opposition and criticism, Sister Prejean helps Matthew Poncelet come to terms with the responsibility of the murders and rape he committed. She sings hymns, reads the Bible, and rests a loving hand on Matt's shoulder as he walks to his death by lethal injection.

  • A caring nun receives a desperate letter from a death row inmate trying to find help to avoid execution for murder. Over the course of the time to the convict's death, the nun begins to show empathy, not only with the pathetic man, but also with the victims and their families. In the end, that nun must decide how she will deal with the paradox of caring for that condemned man while understanding the heinousness of his crimes.

  • A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim's families.


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