Films – Death Penalty

Dead Man Walking, 1995
Director/Producer: Tim Robbins
Based on a true story. A nun, while comforting a convicted killer on death row, empathizes with both the killer and his victim’s families. Lesson plans available from The Learning Network and from Death Penalty Focus.
Price: About $8 to purchase
Time: 122 minutes
Grade Level: high school

The Empty Chair: Death Penalty Yes or No 

Producer: Justice productions
The film documents 4 compelling stories of family members as they relive the brutal details of the murders; express their rage at the justice system that renders them invisible; demand or denounce punishment by death; struggle to forgive and to heal.
Time: 5:53 minutes
Grade Level: High school

Fourteen Days in May
Director: Paul Hamann
Source: BBC, 1987
Documents the final days before the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, an American prisoner convicted of rape and murder. Argues against the death penalty and maintains that capital punishment is disproportionately applied to African-Americans convicted of crimes against whites.
Time: 88 minutes
Grade Level: high school, adult

Interview with an Executioner
Director: Terry McCaffrey
Source: Amnesty International
A Mississippi warden’s views against the death penalty.
Time: 88 minutes
Grade Level: high school – adult 

The Story of Capital Punishment

Producer: Open University, 2010
Source: Films Media Group
Explores the issue through historical examples and interviews with legal scholars. Case studies focus on Derek William Bentley, hanged as an accomplice to murder at the age of 19; Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom; and Gary Gilmore, the first person to be put to death following the 1976 reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States. Contains mature content.
Price: About $170
Time: 60 minutes
Grade Level: high school, adult

Twelve Angry Men
Director: Sidney Lumet
Source: United Artists, 1957
Tells the story of a jury deliberating the guilt of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. Explores techniques of consensus-building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict.
Time: 96 minutes
Grade Level: high school