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"Dead Man Walking": Finding Real Love

The movie Dead Man Walking is based on Sister Helen Prejean's mission to care for the soul of death row inmate Matthew Poncelet. Poncelet awaits execution for brutally killing a young man and woman. Throughout the movie Poncelet vehemently denies any wrongdoing, even though the evidence contradicts him. At one point, Sister Helen gives him a Bible and tells him to read the Gospel of John. She persistently tries to help him face the truth, but he resists, blaming anyone else he can think of.

One emotional scene—the climax of the movie—shows Poncelet finally admitting his guilt.

Poncelet recalls, "My mama kept saying, 'It wasn't you, Matt. It wasn't you.'"

"Your mama loves you, Matt," responds Sister Helen.

Grieved by guilt, Poncelet begins to confess, but lapses as tears flood his eyes. As Sister Helen probes him further, Poncelet admits, "I killed [the boy]." Sister Helen then asks about Hope, the raped and murdered girl. Again, Poncelet forthrightly confesses.

"Do you take responsibility for both of their deaths?" probes Sister Helen.

Poncelet responds, "Yes ma'am.… When the lights dim at night, I kneel down by my bunk and pray for those kids.… I've never done that before."

Sister Helen comforts Poncelet, saying, "There is a place of sorrow only God can touch. You did a terrible thing, Matt, a terrible thing. But you have a dignity now. Nobody can take that away from you.… You are a son of God, Matthew Poncelet."

Sobbing deeply, Poncelet says, "Nobody ever called me no son of God before. They called me a son-of-you-know-what lots of times, but never no son of God.… I just hope my death can give those parents some relief. I really do."

"Well," continues Sister Helen, "maybe the best thing you can give to the Percys and the Delacroixs is a wish for their peace."

Poncelet says, "I never had no real love myself. I never loved a woman or anybody else.… It about figures I would have to die to find love.… Thank you for loving me."

Elapsed time: Measured from the beginning of the opening credit, this scene begins at 1:34:39 and ends at 1:37:25. Note: Before showing the clip it may be helpful to mention that the conversation can be difficult to understand at points.

Content: Dead Man Walking is rated R for depiction of rape and murder as well as for profanity.

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