University of Pittsburgh
April 5, 2004

Dead Man Walking: Law, Culture, and Capital Punishment, An April 16 Pitt Law School Conference to Explore the Issues

Keynotes by Author Sister Helen Prejean and Amherst College's Austin Sarat
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—One of the most hotly contested issues in American society is the death penalty. Victims, criminals, and their families are caught in a web of violence, grief, denial, obsession, hatred, and perhaps even redemption.

To explore the many facets of the topic, the free conference Dead Man Walking: Law, Culture, and Capital Punishment will be held from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. April 16 in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law's Teplitz Memorial Courtroom, Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Ave., Oakland.

Keynote speakers are Austin Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst College, and Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., author of Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States (Random House, 1993; Vintage, 1994).

After opening remarks by Pitt Law School Dean David Herring, Sarat will present his address, "On Lawful Lawlessness: George Ryan, Executive Clemency, and the Rhetoric of Sparing Life," from 12:45 to 2 p.m.

The program includes two panel discussions: "The Death Penalty and American Culture," from 2 to 3:30 p.m., moderated by John T. Parry, associate professor of law at Pitt; and "Current Issues in Death Penalty Litigation," from 3:30 to 5 p.m., moderated by Sandra D. Jordan, associate professor of law at Pitt.

The first panel will feature Susan Bandes, professor of law at DePaul University, who will present "Fear Factor: The Role of Media in Covering and Shaping the Death Penalty"; Jessie Ramey, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon University's Department of History, who will speak on women and the death penalty; and Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist and member of its editorial board, who will speak on race and the death penalty.

The second panel will include James W. Ellis, Regent Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law, who will speak on competency issues; Peter J. Neufeld, codirector of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who will present "Executing the Innocent: Does It Make a Difference?"; and Welsh S. White, professor of law at Pitt, who will present "Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in Capital Cases."

Prejean will give the closing keynote address from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. Her well-known book was the basis for the popular movie Dead Man Walking directed by Tim Robbins and starring Susan Sarandon as Prejean and Sean Penn as a convicted murderer.

Cosponsored by the University and the Pittsburgh Opera, this conference has been approved by the Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board for four hours of substantive and one hour of ethics CLE credits. A $30 fee is payable at the door. For more information, call Susan McGregor at 412-648-1400.

Prejean also will participate in a panel discussion titled "Religious Belief and the Work for Social Justice" from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. April 17 in the William Pitt Union Lower Lounge, 3959 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

Friday conference participants and Pitt faculty, staff, and students attending the Saturday panel discussion can purchase discounted tickets to the Pittsburgh Opera Production of Dead Man Walking, to be held June 5, 8, 11, and 14 at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, in Pittsburgh's Cultural District, downtown. Conference attendees should call the box office at 412-456-6666 or visit the Web site for more information. Attendees to the Saturday panel discussion can purchase tickets for the opera for $15, through the Pitt Arts Cheap Seats program. For more information, call 412-624-4462.