Dead Man Walking in the USA

The moral arguments against capital punishment are well rehearsed, that is: 1) it is wrong because all killing is wrong, 2) it is unjust because it is irreversible (and does not allow for rehabilitation), and 3) it does not act as a deterrent.

This short Journeyman Pictures film from 1996 looks at capital punishment through the eyes of young black man living out what remains of his life on the Texas deathrow.  Glenn McGinniss feels like a dead man walking. He describes how at seventeen he stole money for his mother who was in prison with a crack habit. When a young woman started screaming he panicked and shot her. An all white jury condemned him to death by execution.

Did McGinness receive a fair trial?  He admits to carrying out the murder, but do the moral arguments against execution rule out capital punishment in this case?  Also, is there an issue of deeply ingrained racism at work here?  Whatever the case, this film shows the human side of McGinness – as a young boy living in a dreadful neighbourhood with a mother addicted to crack cocaine; his crime almost had a certain inevitability about it.  Could McGinness have been rehabilitated to eventually become a productive member of society?  We’ll never know.  Glenn McGinness was executed on January 25, 2000.

You can watch the film here courtesy of the Journeyman Films youtube page:

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