4. At the Death House Door

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From New York Times News Service, Felicia R. Lee, in Caller-Times, May 28, 2008

"At the Death House Door" is a documentary that had its premiere in March at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin and has received laudatory reviews, winning awards at the Atlanta Film Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.

It tells the story of former Texas prison chaplain, Carroll Pickett, witnessed 95 executions over a 15-year period from 1980-1995. Pickett is described as a minister anguished by his job, and finally concluded that the death penalty served neither justice nor morality. He believes some of the men he helped lead to death were innocent.

"After each execution, I made a tape on everybody that I walked with to the death chamber," Pickett says in the film. "I knew I had to talk to somebody, and the only thing in my house at that time was a tape recorder. I never sat in judgment," Pickett said during a recent interview. "I believed everybody needed to die with a friend. I felt that God had called me to be at the prison."

For years, he said that he believed that "capital punishment was just because of his own grandfather's murder and the 1974 prison siege in Huntsville, which killed two of Pickett's parishioners." "It was a process," he said of his conversion to opposing the death penalty. "I began to see the system wasn't working properly." He said the executions did not bring closure to anyone, did not deter crime and that the sentences were unevenly applied.

 

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