Saturday, May 27, 2006

Sister Helen Prejean’s Lack of Credibility

Sr. Helen Prejean is a political activist nun who goes around the country opposing the death penalty.

Writer of the famous book Dead Man Walking, she has also written a book titled The Death of Innocents about two men who were convicted of murder and executed. She assures her readers that both were innocent.

We’ve already dealt with the way in which she badly distorted the details of one of the cases: that of Dobie Williams in Louisiana.

It turns out that she was equally dishonest with the other one: Joseph O’Dell in Virginia.

According to the New Oxford Review:
This methodology of simply asserting your ideal version of facts and not acknowledging or accounting for contrary facts continues in Prejean’s handling of her involvement with Joseph O’Dell. He was executed in Virginia for the abduction, rape, forcible sodomy, and murder of Helen Schartner. Schartner was struck on the head with a gun, sodomized and raped before being strangled to death. In addition to lying to the police about how he came to have blood on his clothes, the best evidence of O’Dell’s guilt was that Schartner’s blood was on his jacket. Testing showed that only three of every thousand people share the same blood characteristics as Schartner. Also, a cellmate of O’Dell’s testified that O’Dell told him he killed Schartner because she would not have sex with him.

After the trial, LifeCodes, a DNA lab that O’Dell himself praised as having “an impeccable reputation,” tested the blood on O’Dell’s jacket — and found that it was a genetic match to Schartner. When the results were not to his liking, O’Dell, and of course Sr. Prejean, attacked the reliability of the lab O’Dell had earlier praised. Again, as with Williams’s conviction, the federal court reviewing the case characterized the evidence against O’Dell as “vast” and “overwhelming.”

Even when she can bring herself to make a cursory reference to the fact that O’Dell had a criminal history of violence, she omits the most damning portion of that record: an abduction charge in Florida where O’Dell struck the victim on the head with a gun and told her that he was going to rape her. This very similar crime helped the jury conclude that O’Dell would be a future threat to society. It supports the other evidence of his guilt and thus undermines Prejean’s claim of innocence.
The review goes on to discuss Prejean’s self-righteousness: how she derides Justice Antonin Scalia’s Harvard education in contrast with her work in an “inner city African American housing project in New Orleans.”

The notion that working in the inner city may distort, rather than clarify, moral issues is one that has never entered her politically correct head. (In her case it probably did neither. She was doubtless a self-righteous liberal when she moved into the inner city.)

It’s tempting to cut the Sister some slack, giving her credit for being “idealistic” and “trying to put her faith into practice” in spite of her writing a distorted and tendentious book.

But we think that is misguided. She is, quite simply, dishonest. And her dishonesty is in the service of her own ego and her own feelings of moral superiority.

Catholic orders deserve better people.

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