Sister Helen Prejean takes Oklahoma death row thanks to Pope Francis
Oklahoma's executions are again making headlines as Pope Francis receives a personal letter from a condemned prisoner on the state's death row. Richard Glossip wrote to the Pope thanking him for his support last year as his execution was quickly approaching. The letter was hand delivered by Sister Helen Prejean.
Sister Helen is Glossip's spiritual advisor on death row and is a noted anti-death penalty advocate who is working across the country to abolish capital punishment. She told Sky News following her audience with Pope Francis Glossip also wanted to thank the Pope for his message to U.S. lawmakers on abolishing the death penalty.
Pope Francis had made a request of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to spare the life of Glossip just before his scheduled execution last fall. Glossip's execution was halted because prison officials discovered they had received the wrong drug needed to carry out a legal execution. Some of Glossip's supporters saw the last minute reprieve as a sign of divine intervention.
"When I met the Pope," Sister Helen said, "I was holding Richard's letter there to give him and I said, this is Richard Glossip in Oklahoma whose life you saved."
The Pope has written a number of state governors requesting reprieves for death row inmates. Sister Helen said the Pope asked about the Wednesday night execution of a Texas inmate during her meeting. "I said, 'he's executed' and he lowered his eyes."
The letter came with a picture of Glossip and a copy of Sister Helen's book, Dead Man Walking, in Spanish. The book later became an award-winning movie. She said she appreciated the opportunity to tell the Pope about the man Oklahoma is still planning to execute. "I said to him, your Holiness, he's underground; they have him underground," Sister Helen said, "And he just registered the pain...you can just see he has death row inmates close to his heart."
Since the stay of Glossip's execution, both the warden of the State Penitentiary and the director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections have resigned.
Oklahoma's Attorney General is still conducting an investigation into the problems with executions, but has promised not to schedule new executions until months after the findings are released.