A Lens on Capital Punishment

BY ALEX MILNE // MAY 7, 2014 //

The number of Americans supporting capital punishment is on the decline. According to the Pew Research Center, 37 percent of U.S. adults oppose it—up 6 percentage points from 2011.

A majority of people (55 percent) still supports the death penalty for people convicted of murder. But given the recently botched execution of a convicted murder and rapist late last month in Oklahoma, capital punishment is a topic many people are now discussing.

For those interested in a bit of entertainment—as opposed to debate—check out “The Green Mile.” It’s the 15th anniversary of the film, directed by Frank Darabont and based off the novel by Stephen King. It has an all-star ensemble cast that includes Tom Hanks, Michael Clarke Duncan, Sam Rockwell and Bonnie Hunt.

The film tells the story of Paul Edgecomb, who was a prison officer in charge of death-row inmates at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in 1935 during the Great Depression. John Coffey, a black man who had been convicted of raping and killing two young girls, reveals that he has supernatural powers by resurrecting a dead mouse, curing Edgecomb’s urinary tract infection, and healing the warden’s wife.

The night before his execution, Coffey requests to watch the film “Top Hat,” which came out that year and starred Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It’s the first and last “flicker” movie he saw.

As he is being prepped for execution, Coffey asks Edgecomb if he could keep the black hood off his head because he does not like the dark. Edgecomb agrees, they shake hands, and Coffey is killed.

Ultimately, the movie asks the question of whether the price of capital punishment is simply too great for those involved.

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