Death House Chaplain Speaks About the Wrongs of the Death Penalty

On October 18, 2009 Rev. Carroll Pickett, a retired Texas death row chaplain spoke to a gathering at First Christian Church in Des Moines. The event was co-sponsored by IADP and Amnesty International 277.

Rev. Carroll Pickett spent fifteen years as the death house chaplain at “The Walls,” the Huntsville unit of the Texas prison system. There he ministered to 95 men before they were put to death by lethal injection. Rev. Pickett was featured in the award-winning documentary At the Death House Door and is the author of the acclaimed memoir, Within These Walls, an eloquent, unflinching look at his intensely personal exposure to capital punishment. This firsthand experience gave him unique insight to write an impassioned statement on the realities of capital punishment in America and about the dark world of prison society. Rev. Pickett is today an outspoken anti-death penalty activist. He is retired from the Department of Corrections but still preaches near Huntsville, Texas.

On day following his IADP/AI appearance, Rev. Pickett spent 90 minutes in a lively debate of the death penalty with Jan Mickelson on his WHO radio call in show. While not fully “converting” Mr. Mickelson, Rev. Pickett did get him to agree that executing innocent people was not acceptable. Following the interview, Mr. Mickelson was interested enough in the topic to ask for and obtain a copy of Rev. Pickett’s book Within These Walls and a copy of the video “At the Death House Door.”

Following his radio appearance, Rev. Pickett was the guest speaker for three senior and two sophomore religion classes at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. He said that he really enjoyed his interactions with the students. One of the more compelling things he did was to ask how many in his audience were seventeen. After seeing the hands go up, Rev. Pickett then proceeded to tell the classes that the second person he accompanied to the death chamber was a young man who committed his crime at age seventeen, but that the US Supreme Court has since outlawed the death penalty for juveniles. This appeared to make the topic much more relevant and real to the young people listening to his presentation.

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