Catholic News Service photo
Sister Helen Prejean, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille,  addresses participants at the National Catholic Educational  Association's 2011 convention in New Orleans earlier this year.
Catholic News Service photo
Sister Helen Prejean, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille, addresses participants at the National Catholic Educational Association's 2011 convention in New Orleans earlier this year.
Just as an Oregon judge cleared the way for the first execution here in 14 years, Sister Helen Prejean, the death penalty abolitionist who was the subject of the 1995 film "Dead Man Walking," will return to the state.

Sister Helen, a Sister of St. Joseph will speak at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Salem Central Library. Admission is free, but tickets are required because seating is limited. For tickets, call 503- 990-7060.

Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond on Tuesday ruled that death-row inmate Gary Haugen does not suffer from mental illness or delusions, and that he is competent to make reasoned legal decisions. The judge said the 49-year-old murderer is able to volunteer himself to be put to death by lethal injection at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.
 
The execution date could be close to Sister Helen's visit.

Preceding her talk, there will be a reception at Orupa Restaurant at 500 Liberty SE, across the street from the library. Tickets are $35 and limited to fifty people. On hand with Sister Helen will be activists working toward the repeal of the Oregon death penalty. Refreshments will be served, beginning at 5 p.m.     

The other event that is set is Friday, Oct. 21, when she will speak at the Portland City Club. Tickets can be secured at the City Club web site, www.pdxcityclub.org. Tickets are $25 purchased in advance, $30 at the door. The  event is at noon, at the Governor’s Hotel in Portland.

Sister Helen was a nominee for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty issued a statement last month just before the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis.

Lawyers and activists raised doubt about Davis' guilt. Davis' last words were a statement of innocence and forgiveness for those who carried out his death. There was no forensic evidence tying Davis to the crime and seven witnesses who testified against him in trial have recanted. One of the two who have not recanted has been identified by some witnesses as the real killer.

"Revenge is not justice," says Ron Steiner, chair of the OADP board. "Much of the support for state-sanctioned killings appears to be based on a need for more violence disguised as righteousness. We oppose that view and support the alternatives that are available such as life without parole as the highest degree of punishment."

Steiner says the Georgia case presents the possibility that innocent people are sometimes executed.