Fourteen Days in May

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Fourteen Days in May is a documentary directed by Paul Hamann. The program recounts the final days before the execution of Edward Earl Johnson, an American prisoner convicted of rape and murder. Johnson protested his innocence and claimed that his confession had been made under duress. He was executed in Mississippi’s gas chamber on May 20, 1987.

The documentary crew, given access to the prison warden, guards and chaplain and to Johnson and his family, filmed the last days of Johnson’s life in detail. The documentary argues against the death penalty and maintains that capital punishment is disproportionately applied to African-Americans convicted of crimes against whites. The program features attorney Clive Stafford Smith, a noted advocate against capital punishment.

Fourteen Days in May won a British Film Institute Grierson Award and a top prize at the Festival dei Populi. It has been shown in many countries but has only appeared in an abbreviated form in the United States, on HBO. Hamann disowned this shortened version.

It was in direct response to this documentary that the Lifelines organization was set up, to organize pen pals for death row prisoners.

Fourteen Days in May, 9.3 out of 10 based on 28 ratings

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  • An Aussie

    What a barbaric people Americans are. And I mean all of them, as they ALL share a communal guilt until the death penalty is finally abolished in all US states.

    • AnarchoRationalist

      Hey, thanks for that asshole.

      The institution of the death penalty is the fault of the state. We as individuals have very little influence over it’s actions. We can only be faulted for having instituted a state int he first place, of course you Aussies have done that as well, so clearly, we’re in the same boat.

      You are really blaming the victims here, which is rude and cruel.

      • Jenkie

        Bullshit.

        It is you Americans living in what you claim to be the the world’s great democracy who vote in the politicians who introduce and perpetuate the death penalty. If, as a nation, you didn’t wish to kill your own citizens you would vote out politicians who support the death penalty and vote in those who would abolish it.

        Just consider the top 5 countries for the judicial killing of its own citizens: China; Iran: Iraq; Saudi Arabia; USA.

        You must be so proud to be amongst such tolerant and just countries.

        Land Of The Free? No, rather a war-mongering, morally bancrupt, decrepit and corrupt society which is a parasite on the rest of the world.

        USA – the true ‘evil empire.’

        • Anonymous

          I wish it was just as easy as voting in what we wanted. Unfortunately the majority of us Americans are brainwashed by the political and media BS constantly being flung at us. Most people just believe what they are told and don’t bothering learning about things themselves…so they don’t see their country for what it is. But don’t say *all* Americans…there are still some of us out there are are rational, intelligent, thinking people. We’ve just realized how retarded our whole system is and how little we can actually do we really just don’t want any part of it.

        • Anonymous

          I wish it was just as easy as voting in what we wanted. Unfortunately the majority of us Americans are brainwashed by the political and media BS constantly being flung at us. Most people just believe what they are told and don’t bothering learning about things themselves…so they don’t see their country for what it is. But don’t say *all* Americans…there are still some of us out there are are rational, intelligent, thinking people. We’ve just realized how retarded our whole system is and how little we can actually do we really just don’t want any part of it.

    • Carson

      Didn’t Australia used to be a prison colony? If your pattern of guilt is correct, any Australian descended from a rapist or murderer is responsible for the crimes of their fathers.

      There are bad things going on all over the place. Why just yesterday I was reading about the INSANELY high incidences of sexual crime IN AUSTRALIA. Clean up your own house first before you start handing out advice. Otherwise ALL of those crimes are YOUR fault, because clearly you aren’t punishing or educating enough to stop them.

      • one man and his gang

        words are so easy to write on the internet, who cares if they are right or wrong, every body has a past. in Australia only the 1st settlers where sent there as a convict, the rest have all gone there to live in the beatiful country on there own accord, because it is quite simply a breath taking beatiful country.
        The U.s on the other hand, jeeze, you wouldn’t get me there if there was a million pounds sterling waiting for me.
        I have been to Florida, and whilst I was there, A convict named allen lee davies was executed, apparently a botched execution,he was electrcuted,  this affected my holiday in such a way, I felt sick to be in that country and I vowed NEVER to step foot voluntary on U.S soil ever again.

        America is not a a nice place!

      • Aussie convict stock

        I am an Australian of convict stock, allow ME to make comment. We do not support the death penalty as a majority here, a referendum took place and we abolished it. The words used were something to the effect that “10 guitly men on the street is better than executing 1 innocent man. As a whole, Americans are just weird. They ace more about they’re 15 mins of fame than anything else (damn you Warhol). We do have a breathtakinly beautiful country and finally the trend of Amercanising our culture is on the way out which judging by the US economy they’re on their way out too. PS who sends convicts to paradise, thank you UK judicial system i could have been born and lived in gloomy, grey England (most likely Ireland).

    • Dave

      What makes me laugh about people like you is that you don’t look at things rationally. Think of it logically for a second rather than from the ‘death’ perspective. What is more humane….putting someone to death via lethal injection or letting them rot for the rest of their lives, caged like an animal? Given that choice I’d choose death by going for an eternal nap :)

  • CW

    The problem with Capital Punishment is if your wrong there’s no way to fix it.

  • an American

    ‘An Aussie”, fix how you treat your indigenous peoples, and then maybe you can throw stones.

    • another aussie

      I certaintly agree with ‘an american’. We australians too have our own issues we have faced that seem barbaric to others. This australian that commented was obviously very naive to say something like that. We however did not call it a death penalty, we called it purification and erasing of bad parental practises when we killed aboriginals and took them from their parents in order to create a white race. For other aussies who may feel the same as this person: look at our own history before you judge. We just call it a different name.

      • aussie but not

        You are all very naive.

    • Not an American, not an Aussie

      “.. fix how you treat your indigenous peoples ..”

      Hypocrite.

      Before preaching to others look at the conduct of your own country, inc. the government sanctioned genocide of Native Americans.

      Oh, and let’s not forget the untold millions killed by your country’s foreign policies, which continues.

      • pete

        that took place in the 1600′s, Australia’s disgusting treatment of aborigines continues even today

        • Kate

          So you can’t criticise another country’s barbaric practices because your own country also has horrible laws? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Everyone should shame America for their revolting death penalty laws. And everyone should shame Australia because of their racism and the way they treat boat people.

          ‘You can’t criticise us because your country is fucked’ is the most ridiculous, stupid, dangerous argument I’ve ever heard.

          And the dude is right – if you Americans were so worried about the death penalty you’d march in the damn street and protest every single execution. You don’t do that hence why it’s still happening.

          • Johnny

            Well stated and quite a fair assessment.

            Most Americans will not be marching in the streets for anything worthwhile as long as they can not even understand the political nature of the system they support simply by not opposing it. They have become too assimilated into the system to be removed from it now.

            The corporations, government and military have spent the last century or so spinning pseudo-definitions of the terms right-wing(small government) and left-wing(big government) and the people have become indoctrinated with those false definitions.

            The size of government is NOT a key factor but rather is a byproduct of the main thesis of both the right and left movements –

            The right supports corporatism or privatization of the government services that are governed by the supply and demand principle and profit primarily and is supposed to uphold the rights of the individuals;

            The left supports socialistic systems of individual men and women(not corporations) representing the people that have their primary focus on providing for all of the basic needs of the society as a whole and is paid for by all of society.

            So yes the right wants less real government and more corporate governing which translates into small true government and the left wants less corporate governing(none at all typically) and more actual government which does translate into big true government.

            If the left does not want the corporations running certain things then of course they need a bigger government to do it.

            The idea that the American government is moving to the political left because the government is getting bigger is ridiculous propaganda considering that the American federal government and its branches, departments and services are officially registered as corporations.

            The left supports big government and opposes big corporations so a corporation calling itself a government is not a left-wing system by any stretch of the imagination, no matter how large it may be.

            America today is a corporatocracy which is a right-wing system of corporate governing rather than actual social government.

            Over the past 40 years or so the U.S corporate media has been screaming about America going more to the left because of the increase in the size of the corporate government and driving up the anti-left or anti-liberal sentiments while America has actually been shifting further and further into a pure right-wing corporatocracy the entire time.

            How does an entire country get fooled into thinking the exact opposite of what is actually happening… very easily these days.

            American citizens are employees of that Federal corporation and receive benefits from the corporation(military or police, social security, healthcare, disability, etc.) in exchange for their work to help sustain that corporations society(primarily economically).

            Also just on a side note – as a citizen of the USA even though there truly is no law requiring it YOU DO HAVE TO PAY INCOME TAXES because by being an employee of the government corporation you are working in exchange for the services they provide you and thus any money you get paid is considered to be taxable business profit rather than an even exchange of money for goods or services.

            A citizen is an employee of the federal government corporation that has consented to be governed by the corporate policies known as Statutes, Acts and other judicial legislation which only apply to those who consent to being part of that society and which are enforced by Corporate Policy(Police) Officers.

            Note that in legalese a police man or woman is not the same thing as a police officer, an officer is a contractual agent enforcing corporate policies called Statutes or Acts whereas a police man or woman exists to help the people and upholds Common Law(any act that harms or causes loss to another person is a crime).

            Anyways, just some interesting tidbits to help Americans come to grasp with the truth about their illusion they call the American Dream.

            Canada is the same way as is Britain and Australia, but Americans are by far the most blatantly fooled by it all.

            But hey as long as you are allowed to vote on who gets to be on the board of directors of that corporation it seems like freedom so why bother changing anything.

            Seriously, it may seem off topic a bit but all these things are connected and if you want to understand what it is actually going on you can not just focus on one or two pieces of the puzzle, you need to see the big picture and how all the pieces fit together.

            To say that the right-wing American corporatocracy is left-wing simply because it is big government would be like saying a communist state with a small government is right-wing.

            It is not the size that is important but the structure, when most Americans figure that out maybe there will be some greater room for hope.

        • RinTinTin

          “.. that took place in the 1600′s” No, the slaughter of Native Americans continued up to the start of the C20th.

          Also, note the comment ‘untold millions killed by your country’s foreign policies, which continues.’

  • Clif, Belfast, UK

    horrific situation, unbelievable dignity shown by Edward. makes me thankful to be British but what courage he had. a true gentleman.

  • Edith

    I feel absolutely sick after seeing this. I’ll come back for comments later, because at the moment my stomach is upside down..

  • Eggnostriva

    I feel sick to my stomach having watched this. I Agree with Edith, I just cant talk about this now.

  • Gail

    I saw this when it first came out and I could not believe what I had seen it effects me to this day.

    Im so pleased that people are still able to watch this everyone should see it.

    The whole system needs an overhaul not just the death penalty, the wrong people are allowed to roam here re-offending rates are a joke and then we see the other side of the coin.

  • Me

    Why were both bunnies BLACK??

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  • Noodles

    i watched this harrowing,deeply moving tragic miscarriage of justice when it was first viewed on the beeb ,when i was 13. My parents allowed me to watch it with them, the 3 of us were outraged , disgusted and we all sobbed. I’m 37 now, and at any oppurtunity i suggest people to watch it as a poignant reminder that in some states of the U.S little much has changed with respect too poisonous , insidious rascist regimes.

  • Milan Jovanovic

    The wilful ignorance of some of the commenters here is breathtaking. The statistics bear out no such racial disparity in sentencing- the death penalty is sought in roughly 30% of eligible cases, whether the defendant is black or white. It’s also worth mentioning that the man being executed here was found guilty of appalling crimes and really empathy is wasted on the likes of him.

    Remember that public support for the death penalty is strong in the US, the UK, Europe and Australia- however only the US system seems to take the wishes of the public into account.

  • Emmskaa

    anyone have a link?

  • Cynthia

    Please try to get this back up on the site again. It is, by far, the best argument against capital punishment. I want to show it to my students.

  • Kathy
  • Dan

    A wonderfully crafted documentary. It must have been so tough during the filming and after. I admire the makers tremendously for having been able to get almost unlimited access to the inmates, staff and installations. Top notch!

  • marybeth

    “undoubtedly i think the legal system always has worked” ….SERIOUSLY?!

  • Ateal2490

    The video above is only a 5 minute preview-here’s the full docu from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhHutCNkjEc