In The Executioner’s Shadow

In the Executioner’s Shadow examines justice, injustice, and the death penalty within the United States, which is the last country in the developed west to execute criminals. About 50% of Americans are for, and agree with there being a death penalty.

Capital punishment in the United States is currently used by 28 states, the federal government, and the military. It’s introduction to the law can be traced back to the beginning of the American colonies but there were movements within several states early on to abolish it. Three such states that did away with the death penalty during the 19th century were, Michigan (which has never executed a prisoner since achieving statehood) in 1846, Wisconsin in 1853, and Maine in 1887. Rhode Island is also a state with a long abolitionist background, having repealed the death penalty in 1852, though it was theoretically available for murder committed by a prisoner between 1872 and 1984.

This film takes a penetrating look into the true consequences that lie behind the enforcement of a death penalty and the negative impact it can have on a society as a whole. We hear three incredibly powerful stories accompanied by the rare perspective of a former state executioner, Jerry Givens. From 1978 to 1999 Givens served as the chief executioner where he performed 62 executions in those years.

Givens himself reveals how he came within days of executing someone who was later deemed to be innocent. We also hear how a Boston Marathon victim struggles to decide what justice really means for them after finding no real comfort from enforcement of the death penalty; and the parents who are seeking life over death for the person who murdered their daughter.

The fight over capital punishment seems to be raging on in the United States but as things begin to heat up, this thought-provoking film challenges us the viewer to question our deepest beliefs about justice.

Directed by: Margaret Burnette

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  1. There has to be an answer besides yes or no. Locally here in El Paso, a pedophile sexually abused a kidnapped 11 year old girl. He also murdered her and dumped her body in a dumpster. It made me so mad, I said that I would personally pull the switch for his death. He was given the death penalty, and I believe he has been executed.
    I feel for the executioner, in the video, it’s as if he believes the death penalty was his personal undertaking. He was the person that pulled the switch, but not the one that pursued the death penalty. Judge, jury, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc., are the ones that determine the guilt, innocence, and punishment. It’s imperfect, because all humans are imperfect. If we insist on perfection. No one will ever even go to jail. Much less a more severe penalty.