"It used to be very public, and now it's done behind prison walls. The more people know about the death penalty, the better they're going to be able to judge it. The whole process is carried out in the people's name, and they should know if those acting in their name are doing it carefully and humanely."
Does Seeing Death Aid Healing?
Paul Leighton, an assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and criminology at Eastern Michigan University who has written extensively about the death penalty and the question of whether executions should be public, said he believes people have the right to see them, but questioned how much of the interest is prurient.
"I think there are a lot of people who are conflicted about the death penalty and would like to see it to settle their feelings, but I can't be too optimistic about people's motivations for wanting to see it," said Leighton, the editor with Jeffrey Reiman of Criminal Justice Ethics.
Prejean, who became famous after her book Dead Man Walking was made into a movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, believes that if people saw criminals being put to death, opposition to executions would grow.
"If the public could see what it means, the consequences to take a human being who's alive and take him or her into a room and kill them, I think we'd end the death penalty sooner," she said this week in an interview on ABCNEWS's Good Morning America.
She rejects assertions that executions are good for the families of a killer's victims.
"I don't believe that," she said. "I've watched victims' families going through this, watching the person die, waiting for them to die, being promised it was going to give them closure and coming out and the empty chair is there at the dining room table. It hasn't done anything to restore the life of their loved one."