'I have accompanied six human beings to their deaths'

'I have accompanied six human beings to their deaths' »Play Video
A scene from "Dead Man Walking" and the woman behind the story, Sister Helen Prejean

EUGENE, Ore. - A team of lawyers is trying to save the life of a two-time killer who wants to die.

Convicted killer Gary Haugen is scheduled to die Dec. 6. He has waged a legal battle to waive his appeals and become Oregon's first execution in more than a decade.

Attorneys filed a motion Monday with the Oregon Supreme Court that argues a judge ignored warnings about Haugen's mental state.

Last month, a judge ruled that Haugen was clear-headed when he gave up his appeals and said he was ready to die. The attorneys argue Haugen deserves another hearing.

Against that backdrop, Sister Helen Prejean, one of the country's most famous death penalty opponents, spoke at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene on Monday. She speaks again at 7 p.m. in the ballroom at the Erb Memorial Union on the University of Oregon campus.

Her story captivated the big screen in the 1995 film "Dead Man Walking."

Prejean said the executions she has witnessed have changed her life.
    
"I've heard the cry from my people, but I didn't hear the cry for a long time," she said. "Going onto death row witnessing what it means for a human being to be killed and then coming out and realizing that I had to tell the story that would change the discourse."

Prejean is a human rights activist on her third tour around Oregon trying to change that discourse.

"Dead Man Walking" centers around what she learned while visiting a man on death row in Louisiana.    

"I end up being there when he is killed by the state of Louisiana in the electric chair and that changed my life forever," she said.
    
That experience led Prejean to dedicate her life to opposing the death penalty and to giving lectures like this around the world.
            
"I have accompanied six human beings to their deaths, to their killings, on death row," she said, "and I have received from each of them an incredible gift."