Fourteen Days in May

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 murder and attempted rape. 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.

This illustrates one of the main problems with the death penalty: you can’t change your mind after implementing it. If you’re wrong there is no going back on the decision later.

Update: I have now included a follow-up film in which Stafford Smith, at least, believes that he managed to find the person who was guilty of the murder Johnson was convicted for. I must admit I feel a big ambiguous about the film as the lawyer seems to be acting as prosecuter, judge and jury on the man he believes actually did the murder, but nevertheless as the evidence is compelling, and as it further highlights the problems involved with carrying out the death penalty I include it here.


Fourteen Days in May (Part 1)

Fourteen Days in May (Part 2)

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2 comments to Fourteen Days in May

  • Henry

    Hi, I was 16 when 14 days in May was first shown, and saw it then. It seems to have had a huge influence on me. Such a sad story.

    Very wise of you to be uneasy about Stafford Smith’s position over who he thinks did it. He’s an incredible man, but part of that is his emotional involvement in his cases – and that might lead him astray..

    I agree about the death penalty. The number of miscarriages of justice we know about (and there must be quite a few that don’t get discovered) make it impossible to justify capital punishment.

    I’m also pleased to live in a country that doesn’t execute people – it seems to me to represent a civilized society – though I couldn’t rationally explain this feeling 🙂

    Re the follow-up – alas the link above doesn’t work. Can you remember what the programme was called? I did see it but would like to watch again

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