Reading Group Guide
- Capital Punishment Statistics - www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm
- Death Penalty Information Center – www.deathpenaltyinfo.org
- Center on Wrongful Convictions - www.law.northwestern.edu/wrongfulconvictions/
- Innocence Project – www.innocenceproject.org
- Life after Exoneration Program - www.exonerated.org
Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen
Questions and Topics For Discussion
1. While interviewing Dale, Jessica and Erik ask him what he dreamt about while in prison. "He looked us straight on and told us that he'd never dreamt when he was in there—never." (p. 42) What connections can be drawn between dreams and captivity? What do you think you would dream about if you were on death row?
2. Jessica and Erik found their meeting with Delbert quite inspiring. Delbert told them “he was a free man during his time inside (prison), too.” (p. 57) What parallels can be drawn about the mental strength and exercises that have allowed some exonerated individuals to maintain their psychological and emotional stability while in prison?
3. As in Henry’s case, the special issues and circumstances of those who may have cognitive issues often go unrecognized or ignored. Do you believe that a cognitively challenged or mentally retarded person should be tried equally as a “normal” person?
4. Both Jessica and Erik admit their backgrounds influenced their views on crime and justice. Do you think their beliefs had a negative effect, or did they make the couple more determined to write a balanced perspective?
5. How does race complicate the production of The Exonerated? In what ways does race affect the nation’s view on the death penalty and the integrity of the justice system? How does this make you feel?
6. Jessica and Erik were welcomed by some people, but shunned by others. Did the wide range of reactions surprise you? Why or why not?
7. About half of the exonerees’ stories were cut from the original reading. Would you have chosen differently? What story affected you the most and why?
8. Jessica and Erik discuss living in a post-9/11 world and how it changed the way we think about activism and revenge. How do you think this tragedy altered our views on justice?
9. What has the process of creating The Exonerated brought to Jessica and Erik’s relationship? In your experience, is it best to work with someone who has similar interests to yours, or someone completely different?
10. “God’s justice was like an arrow: it went straight to the heart and always achieved its objective. Man’s justice, he said, was none of those things. It was misguided and jealous and often caused more problems than it solved.” (p. 244) Do you agree with this statement? In what ways can a justice system cause more problems?
11. Jessica and Erik discuss rage and how this emotion severely hinders the way justice is properly carried out. Do you find there are any similarities between the rage a victim feels and the rage of the accused? How does this make you feel?
Tips to Enhance Your Book Club
1. Learn more about the TV movie The Exonerated at http://www.courttv.com/movie/ and the play at www.theexonerated.com/
2. Learn more about the death penalty. What interesting information did you find? Start here:
3. There are many social and political issues that move us emotionally. Do you remember a time in your life when you’ve been called to action against such an issue? If so, share your story and any mementos from that time (pictures, flyers, buttons, etc.). If not, has Living Justice inspired you to generate awareness around a specific social or political issue?