The Chamber: A Study in Capital Punishment

MoviesI managed to catch a movie based on a John Grisham novel last night on TV. Called The Chamber, it starred Gene Hackman as Sam Cayhall, a racist guy and a Klansman who killed two children (albeit accidentally) in a hate crime, and is in death row for that.

Chris O’Donnell stars as Adam Hall, a young lawyer and also Cayhall’s grandson who tries to save his grandfather despite the animosity and contempt shown by Sam towards his grandson and Adam’s late father, who had committed suicide due to Sam’s misdeeds.

With just 28 days before Sam’s execution by gas chamber, Adam exhausts every avenue of appeal but fails, despite getting evidence that Sam wasn’t the only participant in the hate crime. More interestingly is the transformation of Sam from a hateful figure to someone who finally breaks down upon realizing what kind of monster he became.

Sam meets his end in the gas chamber and the movie does have a slightly graphic depiction of that. The movie does raises questions on capital punishment, and while it’s really “eye for an eye”, can mitigating circumstances that warrant a different punishment?

In the case of Sam Cayhall, he was born and bred a Klansman and was used to hate crimes since he was a kid. Does that warrant due consideration when it comes to his actions as an adult? What do you think?

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