In the Executioner's Shadow

A powerful documentary about justice, injustice and the death penalty.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
54 mins
Closed captioning available All4Access available
Remote video URL


In the Executioner’s Shadow draws viewers into riveting personal stories: the rare perspective of a former state executioner who nearly executes an innocent person; a Boston Marathon bombing victim who struggles to decide what justice really means; and the parents of a murder victim who face abandoning their values or fighting for the life of their daughter’s killer. As the battle to overturn capital punishment comes to a head in the U.S., this provocative film challenges viewers to question their deepest beliefs about justice. (License fee includes 54 min. and 40 min. versions, plus outreach materials.)

Featured review

Powerful storytelling can make a difference. It can turn society around and move us to higher ethical ground. This film is imbued with authenticity.
Sister Helen Prejean
author of Dead Man Walking


In the Executioner’s Shadow explores justice, injustice and the death penalty. The film interweaves three compelling personal narratives. One is the story of a couple who lost their young, adult daughter to a violent rape and murder. Motivated by their deep religious convictions, Vicki and Sylvester fight to spare the life of their daughter’s killer. Karen, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing, agonizes to define justice. In the aftermath of the tragedy, she’s torn between the fatal punishment that could be imposed upon a terrorist and the protective instincts of a mother whose son is the same age as the bomber. The fulcrum between these stories is the rarely heard perspective of a former chief executioner. The discovery that an inmate he was scheduled to execute was ultimately exonerated, gives Jerry a profound epiphany that few will ever know.

Opening the minds of viewers to the apprehensions and aspirations of others is the engagement this documentary aims to achieve. By presenting both sides of the controversy the film invites viewers to set aside preconceptions, reserve judgment and reflect on the sort of society we want to be.


It is the potential of this documentary to move us toward a more enlightened society that excites me about this work.
Benjamin Jealous
former NAACP President, Maryland candidate for Governor
It is very powerful.
Mike Farrell
President, Death Penalty Focus
It is the filmmakers' intent to get people talking, to get viewers to question their originally held positions, to disrupt complacency.
Dr. Austin Sarat
William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science, Amherst College

Awards and Screenings

Director Commentary

The United States is the last country in the developed West to use execution as a form of punishment. That we still have the death penalty reflects on who we are as a society and as individuals. It is our hope that In the Executioner’s Shadow will be a catalyst for meaningful dialog about justice, humanity, and reforming our criminal justice system.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • All4Access
  • DVD Extras
  • Resources for Educators

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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