Fourteen Days in May


Fourteen Days in MayFourteen 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 rape and murder. 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.

Fourteen Days in May won a British Film Institute Grierson Award and a top prize at the Festival dei Populi. It has been shown in many countries but has only appeared in an abbreviated form in the United States, on HBO. Hamann disowned this shortened version.

It was in direct response to this documentary that the Lifelines organization was set up, to organize pen pals for death row prisoners.

Watch the full documentary now

Part 1


Part 2

Ratings: 7.22/10 from 18 users.

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69 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Linda McGuigan

    What can I say, I was deeply disturbed by this documentary.
    I thought we lived in a civilized world how does executing a person differ from murder anyone who want's to know about the method's of execution in country's that still partisipate in this barbaric torture of criminal's should watch the documentary How To Kill a Human it is on this site,and presented by Michael Portillo an ex British polititian. How many innocent people have gone to thier death's because of corrupt leagal system's. I am glad the death penalty is no longer used in my country as it is not a deterant if it was there would be no one on death row in America. These view's are my own and I am still very disturbed by what I just watched there must be another way to deal with people who murder.

    Linda ;-*

  2. SH

    Pretty good BBC documentary. (with typical British High-Horse attitude)

    The acknowledgment that it took one minute from the time the gas reached his face to the time of his unconsciousness and then another eight or nine minutes for complete cardiac failure and then pronounce dead. Makes me wish the designs of the gas chambers would have been buried with Adolf Hitler (and his ilk) many, many years before.

    BTW: Innocent or Guilty, If I were on death row and my time was up (and I could choose) it would be between lethal injection or a firing squad. "Get it the hell over with!"

  3. Pacha

    This story reminded me of 'the green mile' I wonder if there's any connection.

    Incredible that the BBC gave a warning at the beginning to anyone who may be sensitive to watching rabbits getting killed.
    No warning in case you're sensitive to being exposed to a backward system full of racist murderers.

  4. capricious

    Rabbits getting killed? NO! :(

  5. Benjinator3000

    Like the guard in this doc. said "we know the death penalty does not prevent crime. Its the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime"Well' i dont think it's punishment it's TORTURE & MURDER!!! Imagine living in that cell for 7 years and knowing when your gonna die. Imagine seeing other imates living to get executed. Imagine eating your last meal with your family, knowing it will be your last. We as people dont have the right to kill that's why it's a crime. So why we still do it. Stop pretending we are GOD!!At least put this guys in for life they'll provably die anyways but at least they have a fighting chance!!

  6. Tee

    If I had a person close to me murdered, et al - I wouldn't, at the very LEAST, want to spend my EARNED pay to house, feed & educate the perp(s). Let the chips fall where they may, but for crying out loud - let there be consequences for deviant behavior. I'm not talking about corrupt judicial systems - it's a different debate. You kill, know that, you too, could be killed; "we know the death penalty does not prevent crime..." WHO knows this? and WHO knows this to be true and WHO made this up? I think it's a bunch of BS. I think it's bogus statement made for bogus purposes. If you made laws that were enforced and reinforced you'd get the message. Cannot understand how a population began feeling pity for rogue elements and have complete disregard for the victim(s). LET THERE BE CONSEQUENCES & LET THEM BE UPHELD.

  7. Pacha

    I'm not particularly against the death penalty but
    1. It should only ever be carried out if there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the person is guilty and
    2. Who's going to do all the killing?
    Surely anyone who wants a job like that must be some kind of psycho and after a while we'd be justified in calling them a serial killer anyway so where do we draw the line?
    Who decides who gets to kill and who don't?

  8. naturalethic

    In case you weren't paying attention Tee, the man they murdered in this documentary was innocent. The recognition of the right of appeal itself invalidates the death penalty. But not to you Tee, there are no second chances huh? Kill them all and let God sort them out, right?

  9. jambo lad

    i remember seeing this as a teenager,
    some years ago now,and found it brutal.

    im older now, and id like to think at least a lttle wiser,and
    im fully aware of how harsh life can be.
    but one thing hasnt changed from that day,to now.

    in my opinion
    no country can have the death penalty and claim to be civilised.

  10. Collette

    ''He is not sane because he is too calm''... How can the gard saying this things he himself is sane telling tis with such a calmness like he was a guard in airport. It's a sick world indeed!

  11. Nick

    Wow! This one was pretty intense. Lot's of weird stuff mixed in it but, I think, a really well made documentary on a really important subject. They did a great job of capturing how the warden changed throughout it from a "it's just part of the job" kind of an attitude to nearly breaking down at the press conference. I think regardless of whether certain crimes are punishable by death, this documentary really illustrates why it should be abolished.

  12. nick

    Murderers, in my opinion should never ever be punished with execution. Were civilized people now, we dont need capital punishment. Capital punishment is just continuing the viscous circle.

  13. Brett

    I've done a fair bit of research on cases around the world where the person convicted of murder has subsequently been exonerated many years later. The reasons vary from poor investigations, social & racial issues, inexact forensic methods etc. But in almost all cases the person was clearly and provably innocent upon review of the evidence.
    Often in these cases the authorities have fought the appeals using every legal (and sometimes not legal) means available to them. Most times their arguments do not necessarily involve what did or did not happen. They involve technicalities & admissibility of evidence or interpretations and "legal arguments.
    What seems to get lost in many cases is what exactly is the truth. What happened and who exactly did what. Doing the "right thing" often times appears to not be a high priority for the authorities .
    Until the systems that puts people on death row can be 100% right every time, we all need to ask ourselves, am I willing to kill people, or be killed myself, within a system that has and will continue to get it wrong at times.
    Is my or my family's lives worth just giving up for the (questionable) good of society in an imperfect system in the belief that any mistakes made within it are worth it?
    Look closely at the person you love and think whether you really would entrust our legal system with their lives no matter what.
    If you have any doubt whatsoever, you have your answer

  14. esmuziq

    how ironic a frikking cross in a gas chamber

  15. mr savage

    its interesting to see how these backwards countries still murder people as a form of justice.
    we always hear about the brutal forms of justice carried out in the middle east and in africa to our discust, but it is clear that our american allies are equaly insane.
    locking people up for extended periods is really wrong enough as it is, let alone killing them in these inhumane ways.
    anyone who kills outside of self defense is most likely mentaly unstable at best, so they're not really culpable anyway, but if the state is murdering people who pose no further threat to anyone, then surley their system is as sick and unstable as the worst members of their society?

  16. normal

    they can call it what they want, but it is still murder.
    what ever happened to thou shalt not kill.

  17. Unzar Jones

    @normal Forgive who? The killer? Who's doing the forgiving? You? How righteous of you. Only the victim has the right to do that and they can't BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN KILLED!

    If murderers were put to death, how could they enjoy their fantasies of reliving the torture and death of their victims? We would have to be oh so uncivilized to deny them that! God forbid, how can we even them up? What right do we have not to let them kill other innocent people, maybe even kids in the playground, because we are just so darn morally superior!

    Justice would be libs letting the killers out of jail and the killers killing the libs and THEIR

  18. Jared

    It's always about race. If you can't do the time don't do the crime. And when you get caught don't cry about it. Iv'e done crimes,been caught and did my time and deserved every bit of it and probably more. I didn't try to blame anyone else. These guy's deserve what they have coming regardless of race.

  19. William

    1. Read Brett's comment. Couldn't have put it better myself.

    2. This doc makes me appreciate living in a nation with a (although imperfect) justice system that is not run by vengeful and hate obsessed hillbillies. Racist or not, this is the behavior of cavemen.
    Life isn't fair. Deal with it, don't kill it.

  20. TenaciousTizzle

    Where is the justice in any of this? The women who was robbed and almost raped said it wasn't Edward. So thanks to the cops who forced this confession, the real murderer is still at hand and undoubtedly continued to commit crimes. TWO THUMBS UP- Jackholes...
    It's so disgusting to know that INJUSTICES like this really happened and ruined lives. Especially in the south, where racism is still prevalent, back in the 80's one can only imagine what kind of antics blacks were subjected to. People of faith preach that the ultimate judgment of life comes at the end and is decided by God, so how could any man of faith think that capital punishment is alright?

  21. john

    i thought there was a commandment..thou shalt not kill??? and what about.. he who is without sin may cast the first stone. red neck yokels.

  22. D

    I herd there was a follow up to this made called " The Journey " or something

    any 1 know where 2 find it??

  23. kobenhagen

    One of the hallmarks of a civilized state is that it does not kill its citizens. Just the way the chamber looks says it all; it looks most of all like a torture devise.

  24. Pensolvo

    For as long as man sees death as the end of the journey, there will be no end to injustice and crime.

    He was innocoent... HE WAS INNOCENT HE WAS F¨%#ING INNOCENT.

    a cant stay calm even watching this and yet he remained so calm... truly a spiritually enlightened MAN.

    ... to find the women he was with AFTER the fact... wow that must be tought to swollow as a lawyer...

  25. joy mcclymont hendry

    Sleep tight Edward Xx

  26. Justice

    Being mad does not only mean when people are in the psychiatric.. There is a saying in my place that when someone is taking shower hanging his clothes outside the door of the shower and a mad man came and wear his cloth and ran off, and on noticing that, the man taking shower zoom off naked chasing the mad man. Who do you think people will consider a mad man? Ofcourse the 'normal' person chasing naked a clothed madman!
    Sorry, but Americans are really strange set of people, the way the think can be so bizarre that one begin to wonder are they realy normal?? We all know that the greatness of America is just as a result of the genius of few, the rest are as ignorant as their Sarah Palin, who could see Russian from his home, and beleive Africa is one country!!
    Ask them the name of their Speaker or their capital of their country.. and get shocked how many knows that.
    The issue is that they are too aggressive and like to bully their way around, yet when they have a war that needs planning they will just go there and mess up by shooting here and there yet at no target.. They have the war equipments, but they know not how to use them. If anyone doubt, how many unilateral war have they won? They are frineds with Israel but they never learn one or two things from Israel, like how to make the best judgement..

  27. Rebecca

    I've been in favor of the death penalty all of my adult life...until now. That was the most gut-wrenching thing I've ever watched. Even knowing that he was executed in the end, I kept hoping against hope that maybe they would grant an appeal. I'm usually beyond skeptical of inmates claims of innocence but something about Edward...I feel it in my heart that he was innocent, and what the state of Mississippi did was nothing short of cold-blooded pre-meditated murder.
    I also used to think that the process of execution, especially with lethal injection, was relatively humane. After seeing the whole process from beginning to end, I cannot think of a more cruel punishment then having to sit with your family for a last meal knowing that in a matter of hours you will be strapped to a chair and murdered.
    That poor, poor boy. RIP Edward :*(


    It is clear, killing is evil, therefore there can be no enough excuse to take a life! Yes emotion may run high and low on this, but there is no way we can justify having two wrong to make right.
    Any country/state that supports or takes life is worse evil than those they claim to be executing. Yes, you cannot tell me that killing is bad, and then you kill someone in the name of 'being a state' that's rubbish! There are other punishments for those monsters. like creating another Australia and deporting those people there. At least we know the history of those living in Austria today.. Those that would have been executed if the British has been using that method. Although today the Aborigines may be wishing that those people had not been brought to take over their land and subject them to slavery in their land.
    I suggests that the so called 'civilised' world that still apply barbaric method in dealing with the madness they helped create, should wake up in the 21st century and figure out what works, in solving the mess they created one way or the other.

  29. Stacey

    Wow ... I feel terrible for Edward and his family, he was innocent all along. I can only imagine what innocent people had to go through during the 80's, how many of them were wrongly accused. Such a moving documentary.

  30. Praxis


    Unfortunately, this sort of thing did not end in the 1980s. There have been several confirmed wrongful convictions since 2005.


    O that my spirit was exceedingly vexed by this docutruth! The judges of the earth have perverted judgment and the great leaders of the people have slighted justice. Do these judges and other deciders know that they will be judged too one day by the Great and Unerring Judge of all for all their evil deeds? How can they go home and sleep at peace with all these innocent deaths on their consciences? I could not stop crying. This was so terrible to keep a man for so long and then kill him! How cruel it was to also kill those poor rabbits! May God bless my brother Earl's family, my love to them all in Jesus (your faithfulness in Jesus in the face of tragedy was an inspiration to me. God bless the lawyer, the chaplin, the praying lady and even the parchman and all the others (inmates and guards). It is never late to bless the living though it is too late for the dead. I am faithful that Jesus is Merciful.


    Message to the seemingly evil-minded Jared. I believe it's criminals like you who are so proud of their wrong deeds that deserve to be locked up. Even for someone wicked-sounding like yourself I wouldn't wish the death penalty. Keep on being so perverse and one day life will catch up with you. By your words I can tell you wouldn't mind seeing all black men executed in the U.S.. Your racism is nothing but a


    cowardice. Go to a black neighborhood and repeat that and you will be turned in sugarless cake.


    Do you know that you are condemned to death too, that unless Jesus Christ is received by you in the heart you will be executed in the end. America has so much blood on its hands that time and history will not be able to cleanse them. God help you have a compassionate heart both toward the victim and the guilty like He had on you the worst of criminals when He sent His beloved Son to suffer and die for you. God bless you.

  35. Pacha

    praise be

  36. Carl

    Without reasonable doubt, there was a lot of doubt here. I can't beleive they executed him! This is very similar to the documentary "Murder on a Sunday Morning" in which the police forced the confession.

  37. KiwiAnge

    An eye for an eye and the whole world would be blind.

  38. Medusa

    I've seen my friend die by lethal injection.
    He was innocent and it could be proven...
    The prosecutors did everything in it's power to have my friend executed and they did just that..
    One year later, the prosecutors office made a statement that my friend could be innocent...
    Capital punishment does not, nor will it ever work....
    Why do we kill people, to tell people, that killing people is wrong!

  39. Dwayne

    I been in the storm so long
    Been in the storm so long, children
    Been in the storm so long
    Oh give me little time to pray

  40. Paul

    This documentary made me sick. That poor man.

  41. kirk

    I am at a lose for words. This is one of the saddest things i have ever watched. It scares me to know that this country was/is this unfair. God bless Edward and his family.

  42. Kim Kim

    Sorry Edward you had to go this way. Some People in this sick World just do not want to learn.You are in a much better Place I know for sure.God sends his Angels and look what they do to them. How calm u where and gave others so much Strength.Be blessed....much love

  43. Anthony Bates

    I truely believe Edward was railroaded. Saying that, the state of Mississippi has blood on it.s hands. Because of the continuing bigotry that state has to offer, I personnally will never visit that place for any reason. The most corrupt form of justice is located in mostly the south. I Guess the people who forced him into confessing to somthing he did not do don't have a concience about their actions. In the end, carma will exact it's level of justice against those who do cowardly acts like this.

  44. Andy K

    I was 27 when this came on T.V. in the U.K. and there was somewhat of an outcry about how brutal it was, 20 years on it's still brutal but even more so because society should have learned something by now. For a start the U.S. is still a racist society the stats will tell anyone that and thats even with a black president. And a gas chamber what sort of animal thought that one up, a nazi and it took him 12 minutes to die, an animal shouldn't be treated like that. The U.K. stoped the death penalty nearly 50 years ago. It will not stop people from killing eachother so why have it?

  45. omgLAgos!

    an ee 4 an eye...the whole world will open their eyes and fear losing one..!

  46. omgLAgos!

    an eye 4 an eye...the whole world will open their eyes and fear losing one..!

  47. the truth

    very disturbing as he was innocent, but they should not get rid of death penalty, i live in the U.K and i think they should bring back hanging for certain crimes, rape, murder, paedophilia, burglary etc our legal system is that stupid u can get more years in prison for selling drugs than for killing does that work?

    if someone can be proved 100% guilty of a serious crime then dispose of them!! if it cant be proved then give them a sentence inside. i do think america does get a little bit death row happy but in a country where u can buy guns over the counter what do you expect, its there own wrong doing that causes it...but ye...bring back hanging to the uk legal system!

  48. Anthony Bates

    I don't believe in the death penalty. For one it's nothing but a political tool to get elected. Additionally, there are repoted cases of innocent people who have been put to death. To the people who are in favor of the death penalty; I say if killing an innocent person is murder and executing anyone whose innocent is also murder. So if anyone is executed and later found to be innocent; I ask you, Are you willing to be taken against your will straped to an aparatus and killed? To most of the death penalty proponents, they are too cowardly to want to deal with the prospects of that situation taking place. Further, some of the responces to the probability of an innocent person being put to death are "it happens" and words like that. However, if that were a family member of mine that got railroaded like Edward was, those people who did this would have to be imprisoned in general population along with the people he helped convict. Prisons have lots of vendictive people running around.

  49. Allison Hunt

    If someone would just slip the noose around Baby Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Obama then I would be more than happy to kick the chair beneath their air-dancing feet. "Mommy, why are those men's faces turning dark purple?"

  50. princesspatricia

    What exactly do you mean to say?

  51. princesspatricia

    The United States is a different place with different outlooks. This of course does not make Capital punishment correct or right. I do believe that he was innocent and made an example of. Most likely because of the publicity that it caused in the media towards the end of his days. However, his faith is something we can all draw from and is excellent witness and testimony.

  52. Gixxer31

    "If someone would just slip the noose around Baby Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Obama then I would be more than happy to kick the chair beneath their air-dancing feet"

    This is an easy comment to make when your just a normal civvie doing a norml job and is a common mentality amongst many people who are not in the economical/political spectrum.

    Despite what you may think, most politicians start off with good intentions but when they get in power they start having the heat turned up on them by the faceless people (i.e. huge corporations that really run our countries) to do what they want. If they don't play ball then the faceless people just use the media in order to get them out of office/parliament.

    Politicians don't run our countries....they are just the whipping boy for you gullible sods lol

  53. aka Max

    An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi, (attributed) Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 - 1948) ...

  54. Anthony Wrifford

    this made me sick

  55. alain vassallo

    Iff it`s true that there was a woman who claims she was with him ,then the officer who send her away should should go to trail for murder!

  56. ForeverDove

    “A blind man knows he cannot see, and is glad to be led, though it be by a dog; but he that is blind in his understanding, which is the worst blindness of all, believes he sees as the best, and scorns a guide”

  57. papismm

    so sad so sad...Everybody is gonna die guess what this man might have a better position than those who executed him...

  58. Guest

    Jeffrey Dahma , 957 year sentence,
    Edward Earl Johnson, death.
    Not very consistent.

  59. Guest

    If your going to sentence someone to death is it right to keep them on death row for years, I almost think it would be better to take them outside and put a bullet in their head. It seems that the harder they try to remove themselves from the actual killing, the more obscene it becomes. The whole process, the last meal, the last visit from family, last words, why string it out, Is that part of the punishment? It's like they have to prolong the revenge and suck the marrow out of it. Why try to make the execution itself so clinical after all that, when all's said and done the gas chamber is no less awful than hanging or beheading.

  60. Geoff Purssell

    An interesting if not disturbing look at the final 2 weeks for life of Mississippi death row inmate Edward Earl Johnson awaiting death in the gas chamber. Aside from a live testing of the chamber using rabbits, the most poignant moment comes when Johnson sits in a waiting area between the last night cell and the death house. We know as we witness a tired and yawning Johnson; supported by his lawyer and a nun, that he has but a short time to live. Warden, Don Cabana tells Johnson that at quarter to midnight (which is only minutes away) doctors will come in and connect a stethoscope to his chest and that shortly after he will be moved into the chamber. Regardless of Johnson's guilt or innocence or the crime for which he was condemned, the viewer can only begin to imagine the process which ended Johnson's life soon after. Death by hydrogen cyanide gas is not as quick or seemingly painless as evidenced by the live test on the rabbits. The film ends with the announcement of death by the warden and a comment from Johnson's abolitionist lawyer that it's "a sick world". How right he was. Recommend reading 'Death at Midnight' by Don Cabana or 'The Last Face You'll Ever See' by Ivan Solotaroff.

  61. ranii02

    user removed video :(

  62. Trudi

    Oh no user removed video, I really wanted to watch this and possibly show it to my class. :(

  63. PavolvsBitch

    I'll watch it but I know for fact that plenty of patsys get executed wrongly; in UK our last woman to hang was Ruth Ellis and there's plenty of evidence for her innocence and who the guilty parties were. This was a class and sex crime. But I'll say this, blacks are arrested and convicted for the disproportionate number of crimes on whites which is given in police stats as 80%. White on black crime is rare by comparison but on the corporate level, the arch criminals, both black and white continue to sentence us all.

  64. Ben Hamilton

    It seems quite contradictory to pray and ask for God's love when He doesn't even bother to save your life. Spend your whole life giving thanks and this is the help the big guy gives?
    If there is a God what do you think Edward might have said to him when he finally saw Him? "Why didn't you give me justice?" might be one.

  65. Vexxa LeVeaux

    "Vengeance is mine", saith the Lord.

  66. denise w

    Because love isn't confined to physical things.

    Edward Johnson may have preferred not to've been executed on that fateful day in 1987, but he also knew that physical existence on this earth is a temporary thing. He knew he was innocent. He knew where his ultimate destiny in the end would be.

    In the grand scheme of things, what difference does it make if you live 5 yrs, 50 yrs, or a 100? It still is short, and it still is going to end. And the ending will be just as horrific regardless of when it happens.

    We are all going to die eventually. Eventually.

    Why put off getting your life right until the last minute, when you don't know when that last minute will be?

    Get your life right and stop fearing death!

  67. denise w

    I grew up in the south and have first hand knowledge of the racism there.

  68. JohnGammon

    To Pavolvs [sic] B**** - Ruth Ellis was clearly guilty of murder; the debate is whether she was in her right mind when she shot David Blakely.
    However, there were definitely several innocent people hanged in Britain, some hanged by the most well known official executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who came to believe capital punishment was wrong. Mistakes HAVE been made, and continue to be made even with the jury system, fingerprint evidence, DNA etc. If you believe in the death penalty, you must logically argue that the odd judicial slip up is OK. But if this is your view then you should therefore agree that it's all right if it's your innocent child hanged. In Britain we're often told that the vast majority of the public support bringing back capital punishment, but if there were a full debate on it I wonder if this is true.

  69. Scotty


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