I love movies dealing with controversial issues, especially questioning real-life situations as well as social & moral dilemmas. As Tim Robbins' & Susan Sarandon's staunchly liberal stance is taken into consideration, "Dead Man Walking" might be understood as a "hidden" criticism to capital punishment & treatment of US justice system. But, I think that Robbins' approach taking on the issue is pretty even-handed (excluding final sequences), making some good arguments about merits and demerits of death penalty.
Being as unbiased as possible, he raises some solid points for both sides: sorrowful families of THE VICTIMS, raped and killed by two ruthless psychopaths, and a convicted DEATH ROW INMATE waiting for his imminent execution. But, Robbins' neutal attitude is CRACKED AT THE VERY SEAMS to the end of the movie while impending execution approaches: emotional tension builds, terror, fear & anger unfold, despair & emptiness dominate, and death shows its ugly & frosty face...
Another thing I appreciate is that Robbins follows a minimalist approach in setting up the movie: focusing mostly on character development and letting picture tell the story. Sarandon won Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Sister Prejean, and Sean Penn was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as convicted criminal Poncelet. Both performances were definitely brilliant.
Regardless of your idea on this controversial subject, this movie is a definite must-see!