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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

10-01 Charlotte Observer II

LOGIC SAYS END CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
by Dannye Powell

Professor Nicola Bivens' criminal-law class at Livingstone College is discussing the death penalty, and guest Sunny Jacobs is trying to stay put behind the lectern.An impossible job for this 54-year-old flower child in a wispy pony tail. Jacobs, who once lived in Charlotte, is one of several "Journey of Hope" speakers on tour to talk against capital punishment.
It's not easy to winnow the good arguments from those soggy with illogic. So, readers, a pop quiz:

1. When the 27-year-old Jacobs and her boyfriend Jesse Tafero were sentenced to death in 1976 for the murder of 2 cops at a Florida rest stop, Jacobs' son was 9 and her daughter 10 months.
Question: Is motherhood a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: No.

2. On death row, Jacobs was allowed 3 items: Comb, bath cloth, lye soap.
Question: Is deprivation a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: No.

3. While in prison, Jacobs' parents, who lived in Charlotte, were killed in a plane crash; her children grew up, and her son became a father.
Question: Are major events affecting the inmates a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: No.

4. At the murder scene with Jacobs and Tafero was Tafero's prison buddy, Walter Rhodes. Rhodes was offered a deal - a 2nd-degree murder plea - for testimony that sent Tafero and Jacobs to death row.
Question: Is the tendency of criminals to say anything to save themselves, even if it means a buddy dies, a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: Yes.

5. Rhodes later testified on 3 separate occasions that he was the sole killer.
Question: Is the inevitable fallibility of a system that relies on a single witness a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: Yes.

6. When Florida's highest court finally realized Rhodes had indeed lied to convict Tafero and Jacobs, it was too late - the doomed Tafero had exhausted his appeals.
Question: Is the inevitable red tape of the legal process, combined with the victim's race with time, a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: Yes.

7. In the 1990 electrocution of Tafero in Florida, flames leapt from his head.
Question: Is a botched and possibly excruciating execution a reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: No. It's a reason to abolish electrocution.

8. At a new trial in 1992, Jacobs pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree murder, which set her free after 16 years and 233 days. She is one of 89 death-row survivors freed for provable or probable innocence since U.S.executions resumed in 1977.
Question: Is the inevitable fallibility of the legal process - as well as that of the human beings involved - reason to abolish the death penalty?
Answer: Yes.

Sunny says her life now is about healing and forgiveness.
Does that mean her prison time was worth it?
No. Not unless her story sets the system right and saves innocent lives.