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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

09-30 DC News Record

Speakers promote end to capital punishment
By: Brian Phillips

Two people who might have reason to support the death penalty - they are family members of murder victims - visited the Law College Monday to explain why they oppose it.
To a filled auditorium and cameras for a live Web cast, the speakers addressed why they say executions are never justified.
"The death penalty is an exercise in hatred," Sam Reese Sheppard said. "We're the only NATO nation, the only civilized nation to still use it."
Sheppard's mother was murdered in 1954, in the Cleveland home where his family then lived. His father, also named Sam Sheppard, was convicted ofthe crime. He spent 12 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary until the Supreme Court ruled the original trial wasn't conducted properly and had violated his civil rights at least 27 times. A retrial found Sheppard not guilty.
Harrison Ford's character in the 1993 movie The Fugitive was largely based on Sheppard.
Sam Reese Sheppard argued that the justice system has many flaws and that executions cannot be undone if a mistake in the, process is found later.
Alternatives to the death penalty should be explored, Sheppard said.
"Why can't we get rid of the death penalty, and instead work on improving social and psychological services?" he asked.
Sheppard also said death penalty trials cost on average twice as much as non-capital trials.
The other main speaker had been wrongly imprisoned himself, like Sheppard's father, for the murder of his own wife.
"Mistakes can be made," said George White.
White spent "two years and 103 days" in an Alabama prison for the killing, but his conviction was overturned in 1989 and the charges dismissed in 1992.
"We have a legal system that is unwilling to repair itself," he said.
His perspective as the husband of a murder victim provides him a unique view of what punishments might be appropriate, he said. Family members of victims may naturally want revenge, he said, but that isn't the solution.
"No act of retaliatory violence will heal our wounds," White said.
Sheppard and White concluded their comments at 1: 15 p.m. and opened the floor to audience questions."Ifthe real killers were found in your situations,
what punishment do you see as appropriate?" asked first-year law student Erin Donnell.
Sheppard responded with his own question.
"Should a government that can't fill potholes be trusted to have a death squad strap someone down?" he asked.
He then said a life sentence without chance of parole would probably be ideal for a killer, but also said inmates should be allowed to work and receive counseling.
White responded to the question by again saying the legal system can make mistakes and that is why he prefers prison sentences to the death penalty.
Another student asked the speakers whanhey believed was the most compelling argument against the death penalty.
"It is morally, socially and economically bad public policy," White said.
White cautioned that the issue is too complicated to summarize in such simple terms, however.
"The desire for revenge is a normal human response. There's a big difference between feeling and doing," White also said.
Sheppard said there are better and more effective means of law enforcement.
Numerous Law College presentations are digitally recorded by electronic media students, said Web Services Coordinator Joseph A. Hodnicki.
Monday's presentation was part of a tour Sheppard, White and other speakers are conducting in coordination with "Journey of Hope ... From Violence to Healing," an organization of murder victim family members. The group will spend two weeks in Ohio.