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Monday, February 17, 2020

10-14 The Clarion Sinclair College Paper

Sociology department holds talk on death penalty
By: Christine Ryan

    On Tuesday Sept. 30, a seminar called “Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing” was held in building 4 from 5:30-7 p.m.  The seminar, held in part by Sinclair’s sociology department, revolved around three speakers and how the death penalty has affected their lives and changed their way of thinking.
    Bud Welch, whose daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, was one of the speakers.  Julie was a translator for the Social Security Administration department located in the Alfred P. Murrah building.
    On April 19, 1995, Julie walked into the waiting area to bring one of her clients into her office when the bomb exploded.  Julie, her client, and all those in the waiting area were killed.
    Later, Welch was told by rescue workers if she had waited two or three seconds longer to get her client that she would have lived as the Social Security offices were closer to the center of the building and therefore, better protected from the impact of the bomb’s blast.
    “I went to the bomb site daily after her death because I felt a special closeness to Julie knowing that she spent the last few moments of her life in this place,” Welch said.
    To ease the pain of the psychological and emotional trauma of Julie’s death Welch began drinking on a regular basis.
    “It started out that I’d make a drink so I could fall asleep and sleep through the night, then I’d need a drink to get out of bed.  Eventually, the hangovers lasted all day long,” Welch said.
    In the months following the bombing, Welch felt such hatred and anger over the death of his daughter that he did not oppose the death penalty as he does today.
    Welch said, “I just wanted Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols fried for what they did.  I thought when that happened I could move on.”
    After the subsequent trial and sentencing of McVeigh to death, Welch recognized that McVeigh’s death would not bring his daughter back nor ease my pain of her loss, this realization led Welch to begin touring the country speaking out against the death penalty.  Ultimately, a meeting between Welch and McVeigh’s father, Bill, was arranged.
    “When he answered the door, I saw a large man stooped in grief.  I knew that he was feeling what I was feeling.  He too, had lost a child.  I no longer wanted revenge.  Revenge and hate are the reasons Julie and 157 other are dead today,” said Welch.
    Jenna Schroder, the chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, gives a different perspective on the far-reaching effects of the death penalty.
    “I work with a lot of people in prison and their families,” Schroder said.
    “Oftentimes, these people have not had the opportunities others have had.  Usually, they have been victims of serious abuse themselves, I’m not saying this to excuse their actions, taking a life is never excusable whether done by the prison or by the state,” said Schroder.  “The agony of someone who has a terminal illness is very similar to the agony of someone on death row who is told at a specific date and time he will be put to death.”
    Schroder continued on to say that when sentencing a person to the death penalty, the law is not always fair and unbiased.
    “Most people who receive the death penalty are put to death because they killed a white man.  Fifty percent of people on death row are people of color, only 13 percent of the total population in Ohio are racial minorities.”
    Russ Morgan, a former police investigator and now the current chair of Victim Offender Mediators, believes that the way to end the death penalty while still ensuring justice for victims and their families is to change the judicial system’s policy from retributive justice which is based primarily on punishing the offender, to a restorative justice system which focuses on the victim and how the offender can repair the damage caused by his actions.
    “Victims have very little voice in the justice system.  The restorative justice system brings victims and offenders together, it allows victims to ask the one question that can’t be answered by anyone but the offender. ‘Why?’” Morgan said.
    In Morgan’s opinion, the restorative justice system does more in terms of deterring the offender than probation or prison ever could.
    “When the victim and offender sit down together and work out an agreement the amount of repayment doubles.  It makes the offender put a face on the crime, and it makes the victim realize that killing the offender would not take the burden off of him,” Morgan said.
    Some at the seminar were victims or survivors of violent crime themselves, one attendee said that the justice system in its present form wasn’t effective, but didn’t see how restorative justice could work for her.
    “My friend was killed by a drunk driver and he got off.  He got nothing.  And it wasn’t the first time that this had happened, he’s had six or eight convictions for driving under the influence,” she said.