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Saturday, November 16, 2019

10-19 The Battalian Gazette

New Orleans resident Eloisa Williams shares an emotional story of her wrongfully accused son to Aggies Against the Death Penalty Tuesday evening at Rudder Theater.

Opponents of execution share stories
By Matthew Watkins

As Tracy Spirko stood before a group of students Tuesday night, she had to walk back and forth in order to stay awake.
Spirko said she has had trouble sleeping recently because she is anxious about the future of her husband.
John Spirko, Tracy Spirko's husband, was accused of murder in 1982 and is sitting on Ohio's death row. His execution was scheduled for earlier this month, but he was granted a reprieve until Nov. 15. Wednesday, Ohio's state parole board will reveal the results of his clemency trial, which could halt his execution.
Spirko shared her experiences with the death penalty Monday night in Rudder Theater during Journey of Hope, a program hosted by Aggies Against the Death Penalty.
The program featured three speakers who have been affected by the death penalty and who said that the death penalty does not make sense ethically or financially.
Spirko said her husband was convicted of murder by the testimony from a truck driver driving by the crime at 20 mph. The truck driver said John Spirko was the man he saw commit the crime, but Spirko said her husband is innocent.
"Killing a person who killed another person does not make sense," she said.
Spirko said there were other options available aside from death penalty, such as life in prison without parole.
Amanda Lacey, vice president of the Aggies Against the Death Penalty, said her organization held the event in order to encourage discussion about the issue.
"We are at an academic setting, and we want to educate people and encourage academic discussion, no matter what people's view are," she said.
George White, another speaker, said he was falsely convicted of murdering his wife in 1992. He was given a life sentence and served more than two years in prison before his conviction was thrown out because of an unfair trial. White then spent five years waiting to stand trial before it was revealed that the prosecution withheld evidence proving his innocence, and he was set free.
"If the state of Alabama had their way, I would be dead right now," White said.
White said after the death of his wife, he hated the man who killed her and wanted him to die, but his feelings, like the feelings of many other victims' families, were misguided.
Jason Fite, a junior history major, said he agreed something should be done to prevent executing innocent people, but that the action should not be eliminating the death penalty altogether.
"I definitely don't think that people should be sentenced to death based on circumstantial evidence," Fite said. "I think that there should be overwhelming data, not just testimony. But if you kill someone, you deserve to lose your life. You have forfeited that right by taking it away from others."
Fite said he believes the death penalty works as an effective deterrent in preventing crime.
"We were not thinking from our heads, we were screaming from our broken hearts," he said.
Speaker Eloise Williams, whose son, grandson and sister were all murdered on three separate occasions, spoke out against the death penalty.
"I am here to tell you all what can happen to you in the judicial system," she said. "It's not working for us. It only works for the chosen few. I look forward to justice, but I want to be able to say 'Don't kill anybody in my name'... I have no right to tell someone to kill somebody because they killed my family. If you do that, the killing goes on and on and on like it's a disease."