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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

10-05 The Missoulian

At UM, Unabomber's brother, others say death penalty unfair

"If there was one thing that could have deterred me from turning in my
brother, it would have been the death penalty," says David Kaczynski, who
tipped law enforcement off that he suspected the Unabomber was his brother
Ted and now is executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death
Penalty.

David Kaczynski says his efforts to abolish the death penalty were born of
the same moral sense he had 12 years ago, when he first suspected his
brother might be the person law enforcement called the Unabomber.

"My objective today is the same objective I had the day I turned my
brother in," Kaczynski said. "I don't want there to be any more victims."

Kaczynski was in Missoula on Tuesday with the Journey of Hope, a statewide
speaking tour led by the family members of murder victims, the relatives
of death row inmates and exonorees who seek alternatives to the death
penalty.

In an interview with the Missoulian, Kaczynski said social injustices
compelled him to join the group of activists, which tours the country and
urges states to adopt anti-death penalty legislation. Capital punishment
disproportionately impacts the poor, people of color and the mentally
disabled, he said.

Today, David Kaczynski is the executive director of New Yorkers Against
the Death Penalty. Although he has long opposed the death penalty on
principle, he said the issue was never more immediate than the day he and
his wife read the Unabombers manifesto in a newspaper and recognized his
brothers writing.

"Our family had struggled with an incredibly difficult moral situation. We
looked at the truth when the truth had never been harder to look at. And
if there was one thing that could have deterred me from turning my brother
in, it would have been the death penalty," said Kaczynski, who was
dismayed by the Justice Department's pursuit of the death penalty for his
brother. "The death penalty is applied unfairly, it is administered
unevenly, and it risks executing the innocent and the mentally challenged.
It's not justice. It's skin color and good lawyers."

With Kaczynski's help, police where able to arrest Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
at a remote cabin near Lincoln in 1996. Ted Kaczynski is serving a life
sentence for sending mail bombs that killed three people and wounded many
more.

Kaczynski is one of about 20 speakers headlining a statewide speaking
tour, called From Violence to Healing. The group is sponsored by the
Montana Abolition Coalition and spoke at the University of Montana
throughout the day and at an evening event.

Another speaker, Bill Babbitt, is a friend of Kaczynskis and compelled him
to join the Journey of Hope tour years ago by telling him his own, similar
story.

Bill Babbitt is the brother of Manny Babbitt, a veteran of the Vietnam War
who in 1980 was convicted of murdering a 78-year-old woman during a
burglary in Sacramento, Calif. In 1999, Babbitt was executed by lethal
injection at San Quentin State Prison, just hours after his 50th birthday.

Like Ted Kaczynski, Babbitt was diagnosed with schizophrenia and convicted
of first degree murder. Unlike Kaczynski, who is Harvard-educated, white
and had a solid defense team of high-profile attorneys, Babbitt was black
and was appointed a public defender who had never tried a criminal case.

And like David Kaczynski, Bill Babbitt turned his brother over to law
enforcement after suspecting him in a string of burglaries and sexual
assaults.

"My brother went to Harvard. He had a Ph.D." Kaczynski said. "Bill's
brother went to Vietnam. I guess it was my 1st realization that this was a
larger issue."

Marietta Jaeger-Lane, another speaker and a co-founder of Journey of Hope,
was the mother of Susie Jaeger, who was kidnapped from her family's tent
at the Missouri Headwaters State Park near Three Forks and murdered more
than 30 years ago.

On the 1-year anniversary of Susie's disappearance, the girls abductor
called Jaeger-Lane on the telephone and taunted her. But her spiritual
words about forgiveness disarmed him, and he spoke with the woman for more
than an hour, revealing details about himself and the crime that helped
the FBI solve the case.

Jaeger-Lane soon learned that Susie had been killed on a remote Montana
ranch 1 week after her disappearance. The death penalty was applicable,
but, at Jaeger-Lane's request, prosecutors offered the alternative
sentence of life imprisonment without parole. After the offer, the man
admitted to the rape, strangulation death and dismemberment of Susie, as
well as the deaths of a woman and 2 young boys in the same area.

"There was evidence that this man had caused more children's deaths around
the state, but the county prosecutors in those instances were insisting on
the death penalty," Jaeger-Lane said. "He would only confess to the deaths
in Gallatin County, where he was being offered life imprisonment."

Jaeger-Lane found no healing through hatred of her daughter's murderer and
instead turned to forgiveness and spirituality.

"I moved from wanting to kill him with my bare hands to believing that, in
God's eyes, he is just as precious as my daughter. She was worthy of
something more noble, more beautiful than killing a chained, defenseless
person," she said. "It dehumanizes us, it degrades us, when we use the
same violent methods as these offenders to solve our problems."

"Every one of us would give everything we have to not be an authority on
this issue because of our personal experiences," she said. "Hopefully,
when we offer our stories it gives people with similar experiences a new
option for peace and health and happiness."