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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

10-10 Daily Interlake

Their Journeys of Hope

In 1995, David Kaczynski came to the realization that his brother, Ted, was quite possibly the Unabomber, the target of one of the most expensive investigations in FBI history after 16 bombings and the deaths of 3
people. The choice of whether to speak up was an agonizing one. Another innocent person could be killed if he and his wife, Linda, kept their suspicions to themselves. But if he was indeed guilty, Ted could be sentenced to death. I wondered what it would be like for me to go through life with my brothers blood on my hands, David Kaczynski said.

Although that fear was eliminated when Ted Kaczynski was found guilty but sentenced to life without parole, David Kaczynski knows that his brother, due to a number of factors, received special treatment in the system. This is part of why Kaczynski joined the Journey of Hope, a statewide speaking tour sponsored by the Montana Abolition Coalition, the umbrella group for civil rights activists and religious groups that oppose Montana’s death penalty.

Kaczynski, exonerated death-row inmate Juan Melendez and Eddie Hicks, whose daughter was murdered at age 26, gave a presentation at Risen Christ Catholic Church in Evergreen Thursday afternoon as part of a 50-event state campaign for an end to the death penalty in Montana.
Kaczynski said his brother, who had lived a hermits existence in a remote cabin outside Lincoln, Mont., for 25 years, received $3 million in legal representation after his conviction to save him from being executed.
"No one on death row today is given $3 million in lawyers," Kaczynski said. "I can guarantee you that Juan did not get a small fraction of that kind of defense."

Melendez' story is just one case study in why the death penalty should be abolished, Kaczynski said. Melendez, who had left his childhood home of Puerto Rico and was working as a migrant farm worker, was convicted of murder in 1984. He spent 17 years, eight months and one day on Florida’s death row for a crime he didn’t commit.
He was released in 2002 after it was discovered that prosecutors hid evidence and lied to the court to protect the real killer, a police informant.
"You can always release an innocent man from prison, but you can never release an innocent man from the grave," Melendez said.

Justice never can be achieved for Hicks. In May 2000, his daughter, who had been an athlete and an honor student in high school, was shot in the head in High Point, N.C., in front of her younger sister and brother.
His daughter's killer was released after 8 years in prison; the charge had been reduced from 1st-degree murder to manslaughter.

Although the short sentence was decried as an injustice by all 3 of the speakers Thursday, Hicks said he has never supported the death penaltybefore his daughter's murder or since.
The retired firefighter remembered heated debates in the firehouse when he felt that he was the lone voice speaking in opposition to the death penalty. He considered it barbaric that the government should take life so deliberately and that its deterrent value was unproven.
"Without fail the conversation would end with someone saying,’ You wouldn't feel that way if you lost a loved one to murder,'" Hicks said. "At the time, it was so far-fetched, I didn’t even consider it."
In the early days after his daughter's death, Hicks said he would have considered "doing the guy in myself. But after that passed, I realized that the reasons I was opposed to the death penalty before remained."
Hicks said he continues to share his painful story because he's heard too many politicians and law enforcement officers say that "all" of those who have lost loved ones to murder are in favor of the death penalty.
"It's important for them to know they’re not speaking for everyone," he said.

Kaczynski also had an intellectual argument with the death penalty before he was affected by it. His opposition has been strengthened not only by his own experience, but by the testimonies of others, especially that of Bill Babbit, who watched as his brother Manny was executed in California in 1999.

He said the stories of Manny Babbit and Ted Kaczynski are similar in so many ways that the outcome should have been the same: They both were convicted murderers, they both suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, they both were tried in Sacramento and, coincidentally, they both were turned in by their brothers. (An elderly woman died of a heart attack after a break-in and beating by Babbit.)
The differences were, David Kaczynski said, while his brother is a white man with a doctorate in mathematics, an IQ of 165 and a Harvard diploma, Manny Babbit was a black man who had dropped out of school, received a Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and could not afford good counsel.
"What got me passionate about the death penalty was really its unfairness," Kaczynski said. "We're supposed to have equal justice under law. The death penalty makes a mockery of that aspiration the way it's
The speakers also noted the financial burden to the legal system also is huge, with studies showing that pursuit of the death penalty costs millions more than a system of life without parole.
"Instead of investing in a program of vengeance that doesn't work, we should invest in a program of prevention," Kaczynski said.