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Death penalty produces injustice

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 9, 2003

Last Friday, 39-year-old Eddie Hartman was killed in North Carolina. What made his death distinctive is that the state sponsored it. His constitutionally guaranteed “fair” trial was far from perfect. He was sexually abused as a child, which is usually a mitigating factor. However, the prosecution used Hartman’s homosexuality to suggest that he may have enjoyed the acts. His court-appointed lawyer failed to challenge these claims and has since been disbarred. The state did not reconsider Hartman’s sentence.

His case demonstrates just one of the many problems in the current capital punishment system.

The death penalty relies on people and is therefore inherently flawed. One hundred seven inmates have been released from death row after DNA testing and revoked testimonies. David Spence was put to death in 1997 after prison inmates received favors to testify against him. A detective who worked the crime said, “Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”

When invoking an irreversible punishment, there is no margin for error.

The death penalty is also prone to discrimination against the poor and United States minorities. Ninety-five percent of all people sentenced to die in the United States could not afford their own attorneys. Eighty percent of those executed since 1976 were convicted of murdering white victims, while minorities represent more than half of all homicide victims. The justice system cannot be considered “just” if race and economic resources are factors in the punishment.

Fifty seven people have been executed this year, and more are scheduled to die.

The death penalty needs to be abolished to prevent more questionable executions from occurring.

On Sunday night at 6 p.m. in 102 DeBartolo, Professor Garth Meintjes will be speaking on the Death Penalty in the United States. A screening of “The Farm: Angola, USA” will follow his lecture at 6:45 p.m. The 90-minute film follows six inmates through the largest maximum-security prison in the United States. It won the Grand Jury Award at Sundance in 1998 and was nominated for Best Documentary that year at the Academy Awards. At 8:15 p.m. Professor Greg Downey will moderate an informal discussion on the prison system.

Amnesty International invites all who are interested in these issues to attend any or all of these events to commemorate the National Weekend of Faith in Action on the Death Penalty. All events are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

George DzuricskofreshmanStanford HallOct. 7