Friday, 8 February 2008

Campus series poses national insight to capital punishment

Campus series poses national insight to capital punishment Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 February 2008
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News Reporter

“In 2007, 42 persons in 10 states were executed - 26 in Texas; 3 each in Alabama and Oklahoma; 2 each in Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee; and 1 each in South Dakota, Georgia, South Carolina, and Arizona,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice statistics.

North Carolina does have a capital punishment system, but hasn’t carried out an execution since 2006, according to the North Carolina Department of Correction Web site.

Appalachian State University will host a series titled “The Real Death Penalty: Capital Punishment in America” throughout the month of February, beginning with “The Empirical Realities of Capital Punishment: Does it work? Is it good Policy?” held Wednesday at 7 p.m. in room 114 of Belk Library & Information Commons.

“I wanted to have a series of events that captures real moments of the death penalty and how it is carried out in the United States,” associate professor of political science and criminal justice Dr. Matthew Robinson said. “This is also the title that I used for an article I wrote.”

Robinson will present the first installment of the series.

Robinson said he and Dr. Ray Miller, a professor in the department of theatre and dance who came up with the play “The Exonerated,” have been bouncing ideas back and forth for about nine months on how to promote and celebrate the play.

The series is sponsored by several departments at Appalachian, including anthropology, English, history, political science and criminal justice, sociology and social work and theatre and dance.

Key speakers will include people who have experienced wrongful capital punishment.

“Delbert Tibbs is someone who was wrongly convicted and he is the key character in ‘The Exonerated,’” Robinson said. “I called him and he will be coming to speak, as well as read some of his poetry to make it real.”

Speakers from North Carolina will also give presentations during the series.

“Dr. Barbara Zaitzow is an expert on wrongful convictions and she suggested getting someone from the state of North Carolina,” Robinson said. “She contacted Darryl Hunt who was wrongly convicted twice and spent 18 years in prison in North Carolina.”

“You don’t get many opportunities to hear from top scholars, and this will make it real for [students] to hear actual people convicted and impacted by wrongful conviction,” he said.

In history, North Carolina has had capital punishment by means of hanging, lethal gas, the electric chair, and lethal injection, Robinson said.

“The last death penalty that occurred in North Carolina was in August 2006,” Robinson said. “North Carolina laws required doctors to be present but the doctors did not like that because it violated their ‘do no harm’ oath.”

Doctors would look away and not watch the process, Robinson said.

“No one is being executed until we sort out that issue,” Robinson said. “The Supreme Court should be
deciding a case this week on whether lethal injection is considered cruel and unusual punishment.”

If the Supreme Court decides it is cruel and unusual, there will be no death penalty in the United States, Robinson said.

“This series is happening at a good time, especially for events nationally since all executions are halted,” Robinson said. “Since 1976 when the death penalty started until now, we have released over 120 people from death row.”

All events, with the exception of the play “The Exonerated,” are free.

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