GFC discussion spurs opposition towards death penalty

Dalton Finnell and Michael Ross

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Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania placed a moratorium on the death penalty for the duration of his time in office. This act was enacted on March 4, 2015, the day of a planned execution. The temporary prohibition of the death penalty effectively delayed the execution of death row inmate Terrence Williams, convicted of multiple counts of murder.

As of now, 31 states in the U.S. exercise the use of the death penalty. Nineteen have abolished it. As Pennsylvania has only enacted a moratorium, the state still officially counts as a member of those 31 states. Globally as of 2014, in descending order, the following countries held the highest execution rates in the world: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the U.S., according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty International works globally to protect human rights.

“Amnesty International’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights,” according to Amnesty’s website.

The Allegheny chapter is lead by president Heather Bosau, ’17.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m., Bosau, along with Remata Aleman, ’16, and Mark Egan, ’16, led a group discussion on capital punishment in Grounds For Change. Eight were in attendance. The group leaders reminded those participating that it was a “safe space.”

Questions posed to the group included whether or not there is an ethical way to perform capital punishment as well as why do we have it in the first place. Student responses contained answers that considered the political, social and economic implications of capital punishment.

“Taking someone’s life, I mean I don’t know. If you think you have that power, that’s a problem itself,” said Osa Edebiri, ’16.

Edebiri’s comment reflected the consensus of the majority of the GFC discussion.

The pro-capital punishment camp did not have a significant presence at the discussion: the group was largely united in its opposition and condemnation of the death penalty. The term “cruel and unusual punishment” was mentioned a handful of times, in agreement with the opinions of Amnesty International. With a death penalty approval rate in the United States of 61 percent for a person convicted of murder, to date, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule the death penalty as cruel and unusual.

“There’s too much totality to it for my liking, in such an uncertain world,” said Rich Byron, assistant professor of digital art and painting.

Byron is a Canadian native. The death penalty has been fully abolished in Canada since 1998, according to Amnesty International’s website.

Referring to the cost of trial and execution relative to the cost of non-death row incarceration, Andrea Bush, ’16, stated her opposition to the death penalty.

“I oppose the death penalty because it’s wrong morally and more expensive financially,” said Bush.

Bush is from Colorado, where capital punishment is still legal, according to the Death Penalty Information Center website.

Marissa Walter, ’16, referenced her faith in her statement on capital punishment.

“In Judaism we have a belief that to end a life is to destroy a whole world,” said Walter.

Walter is from the state of Ohio, where the death penalty is legal.

Miles Oladimeji, ’19, is from Nigeria, where as of September 2013, at least 1,223 people were on death row according to Cornell Law School’s website on the death penalty worldwide.

“Life in prison is good enough”, said Oladimeji.

Nigeria executed four people in 2013, according to the same Cornell site.

Amnesty International meets on Tuesdays at 9 to 10 p.m. in the Campus Center 206.

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