Death Penalty Symposium
Currently, approximately 3,350 people sit on death row in America. The public is divided as to whether the death penalty should be part of the administration of justice in a civil society. Questions abound regarding the influence of race in the administration of the death penalty, the ability of local prosecutors and juries to apply the law consistently, and the risks of wrongful conviction and execution. More than 200 individuals have been exonerated in the U.S. by DNA technology.
Co-victims, those who have lost a loved one to murder, have very different views about the death penalty. Some claim it provides them with a sense of closure. Others believe the death penalty aggravates their difficulties.
The federal government and 36 states have provisions in their criminal codes that allow for the imposition of the death penalty in cases that meet certain criteria. The death penalty is not treated uniformly by these jurisdictions. Some have it on the books but have never sentenced anyone to death.
two Some infrequently sentence a person to death and virtually never carry out an execution. Other states sentence people to death but often see the sentences overturned on appeal, so rarely carry out an execution. Others frequently sentence defendants to death and carry out the penalty with some regularity.
When a defendant is condemned to die in any of these jurisdictions, the costs of litigation and incarceration greatly exceed similar costs associated with a non-capital case. Moreover, the proceedings last longer because a life is at stake, and courts are reluctant to brush aside claims of error under such circumstances.
Historically, America has used different methods to carry out the death penalty. In the past, the penalty was carried out by hanging or a firing squad. More recently, the death penalty has primarily been enforced in a private, almost hospital like setting, where the condemned is given a lethal injection of three drugs aimed at bringing about death quickly and painlessly. The United States Supreme Court ruled in April, 2008 that the lethal injection method of execution is constitutional.
The level of trust and confidence that Americans have in their justice system generally is determined by how they view the criminal justice system. While from time to time a civil case comes along that attracts widespread public attention, it is the steady diet of criminal cases reported in the media that shapes our view of whether the courts are administering justice fairly, and whether law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are dealing even-handedly with all suspects and defendants. Consequently, questions regarding whether the death penalty is administered fairly have broad implications.
The Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society at Susquehanna University was pleased to present a day symposium examining whether the death penalty should be abolished. The goal of the symposium was to improve public understanding of issues surrounding the death penalty and to present thought-provoking discussions of the various viewpoints surrounding this controversial topic.
Welcoming remarks by Susquehanna University President Jay Lemons, introductory remarks by Adams Center Director Allan Sobel, and opening remarks by Bud Welch | Transcript
Lecture by John Joel Berberich, M.D., Ph.D. on the Lethal Injection Method of Execution | Transcript
A Look at the Death Penalty Through the Eyes of an Exoneree and Family Members of Homicide Victims, remarks by Mary Achilles and Jay Smith, moderated by Peter Loge | Transcript
A discussion by Drs. Barrett I. Duke, Jr. and Howard Zehr about whether the Death Penalty is Just and Moral, moderated by James Acker, J.D., Ph.D. | Transcript
A discussion by Robert Dunham and John Morganelli, moderated by David McCord, regarding whether the Death Penalty is Administered Fairly and Non-Arbitrarily | Transcript
A dialogue between Richard Dieter and B. Lyn McClellan, moderated by Allan Sobel, on Whether the Death Penalty Should be Abolished | Transcript
Mary Achilles is currently the victims’ advocate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She was named to that position by Cardinal Justin Rigali to strengthen services to victims of sexual abuse by clergy. Until her appointment last year, Ms. Achilles served as the first-ever victim advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
James Acker, J.D., Ph.D. is a professor at the State University of New York at Albany School of Criminal Justice. Most recently, he co-edited Wounds That Do Not Bind: Victim-Based Perspectives on the Death Penalty. He is also co-editor of America’s Experiment with Capital Punishment: Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of the Ultimate Penal Sanction.
Joel John Berberich, M.D., Ph.D. is chairman, division of anesthesiology and medical director, anesthesiology service line, at Geisinger Medical Center. Dr. Berberich is also Co-Chair of the Geisinger Medical Center Bioethics Review and Advisory Committee.
Richard Dieter, J.D., received an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame and a masters degree from the Ohio State University. He graduated cum laude from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. He is a member of the Maryland Bar, the Bar of the District of Columbia and the Bar of the U. S. Supreme Court, and serves as an adjunct professor at the Catholic University School of Law, where he teaches a seminar on the death penalty. Dieter has been the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., since 1992. The center is a non-profit organization serving the public and the media with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment
Barrett I. Duke, Jr., Ph.D. is vice president for public policy and research and director of the research Institute of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ELRC), the Southern Baptist Convention’s agency for “applied Christianity” (social and moral concerns). Duke frequently addresses issues relating to capital punishment, and authored the article “Capital Punishment” published in the 2003 edition of the Holman Bible Dictionary.
Robert Dunham, J.D. is director of training and an assistant federal defender in the Philadelphia Federal Defender’s Capital Habeas Corpus Unit and an adjunct professor at Villanova Law School. Before joining the federal defender’s office in 1999, he served for five years as executive director of the former Pennsylvania Capital Case Resource Center. Mr. Dunham has litigated Pennsylvania death penalty appeals at all levels of the state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.
Deborah Fleischaker is the director of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, a project committed to studying and reporting on the administration of the death penalty in selected states across the country, including Pennsylvania. The work in Pennsylvania has been completed.
Peter Loge is a communications and political consultant. He also teaches in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.
B. Lyn McClellan, J.D., is currently the bureau chief of the Felony Trial Bureau. He has represented the state at trial in over 35 death penalty cases. He is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and has addressed the National District Attorneys Association, the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, the Houston Bar Association, the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians, and the Center for American and International Law.
David McCord, J.D., has taught at Drake Law School since 1984. His scholarly interests focus on the death penalty. While serving as director of the American Judicature Society’s National Jury Center, during a sabbatical leave from his teaching responsibilities, McCord designed and completed the Capital Case Data Project. The project involved a review and comparison of every case in which a death eligible defendant was sentenced between Jan. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2005.
John Morganelli, J.D., has served as district attorney of Northampton County since first being elected in 1991. He served as President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys’ Association in 1999–2000. In 1993–94, Mr. Morganelli prosecuted a lawsuit against the governor to enforce Pennsylvania’s death penalty in cases of first-degree murder. He is an experienced courtroom prosecutor who has personally tried to verdict numerous first-degree murder cases and represented the commonwealth in first-degree murder cases post-conviction in both state and federal appellate courts.
Jay Smith, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, was the principal of Upper Merion High School in 1979 when Susan Reinert, a teacher at that school, and presumably her children, were murdered. The children’s bodies were not found. Smith was convicted of the murders and sentenced to death in 1986 and spent six years on Pennsylvania’s death row. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned Smith’s conviction in 1992 because the trial judge had permitted the introduction of hearsay and crucial evidence was withheld from the defense.
Allan Sobel, J.D., was appointed the first full-time director of the Arlin M. Adams Center for Law and Society in Septemberin September 2006. He previously served as President of the American Judicature Society. AJS, established in 1913, is a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to promoting the effective administration of justice. Sobel currently serves as a member of the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission Committee on Wrongful Convictions and the Snyder County Criminal Justice Advisory Board.
Bud Welch’s 23-year-old daughter Julie was murdered, along with 167 others, when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed in April, 1995. In the months after her death, he changed from supporting the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh to taking a public stand against it. His change of heart was inspired in part by Julie herself. Once, while listening to a radio report on an execution in Texas, she had turned to him and said, “Dad, that makes me sick. All those Texans are doing is teaching all the children down there to hate. The murderer did wrong, but now the government has stooped to his level.”
Bud eventually arranged to meet with Timothy McVeigh’s father, Bill. “I saw a deep pain in a father’s eye, but also an incredible love for his son.” Bud says, “I was able to tell him that I truly understood the pain that he was going through, and that he – as I – was a victim of what happened in Oklahoma City.”
Howard Zehr, Ph.D., is professor of restorative justice at Eastern Mennonite University. He served for 19 years as director of the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Office on Crime and Justice. Dr. Zehr’s book, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, has been a foundational work in the growing “restorative justice” movement. He was appointed by the federal court in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Timothy McVeigh (with Tammy Krause) to assist the defense in working with victims.