April 21, 2016

Professor Lectures on Consequences of Death Penalty

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­­­­Prof. John Blume, law, argued that the United States should abolish the death penalty because of its racial bias and global ineffectiveness at a debate on Tuesday.

Blume — who said he has spent the past 30 years studying this issue and representing people on death row — said he believes the death penalty “has run its course.”

One in 10 people convicted of the death penalty are innocent, according to Blume. He added that the proportion of convicts on death row is disproportionately comprised of African Americans convicted of killing white victims.

The death penalty’s legality also weakens America’s position in international debates about human rights, Blume said.

“When the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty for juveniles, one of the most important briefs was filed by U.S. ambassadors, who said they faced difficulties [in the past] negotiating agreements with many countries,” Blume said. “These countries would say, ‘Don’t lecture us, you still kill kids.’”
Blume added that the power that the death penalty grants to the government may seem excessive to citizens.

“At the end of the day, one thing about the death penalty that is inescapable is that at the bottom, it is just another government program,” Blume said. “If you are a person who is suspicious of government power, then why would you give the government the power to decide who lives and who dies?”

At the conclusion of the lecture, organizers opened the floor to students for public debate. Arguing against the death penalty, Jason Jeong ’19 said he believes the punishment does not align with the U.S. criminal system’s primary goal.

“Criminal system is not just about retribution, but also rehabilitation,” Jeong said.

In a final vote, audience members overwhelmingly agreed that the death penalty should be abolished.