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Gilmore Execution Is Setback To Opponents of Death Penalty

By Marcela L. Davison

The execution of Gary Gilmore has not helped death penalty abolitionists in their fight, Dr. Hugo Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University said last night.

"The protest gets tied up in knots when you have a problem like the Gilmore case where the subject wants to die," Bedau said at a meeting sponsored by the Harvard Committee for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.

Bedau also noted the movement's need for backing by political leaders, saying that "there are a thousand ways to fail at getting legislation enacted if the political powers that be are against you."

Martin H. Ross said at the meeting the failure of death penalty opponents to inform the public of their views during the last decade harmed the cause of abolition.

"Now we have sweet little ladies who won't let their dogs out at night, yet they say 'My God, you're against the death penalty?' Ross said.

Sarah Erwin, former head of the Massachusetts Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, said at the meeting that "to pass a law concerning the death penalty you need the most effective political organization behind you. The issue depends not on your belief in capital punishment but on how strong you are politically, and in an election."

Currently, Massacchusetts has no one on death row. But if the time comes when an execution is planned in the state, Bedau and the other abolitionists favor a grass roots approach of a "monstrous rally with 1000, 10,000 or even 100,000 people" to protest the move.

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