Death Penalty Mulled

About 100 people gathered in Harvard Hall last night to observe a panel discussion concerning the abolition of the death penalty.

Panel speakers included Northeastern Regional Director of Amnesty International USA Joshua Rubenstein, Annie Zirin, a member of the International Socialist Organization, and Bobby Jo Leaster, a former death row inmate.

Rubenstein said he felt the death penalty was "simply a matter of torture."

"No government should be unconstrained in the powers they have over individuals," said Rubenstein. "No one should be subjected to torture because of what they did or did not do."

Zirin said that the death penalty is inextricably linked with racial politics.


"African Americans make up 12 percent of the United States population but 40 percent of those on death row," said Zirin. "The death penalty can never be neutral in this sense."

Leaster, a former death row convict who was incarcerated for fifteen years before he was acquitted at a retrial, dismissed both the moral and utilitarian arguments for the death penalty.

He referenced recent comments by Governor William F. Weld '68 that those convicted under the death penalty, regardless of their innocence, must die in order to set an example for potential criminals.

"I've seen the chair," said Leaster, "and I'm saying to myself, 'How can Governor Weld say that we've got to lose innocent people to deter crime?' When I was convicted, if they'd had the death penalty I would have got it and I'm innocent."

The panel discussion was sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty and the Freedom Now Coalition.