The Death Penalty: Does the System Work?

Thursday, November 10, 2005
The Death Penalty: Does the System Work?
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.

Death Penalty Poster

Issue in Context
“The criminal justice system can and does fail to distinguish the innocent from the guilty, and the implications for capital punishment are ghastly.” – from a discussion on the Internet in January, 1997.

“While some [death penalty] abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the…[data] concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed…In six months, more Americans are murdered than have been killed by execution in this entire century…Until we begin to fight crime in earnest [by using the death penalty], every person who dies at a criminal’s hands is a victim of our inaction.” – Karl Spence, Texas A&M University.

Over half of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty either by law or by practice. However, the United States federal government and 38 states, including Pennsylvania, still have capital punishment as an option for sentencing. In 2004, 59 death row inmates in the United States were executed, in most cases by lethal injection. In November and December 2006 alone, Texas has scheduled six executions.

According to an October 2005 survey, public support of the death penalty was 64%. Supporters of the death penalty say that living murderers will harm or kill again, whether it is in jail, or after release. Opponents raise the possibility of wrongful execution. They also cite capital punishment’s high cost, the burden of which is placed on the taxpayers, while proponents say that the price is worth it. Finally, some people question whether the threat of the death penalty is enough to deter potential criminal acts.

About the Speakers
Syndi Guido, Esquire
Syndi Guido graduated cum laude from the Dickinson School of Law in 1987, and is currently the director of the Pennsylvania State Police Policy Office. A former senior deputy attorney general in the Criminal Division of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, she has also served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals Task force on the Management of Death Penalty Litigation, the United States Attorney General’s Initiative on DNA Laboratory Backlogs, and the president’s DNA Initiative on Advancing Justice through DNA Technology. She has lectured extensively on capital case procedures, appellate advocacy, trial strategy, evidence, criminal law and procedure, and investigative techniques.

Robin Maher, Esquire
Robin Maher graduated cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She has worked both in India and Nepal to promote women’s rights, as well as in many other spheres – from minority protection to the prevention of domestic violence. Since 2001, Ms. Maher has been the director of the American Bar Association Death Penalty Representation Project, an organization that seeks to raise awareness about the administration of the death penalty and the crisis of counsel for those on death row. The Project recruits and trains volunteer lawyers to defend those on death row, and in 2003 published an extensive set of guidelines that set forth standards for death penalty jurisdictions and counsel in the defense of all death penalty cases, widely used throughout the country – including the United States Supreme Court. Ms. Maher gives frequent lectures on the death penalty at both national and international conferences.

Related Links

• Death Penalty Information Center
• Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty
• Clark County, Indiana, Prosecutor’s Page on capital punishment
• Pro Death Penatly Resources