Sunday, November 23, 2008

David Kaczynski: Why The Death Penalty Is Wrong

Image & Text By Luke T. Bush (C) 2006

Originally Published 2/16/06

Last week David Kaczynski, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty, spoke at Plattsburgh University. It was an important lecture, one I almost missed, thanks to my “open mind.”

I wasn’t planning on attending, but as a favor for a friend I took some photos. I tried to be unobtrusive, cautiously moving around the auditorium for different perspectives on the event.

While I was concentrating on my photography, I found myself being drawn into David Kaczynski’s story. He explained how one’s POV in regards to the death penalty could change when a close relative is facing capital punishment. He talked about his brother Ted, how he turned Ted in to the FBI before someone else was hurt or killed. David Kaczynski thought he had an understanding with the FBI: the government wouldn’t recommend the death penalty. The FBI also promised David Kaczynski confidentiality, but that obviously was out the window when the press set up shop on his front steps. And when his brother Ted was on trial, the government pushed for the death penalty, another broken promise.

The lecture was personal, heartfelt. David Kaczynski talked about the good side of his brother, how Ted was a victim of mental illness. But it wasn’t an insanity defense that saved Ted Kaczynski; it was that he had top flight lawyers.

And that, said David Kaczynski, is one reason why he’s against the death penalty. Sometimes innocent people are executed because they can’t afford the best lawyers. Also, thanks to the relatively new innovation of DNA testing, it’s been proven that convicted people have been wrongly imprisoned. Life imprisonment without parole is the better alternative.

This lecture created a lasting impression. When I was taking pictures from various spots, I took a few of the audience, about 250 people. I could see they were also drawn into Kaczynski’s story. And while I probably wouldn’t agree with all of his viewpoints (I only heard a few during the lecture), I do think that David Kaczynski is someone I could discuss issues with in a calm, respectful manner – unlike some people who only want to argue and browbeat. His message should be heard.

So fortunately I did attend his lecture. Why didn’t I want to go in the first place? Looking back on it, I really don’t know – but I suspect that part of it was I had a pre-conceived idea of what the speaker was going to say, how he was going to say it. While I would agree with some of his viewpoints, I felt I would have to sit through some ultra-liberal nonsense, the type of stuff I had heard at other lectures. I don’t like nonsense, whether it’s left or right wing.

But this time I was wrong. I’m glad I went and listened. And also learned that my mind isn’t as open as it should be…

(For more information about David Kaczynski’s organization, go to

No comments: