SMU examines the costs of capital punishment April 15-18, 2013

The Goddess of Liberty statue, Capitol Building, State of TexasAs the State of Texas draws closer to executing the 500th death row inmate since capital punishment resumed here in 1982, a multidisciplinary symposium on the SMU campus will address “Death By Numbers: What Moral, Legal and Economic Price Are We Paying to Maintain the Death Penalty?” April 15-18, 2013.

“Such a morbid milestone should make us stop and look at the record number of people being executed, the high cost of maintaining capital punishment and the increasing number of states eliminating it,” says Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, the symposium’s sponsor.

Since the modern era, nearly 40 percent of all U.S. executions have occurred in Texas. “That significant number should make us wonder why this state so eagerly embraces capital punishment, despite evidence that mistakes have been made,” Halperin says.

All symposium events are free and open to the public. They include:

April 15 — The Legal Path to Execution, noon to 1:30 p.m., 201 Florence Hall. Dedman School of Law faculty will discuss the development of the U.S. Supreme Court’s limitations on capital punishment, the trend among states to abolish the death penalty, profiles of people who have been executed and changes that a person can undergo during incarceration. Panelists will be associate professor Vicki Palacios, assistant professor Meghan Ryan and instructor/mitigation specialist Vince Gonzales.

April 17 — Capital Punishment: Theological Perspectives, 12:30 to 1:25 p.m., Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. Faculty members from Perkins School of Theology will discuss the death penalty from the vantage points of their academic disciplines. Panelists will be Susanne Scholz, associate professor of Old Testament; Joerg Rieger, Wendland-Cook Endowed Professor of Constructive Theology; Theodore Walker Jr., associate professor of ethics and society; and Joseph Allen, Professor Emeritus of Ethics. Note: Lunch can be purchased for $5 in the Prothro Hall Refectory at 12:15 p.m.; food and beverages will be allowed in the Great Hall.

April 18 — Literary, Societal & Economic Impacts of the Death Penalty, 7 to 9 p.m., 131 Dedman Life Sciences Building. Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences professors Dick Hawkins (Sociology), Mike Holahan (English), Steve Sverdlik (Philosophy) and Beth Wheaton (Economics) will engage in a panel discussion moderated by Dallas Morning News Editorial Writer Tod Robberson.

“Lighting the Torch of Conscience” — On May 7, closer to the projected date of the 500th execution, the Embrey Human Rights Program will sponsor the “Lighting the Torch of Conscience” demonstration expected to be the largest anti-death penalty event ever held in Dallas. It will include a press conference and vigil at 6 p.m. in front of the Dallas County Old Red Courthouse, 100 S. Houston Street in downtown Dallas, where public lynchings once took place.

For more details, contact Sherry Aikman, 214-768-8347.

Written by Denise Gee

About Kathleen Tibbetts

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