Partnering with the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, the American Public Square (APS) urged attendees to consider the pros and cons of the death penalty and its effect on the community.
The event, held last Tuesday at the Plaza Branch of the KC Public Library, allowed local leaders to voice their opinions and engage with community members on this controversial topic.
Community leaders who spoke include Rev. Hamilton of the Church of Resurrection, Midwest Innocence Project Executive Director Tricia Bushnell, Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric G. Zahnd and FP1 Strategies Founding Partner Terry Nelson.
Each of the speakers were asked to openly discuss their own stances on the death penalty and to answer questions from audience members.
“One of the big ideas in the Christian faith is mercy. It’s redemption,” said Rev. Hamilton. “I know of many people who have grown to regret putting other human beings to death.”
Serving as the church’s senior pastor, Hamilton answered questions regarding methods of punishment other than the death penalty. Terry Nelson, who also works as a republican consultant and strategist, agreed with Rev. Hamilton that there are alternatives the execution.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “Why not just replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole?”
Audience members went on the write down any questions they had for the community leaders. Bushnell had much to say while answering these questions.
“First of all, 2/3 of people admit to crimes they did not commit just to avoid the death penalty and 2/3 of the people sentenced to death are not killed,” she explained. “But the appeals process has already taken years off of their lives.”
The only crime punishable by the death in the state of Missouri is first-degree murder. The one person set to be executed in the state this year was executed on Jan. 31. Nationwide, his was the fourth and most recent execution in 2017.
There are currently 26 people on death row in Missouri alone. Many questions from the audience revolved around the number of executions in the United States, wrongful executions, and whether or not change is set to happen.
“Change is important,” said Attorney Zahnd. “Nothing worse can happen than to convict the wrong person for a crime they did not commit. This is what keeps me up at night.”
An Eye for an Eye: Reevaluating the Death Penalty will be broadcast by KCPT as a one hour special on Friday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. The next APS event, a discussion on cops and community, is March 7. For more information visit americanpublicsqaure.org