Saturday, November 14, 2009

Vanderbilt Law School debate

On my way home last week from my first meeting as a member of the American Bar Association's Criminal Justice Section, I stopped off at Vanderbilt Law School. Students there had invited me to an "Oxford-style" debate in which the audience "votes" on who "won" the argument by walking out a particular door.

Over the last ten years I have been asked many times to speak about issues surrounding capital punishment. Part of the reason is that I was once a journalist and I enjoy writing, and as a litigator I enjoy a good debate. All too often my willingness to talk and debate is misinterpreted as excessive zeal for the death penalty. The truth is I think capital punishment should rarely be used and that
we -- defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, everyone in criminal justice -- can do better. Justice is a work in progress.
Above all else I value civility in discussion of such important and often emotional issues, and have been fortunate to have been matched up (almost always) with opponents of capital punishment whom I greatly respect and with whom I've found much common ground. That was certainly true of Prof. Ken Haas, my eloquent and personable debate opponent from the University of Delaware.
Vanderbilt posted the debate online at YouTube, if you want to know from the horse's mouth why I support capital punishment:

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