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September 29, 1988 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-09-29

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Thursday, September 29, 1988

Page 4

The Michigan Daily


Eie m dtgan t t Mi
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Abolish capital punishment

Vol. I C No. 16

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.
Free Hartford

By Kenneth Wittenberg
The Presidential candidates have sharply
clashed over the death penalty. It is an is-
sue that should rcally be no issue at all. It
is time to abolish the death penalty.
I spent last summer representing death
row inmates in South Carolina. I have
seen the way our society chooses, prose-
cutes and executes its citizens mirrors and
mimics the killers it condemns to death.
There is one simple reason why the
death penalty should be abolished. It is ar-
bitrarily and capriciously administered.
And this is how it will always be for as
long as we have humans judging whether
other humans should live or die.
Whether you are sentenced to death de-
pends on where you commit the crime. In
the city I worked, someone could commit
a murder and get a 20 year sentence. If he
had crossed over the river that runs

seized in a raid by government agents,
are charged with conspiracy related to a
bank robbery. Two of them are incar-
cerated for nearly three years without
bail or trial. Illegally obtained docu-
ments and wiretaps are submitted to a
judge as evidence against them. When
the first five defendants are finally
brought to trial, their case receives al-
most no coverage in the national press.
Is this South Africa? The Soviet
Union? Some Third World torture
state? Wrong. This is Hartford, Con-
necticut, and this is the trial of the
Puerto Rico/Hartford 15 which is just
now getting under way more than three
years after the original arrests took
place. Jury selection will probably be
completed sometime this week, one of
the defendants told the Daily.
Close observers of the long-delayed
trial and the various pretrial maneuver-
ings say that the case is more about
political persecution than criminal
prosecution. The defendants - all
members of an underground group that
advocates Puerto Rican independence
- claim they were targeted for
prosecution by U.S. authorities
because of their political activism. They
are convinced that they will not receive.
a fair trial. The evidence seems to
support these contentions.
In September 1983, a Wells Fargo
guard escaped from a Hartford ware-
house with $7.2 million in cash,
representing the second largest bank
robbery in U.S. history. Victor Gerena
has never been captured.
Two years later, 200 FBI agents
wielding automatic weapons raided the
homes of dozens of Puerto Rican inde-
pendentistas. All are members of the
Macheteros, the same underground or-
ganization to which Gerena belongs.
Their homes were ransacked and their
printing press destroyed.

last summer, I have heard many argu-
ments. Many people have a gut-level re-
action that they believe in the death
penalty and cannot pinpoint why. When
more logical arguments come to the sur-
face, they can be boiled down to four
The death penalty serves the
goal of retributive justice.
"If my family were killed by a vicious
murderer, I would want that person to die."
This is a central theme for supporters of
the death penalty. This is also precisely
why there should be no death penalty. Be-
cause if your family were killed, you are
not the one to be deciding the verdict and
sentence the defendant should get. Emo-
tion should not play a role in any trial, yet
in a capital trial it always does. If a mem-
ber of your family were slain, the law
would not allow you to kill the murderer.
In fact, you would be charged with murder.

The fifteen finally arrested were
charged with several counts of
conspiracy related to the robbery. (The
U.S. government has admitted that
none of the defendants now going on
trial actually participated in the rob-
Massive civil rights violations con-
tinued after the arrests. The fifteen were
transported by U.S. military aircraft to
the United States. Most were
imprisoned without bail for 16 months.
Detained for 32 months without bail,
Filberto Rios became the longest held
prisoner in U.S. history. So much for
the presumption of innocence until
proven guilty. So much for the right to
a speedy trial.
The case has set other scandalous
precedents. The U.S. government has
already spend a record $25 million to
prosecute the Hartford 15, and the trial
has not even yet begun. More than 400
witnesses have been summoned by the
prosecution to testify in the govern-
ment's behalf. These include many of
the family members and friends of the
Pretrial hearings have revealed nu-
merous other civil rights violations by
the FBI. Although wiretapping of any
kind is strictly prohibited by the Puerto
Rican constitution, the U.S. govern-
ment's major evidence consists of illic-
itly taped phone conversations. Fifty of
the tapes submitted by the FBI as in-
criminating evidence were tampered
with and had to be thrown out by the
judge last July. The FBI has also ad-
mitted it recorded conversations which
they had no authorization to intercept
and later destroyed these tapes.
Whatever the outcome of the trial,
justice will not be done. The Hartford
15, incarcerated exiles in a country that
has colonized their own, are in trial for
crimes that will never be proven in a
court of law.

'If a member of your family were slain, the law would not
allow you to kill the murderer. In fact, you would be charged
with murder. Yet when the state executes someone, it is doing
exactly what it forbids you to do. The state, and that includes
each of us, becomes the murderer.'

committed on the spur of the moment: in
fights between family members or friends,
in panic during a botched robbery, in a
drugged or drunken state. There is not
much thinking going on in any of these
situations. In talking to people on death
row, this much is clear: they are generally,
not people who think about tomorrow
when they act today.
Most death row inmates have come
from backgrounds of routine and extreme
violence. Some are mentally retarded. We
had one client who has a mental age of
ten. He has no idea why he is even on
death row, but is trying to learn how to
read so he can get a high school diploma,
which he believes will get him off the
Row. I believe that you and I would be
deterred by the death penalty, but you and I
would also be deterred by a night in
The death penalty saves taxpay-
ers money.
This is a common misconception. A
recent New York study concluded that just
the trial and the first appeal in a death
penalty case cost more than twice as much
as imprisoning someone for life. In addi-
tion, capital cases are creating a tremen-
dous logjam in the courts. Former
Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell re-
cently called for the abolition of capital
punishment because of the extreme strain
on the courts.
By killing murderers, we are as-
suring they never murder again.
While logically true, this argument
misses the point. If it is longer sentences
and tougher parole eligibility we need,
then let's tackle that problem. Jurors, be-
cause of the simple human inability to do
so, are not likely to accurately choose who
is in danger of killing again and who is
not. So it becomes a kind of "Death Lot-
tery" to determine who the "lucky win-
ners" will be. And there is a chance one of
the Lottery winners is innocent. Studies
have shown that more than 100 innocent
people have been executed in this century.
We need stricter and swifter punishment,
not more death.
Last Sunday night, George Bush said, "I
believe in the sanctity of human life."
This eloquently sums up the moral mes-
sage that our society ought to adhere to
when we judge others.

through the city into another county and
committed the exact same murder, he
would get death. There are people on death
row whose accomplices in the murder got
off with nothing.
Race plays a huge role in who lives and
who dies. It is the race of the defendant and
the race of the victim that are crucial. An
authoritative study has shown that Blacks
who kill whites are far more likely to re-
ceive a death sentence than whites who
kill Blacks. Money is also a factor. There
are no wealthy people on death row in
America. Not only are jurors likely to
place a higher value on an affluent mur-
derer's life, but this type of defendant can
afford to hire a lawyer who will put time
and effort into his case; this is something
poor defendants seldom receive. Thus, it is
not who you are or what you did that de-
termines whether you live or die, but how
much you are worth and what color your
skin happens to be.
In talking to people about what I did
Kenneth Wittenberg is a second-year law
student at the University.

Yet when the state executes someone, it is
doing exactly what it forbids you to do.
The state, and that includes each of us,
becomes the murderer. Who are we to say
who should live and who should die?
This is not the way a civilized society
ought to act. The U.S.S.R and South
Africa are the only two other industrialized
countries that still execute their citizens.
The death penalty has been abolished in all
of Western Europe and in Canada.
Justice is never served by killing peo-
ple. Nothing will bring back those who
are dead. They do not miraculously reap-
pear when the perpetrator is strapped in the-
electric chair and jolted with 4000 watts of
electricity. Nothing comes from it but
more suffering. Justice demands punish-
ment but state-sanctioned murder only de-
humanizes all of us.
The death penalty is a deterrent.
Whether the death penalty deters crime
is nearly impossible to empirically evalu-
ate. But observation and intuition can give
us a clue to the answer. Most murders are

Walking alone

Israel created refugee plight

W OMEN IN U.S. culture are forced
to accept the reality that it is potentially,
dangerous for them to walk alone at
night. This should not be used to re-
strict the rights of women to choose
nor should it be used to blame women
for violence committed against them if
they do choose to walk alone at night.
There are several safe alternatives
available to women that do not restrict
their independence.
Recently, the University has begun a
number of programs to increase
women's independence at night. The
Night Owl bus service, Safewalk, and
Night Ride-cab service provide safe
transportation around campus.
In attempts to address the issue the
University has historically done little
more than tell women to "Never Walk
Alone." This has served to disempower
women by restricting their freedom of
choice. It has fostered a victim blam-
ing atmosphere which makes women
responsible for violence committed
against them while walking alone at
"Never Walk Alone" perpetuates
myths and norms that are damaging to
women. One prevailing myth is that a
woman asks to be sexually assaulted if
she walks alone. Telling women to
never walk alone allows society to
scapegoat women and to avoid the real
issues behind society's rape culture.
This phrase encourages people to
blame women if they are sexually as..-
saulted. Victim blaming begins with a
seemingly innocent phrase "Never
Walk Alone" and ends with a verdict of
not guilty for a rapist.

"Never Walk Alone" also ignores the
issue of date and acquaintance rape and
perpetuates the myth that most rapes
are perpetrated by strangers and happen
outdoors. An understanding of these
issues is extremely important and rele-
vant to the lives of women on college
On college campuses, 90 percent of
reported rapes are committed by dates
or acquaintances and 80 percent happen
inside. Never walking alone will de-
crease the risk of a sexual assault, but
not eliminate it. Insisting that never
walking alone alleviates the problem of
sexual assault diverts the attention from
the more prevalent problem of date and
acquaintance rape.
Repeatedly telling women never to
walk alone reinforces the "norm" of
women's dependence on men. Never
walking alone means always
depending on someone to protect you
when outside at night. It is possible for
women to be safe outdoors at night
while maintaining personal power and
independence. It is understandable that
women feel uncomfortable walking
home alone at night and for that reason
women have fought to have programs
established to insure their safety and at
the same time encourage their indepen-
Everyone has the right to walk alone
if they choose. Women who don't feel
comfortable walking alone should have
services that'allow them the greatest
amount of independence. But women
who do feel comfortable walking alone
should be able to do so without being
blamed for violence against them.

By Hana Odeh
Its 10:30 a.m. and the Michigan Union
mall is teaming with people; breakfast in
hand I decide to find a table. Soon
enough, I see one in the midst of the tap
room, pieces of the morning Free Press ,
cover its top. As I begin to sit down, the
bold caption of an editorial catches my
attention it reads, "History shows Israel is
not to blame" (Detroit Free Press, 4/4/88).;
Louis H. Golden, a member of the Anti-
Defamation of B'nai B'rith and a member J
of the board of governors of Haifa Univer-
sity in Israel is currently living in Warren,
Michigan and the author of the editorial.
Golden for the most part, contends that
Israel is not to blame for the Arab refugee -
problem and that the Arab countries are*
the ones responsible for creating the prob-
lem in the beginning. He specifically
states, "...historically the Arab refugee
problem cannot be blamed on Israel." He
later says,"Why is it that the Arab coun-
tries that created the refugee problem in
the first place, ... refuse to take care of
their brethren?'
It is unbelievable that such a claim be ,
made. When contrary to Golden's belief,
history only suggests that the Arab
refugee problem is a direct result of the
Israelis hostile takeover of hundreds of
thousands of homes and villages since
1948. Men, women and children were
forced to leave their homes which, in most ,
cases, were destroyed by shellfire to be
only herded into settlement camps.
In 1948, as a result of Israeli aggression
and the establishment of the "State of Is-
rael," 750, 000 Palestinian Arabs were
uprooted from their homes and sought
refuge in the pallid "refugee" camps in the
Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
These were the lucky ones; on April 8, ;
1948 the Irgan, terrorist Zionist group,a
staged a vicious attack on the village camp
of Dir-Yasseen, killing every man,
woman, and child. The resulting panic
Nnn n )ar. is n .:; .r C

spread like wildfire and drove other Pales-
tinian Arabs to seek refuge.
History embedded in 1967 also substan-
tiates the argument that it is Israel's ag-
gressive actions and not the Arabs them-
selves that are creating the refugee prob-
lem. In 1967, the Jordan West Bank, the
Gaza Strip, the Syrian Heights, and Sinai
fell to Israeli strongholds. As a result,
410,000 new Palestinian Arabs were
forced to leave their homes in the Jordan
West Bank and Gaza to take refuge in the
East Bank. Those living in the Syrian
Heights and Sinai Peninisula also suffered
the same disastrous plight.
More recently, in the Israeli village of
Beita, Palestinian Arabs were needlessly
evicted from their homes when the death
of a 15 year-old Jewish girl was blamed on
a group of Palestinian Arabs. In reality,
the girl was shot accidentally by an Israeli
soldier. Immediately after the shooting,
Israeli forces moved in and bombed 13
homes randomly so as to intimidate any
opposing brute forces the Arabs might
conjure. These homes supposedly have
belonged to the girl's attackers but in-
stead, families now see their homes as a
pile of stones reduced to rubble. They
have no place to go and will not leave;
they are forced to "turn the other cheek"
and call the ditch their home.
Conditions in a refugee camp are de-
plorable; fresh water and food staples are
hard to come by and seldom fresh. Small
children scantily clothed dot the landscape.
Many are fatherless, the majority of their
fathers imprisoned for trivialities ( i.e.,
being Palestinian), trial or no trial. As a
method to curb demonstrations by Pales-
tinian youths, Israeli soldiers (since 1977)
have come to the refugee camps, threaten-
ing 11 thru 16 year olds with live snakes,
beatings till they bleed or break a bone, or
arrested without charge in the middle of
the night.
The severity of the Arab refugee situa-
tion has been nonetheless recognized. The
Kuwati representative, Dr. Fayez Sayegh,
at the 1976 United Nations General As-
sembly has stated. "the dislodeement of

the bulk of the indigenous Palestinian
Arab population of the territory seized by
the Israelis in 1948 was swift, the
acquisition of their lands, homes, and
other property was immediate, and their
return to their ancestral homeland has been
effectively prevented."
The same logic that had decreed the
Palestinian dislodgement also incited the
corollary that ousted Palestinians must not
be permitted to return to their homeland.
The former general, Moshe Dayan ex-
pressed this rationale by admitting in
1967, that "economically we can absorb
the refugees" but nevertheless ruled out the
return of the displaced Palestinians as be-
ing "not in accord with our aims (to have
a Jewish state)." Without the United
States granting Israel billions of dollars in
aid over the years I'm sure Israel would
think twice before making such a state-
To further expedite the Arabs from their
homes and thus creating more refugees, an
extensive Jewish immigration drive was
initiated in 1948 and thus between 1948
and 1968, 1,676,098 Jewish settlers mi-
grated from countries everywhere to oc-
cupy Palestine after 1948. Presently,
some 67,000 new settlers have settled into
a 100 new compounds in the West Bank
over the past 20 years. The ever present
influx of new Jewish settlers to the occu-
pied lands perpetually displaces the Pales-
tinian from their ancestral homes and robs
them of mere existence, but then again
this is exactly why the immigration drive.
was begun.
Obviously, the creation of Arab refugees
serves a purpose, to in effect, free the land
from the Arabs who have lived on it for
centuries to thus create a "Jewish" land.
Therefore, Golden's claim that the Arab
countries are creating the Arab refugee
problem is ludicrous, for what absurd rea-
son would the Arabs want to deny their
brethren a homeland and basic human
rights? One should question the occupier

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