Student Sheds Light on Death Penalty

For the past several weeks, Amy Fly ’15 has not only been balancing her academic responsibilities as a senior and job applications; she has also been organizing a Clarke Forum event entitled “The Death Penalty: Beyond Statistics,” which will take place on Monday, November 17, at 7 p.m.

This topic is something which is extremely important to Fly, who said she is “organizing this event with Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (PADP),” where she is currently an intern. She also became involved while studying abroad last year at Oxford University: “[At Oxford], I started a partnership between Amicus and Oxford University which allows Oxford students to be trained to do Amicus casework to be sent electronically to US attorneys.” More recently, Fly has done work to develop her interest in the subject. As she commented, “This past month, I attended a Witness to Innocence organized event with 23 death row exonerees, and invited several Dickinson professors [including Professor of Philosophy Susan Feldman] to attend as well.”

When she arrived back at Dickinson, Fly felt ready to bring her interest and research into this controversial debate to the campus community. She noted, “After approaching the subject in my studies, and further in various internships, I have become passionate about the issue. The Clarke Forum is a great forum for discussion of the death penalty.”

The goal of this discussion then, said Fly, “is to get a dialogue started and to get people to care. The death penalty seems like such a distant issue because it rarely affects people directly. However, retaining the death penalty says a lot about who we are as a society, the power of our government, how we define our rights, and what we value. It’s something everyone should care about or at least have an opinion on.”

The three speakers at the event will “present the issue in a new, personal light,” said Fly. Vicky Scheiber is the family member of a murder victim; Shujaa Graham is a death row exoneree; and Spero Lappas is an alumnus of the Dickinson School of Law as well as a Harrisburg attorney. Fly’s reasoning behind this is to gain a broader perspective on this issue. As she said, “We can look up statistics on the death penalty, but that means nothing outside of context. I want to present the actual policy effects of the death penalty by bringing speakers whose lives have been completely altered by capital punishment.”

Fly also wishes to host similar events in the future. “I am also hoping to plan another Clarke Forum event on the death penalty in the spring which will take the form of a debate, with both sides of the issue.”