Young Americans for Liberty hosts bipartisan discussion against death penalty

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Last Thursday at 7:26 p.m., Edmund Zagorski became the first man to die by electric chair in Tennessee since 2007. Zagorski, who was convicted of drug-related murders in 1983, requested the electric chair, saying he hoped death would be less painful than lethal injection. Debate about the effectiveness of lethal injection has sparked concern about capital punishment laws across the U.S.

On the same evening as Zagorski’s court-ordered death, Tulane community members gathered at Joseph Merrick Jones Hall to discuss the potential moral and social implications of death row.

death penalty

Courtesy of Tulane University Young Americans for Liberty

Tulane’s Young Americans for Liberty, a pro-liberty organization seeking to “educate and mobilize youth activists to make liberty win,” partnered with College Democrats and BridgeTulane to present a bipartisan argument against the use of the death penalty.

The panel consisted of Hannah Cox, the national manager of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, and Michael Cahoon, an organizer at the Promise of Justice Initiative. Marcus Maldonaldo, chapter president for Young Americans for Liberty, moderated the discussion.

“We chose to have this event to shine a light on one of the most questionable uses of government power,” vice president of YAL Rachel Altman said.

Though the panel did not include anyone in favor of the death penalty, Altman said she hoped the panel would help encourage people opposed to the death penalty realize the policy is not strictly partisan.

“We hope that students that attended our event walked out having realized that the opposite side of the political aisle is not an enemy,” Altman said. “Policies such as the abolition of the death penalty and other criminal justice reforms have broad support from both sides. When policies that will make society safer, freer, and more prosperous are on the table, we have to put principles over party.”

During the discussion, Cox and Cahoon argued against the death penalty and explained what lead to their views.

Cox, who used to be for the use of the death penalty, said she changed her view when she was asked to work on a bill that would not allow the use of the death penalty for severely mentally ill people.

Cox also said she was against the death penalty because of the risk associated with killing an innocent person.

With a rate of one person exonerated for 10 executions due to innocence issues, that risk is too high to take, Cox said.

Being brought up in a Catholic household, Cahoon has been against the death penalty since he was a child. He looked more at the system as he grew up and started wondering whether a government program should determine whether someone has the right to live.

Cahoon also said he was concerned about the potential racial element involved in sentencing convicts to death row.

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Cox and Cahoon concluded the event by encouraging the audience to become more involved in this agenda. The Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty is getting ready to build up its own chapter in Louisiana.

Cahoon, in his final statement, brought up the last two death penalty repeal bills introduced in Louisiana’s State Assembly and urged audience members passionate about the issue to contact their lawmakers.