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Published:April 6th, 2007 11:25 EST
Capital Punishment Debate

Capital Punishment Debate

By Mary-Elizabeth Hittel

"The death penalty needs to be reformed," Robert Blecker said glaring at the audience. His opponent, Robert Bohm nodded passionately in agreement.

Although both professors agreed that a reform is needed, Bohm argued that the death penalty is unnecessary while Blecker argued it is morally necessary for punishing the worst criminals.

In a debate on capital punishment, the professors agreed the current system is slow, unfair and wasteful. There is no standard for deciding who deserves the death penalty, which makes it unfair. It also is expensive and keeps the courts busy with appeals from death row inmates, Bohm and Blecker agreed.

A new system would allow shorter trials, use fewer appeals and use fewer resources such as money, time and court resources.

"We need to whittle down the system so it works more effectively," Blecker said.

Bohm agreed saying: " The death penalty is proposed in an arbitrary way. A reform is needed to at least make the way we distinguish death-eligible offenders fair."    

Bohm, a professor in the University of Central Florida`s criminal justice and legal studies department opposes the death penalty.

"An eye for an eye makes the world blind," Bohm said. "There is no good reason to support the death penalty but many reasons against it." Bohm listed these arguments against the death penalty:

· It costs more than life in prison

· It is racially discriminatory (more blacks are put on death row than whites)

· It causes innocent people to wrongly be put to death

· It does little for victims` families

· It is cruel; executions are regularly botched

Blecker, a professor of law at New York Law School, favors of the death penalty.

"Some people kill so cruelly with such depravity, wantonness and callousness that they deserve it (the death penalty)," Blecker said. "It is a deterrent; people know that if they plead guilty they will get life in prison at the worst. By using the death penalty we are making an important statement: `you no longer deserve to walk this earth for what you have done.`"

The debate was held in the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Bohm has been a professor at UCF since 1995 and has written several books about the United States and the death penalty. Blecker, a professor at New York Law School since 1975, is widely known for his speeches, written works and documentaries on the death penalty and death row inmates.