Film discusses close-to-home death penalty

Murder is illegal unless you murder. This was the viewpoint of many as they protest the death penalty in Ohio. With the next Ohio execution of death row planned for mid-February, Denison held a showing of the movie The Penalty, which takes an audience into the different viewpoints of the death penalty.

Presented by Ohioans To Stop Executions (OTSE) and the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center in Slayter Auditorium this past Friday, The Penalty followed three groups of people and their history with the death penalty.

The first story centered around the Farah family after the murder of Shelby Farah and how the state of Florida’s pursuit of the death penalty tore a hole in the Farah family. Although Shelby’s murder had taken place in 2013, the Farrah family spent the next three and a half years in court facing her killer as the court tried to pursue the death penalty.

This side of the sentence shows that the process to get the death penalty takes a toll on the victim’s family. Shelby’s mom, Darlene, asked for life in prison instead, just so she can stop the tormenting court process and heal her family.

“Sitting on death row takes so long I may not even be alive to see him dead,” Farah said in the film, referencing her age as a mother. The process for her as a victim’s mother convinced her that death row is not the closure she or anyone else should need.

The second story of the film followed a man named Damon Thibodeaux, who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He sat on death row and was held in isolation for 23 hours a day isolation for over 15 years before exoneration. After his release, he spends his time trying to get his life together again and help others fight against the death penalty. He has received no compensation from the state.

The last story shows a Columbus defense attorney, Allen Bohnert, as he struggles to fight against the death penalty as an inhumane punishment. After the botched execution of Dennis McGuire, in which he suffered for 26 minutes before dying in the longest execution in U.S. history, NAME is hoping to show the people of Ohio that this process is not the answer.

From the lawyers that represent the cases, to the family of death row inmates, to the family of the victims, The Penalty made it clear that death row is not as simple of a solution as some may think. With the next Ohio execution in February, the use of the lethal injection is up for debate again. In fact, more organizations, such as Amnesty International and Catholic Churches of Ohio, oppose using the death penalty than those who support it.

The movie even features on of Denison’s own professors, Jack Shuler, as he talks about the death penalty with Thibodeaux.

In a discussion after the film, Denison alum and OTSE communication employee Hannah Kubbins ‘17 welcomed director Will Francome and Bohnert to Denison. They said that what many people don’t realize is the death penalty is a state punishment carried out in the name of all the citizens of that state. In addition, there are no real steps to take in deciding what cases are pursued for death row.

“At the end of the day, money talks. Major cosmopolitan areas can afford to pursue the death penalty,” said Bohnert. When asked about the secrecy clause in effect that allows the state to hide where they get lethal drugs from and which they are using, he said, “Democracy dies in the dark. The obtaining of these drugs by definition is a federal crime.”

The death penalty has a way of affecting everyone, even those who have never experienced it. Francome himself has directed two other films on the death penalty and says he first became interested at the subject when he was a teenager.

“When I was a teenager my mom gave me a book about a guy who is on death row. He was arrested the day I was born and she told me, ‘This man has been on death row for every day you have been alive,” said Francome, stating when his passion first took off.

Kubbins gave everyone in attendance information on how they can stop the death penalty and the impending execution of the next inmate on death row, Ray Tibbets. This is the first of over 25 executions scheduled from now until 2022.

If you want to help stop the execution of Tibbets or the use of lethal injection, call Governor Kasich at (614) 466-3555 or send a message with this link: www.governor.ohio.gov/Contact/Contact-the-Governor.

With more screenings to come, The Penalty offers a unique window into the consequences of the death penalty and leaves viewers with the question, is it okay to kill those who kill? Find out more about the film at www.thepenaltyfilm.com.

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