Omaha teens discuss capital punishment

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June 9, 2011 - 7:00pm

It can be a simple yes or no question. Do you favor the death penalty?

Recent polls show that about two-thirds of Americans support capital punishment for convicted murderers. But feelings and opinions on this subject run much deeper than just support or opposition as we found out from a group of Omaha teenagers.

Katie Ryan

Alexandrea O'Donnell

For this story we gave Alexandrea O'Donnell, a junior-to-be journalism student at Omaha Benson High School, an audio recorder and an assignment; talk to teenagers with a range of opinions about the death penalty, and find out why they feel the way they do. Katie Ryan, who will be a senior at Benson next fall, also helped with the project.

Below are portions of O'Donnell's conversations with several of her Benson classmates.

Cherish Harbour

Cherish Harbour, a junior who strongly supports the death penalty.
O'Donnell: What causes you to have this belief?
Harbour: I think it's just the fact that in my life I've been through some things and some deaths in the family, and I feel as if the people who've killed my family members should go through the same thing. You kill a person you should be killed.
O'Donnell: What do you think of Nebraska's change from using the electric chair to lethal injection?
Harbour: I think it's definitely more humane. To be there for your loved one and see them get electrocuted like that. I think that's wrong.
O'Donnell: So even though they committed a heinous crime you still think they should be like killed, humanely?
Harbour: Yes, because they still have family members. Even though they committed a crime, they still have family or someone that loves them. And they do reserve respect. I understand you may not respect someone, but at some point we don't have to, you know, be that cruel person.

Ashley Meier

Senior Ashley Meier, who struggles with this issue.
O'Donnell: Do you believe there should be a death penalty?
Meier: I fall back and forth on the issue, but I think there, I don't think there should be one. I'm between, but I'm more, there shouldn't be.
O'Donnell: Why?
Meier: They kill people who kill other people to show killing is wrong? Like it's kinda contradictory, maybe. I would rather see someone live with what they've done.
O'Donnell: Does your religion or faith influence your stand on this issue?
Meier: In a way it does. I have grown up Catholic. You know I have like super conservative like Republican family members. They all say that killing is wrong. And I guess, in a way, it is. It depends on which way you look at it. I form my own opinions, but it has a lot to do with it.

Troy Dunn

Junior Troy Dunn, a death penalty opponent, on Nebraska's change to lethal injection.
Dunn: I don't think it's any better because it's harmful both really basically the same way. And I think it would be better if they just evaluated the person. But I don't think it's right really at all.
O'Donnell: So do you think that the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime?
Dunn: No.
O'Donnell: So what do you think should be used as substitution to the death penalty, for people who commit those crimes?
Dunn: I think that they should just be in prison for like a long time.
O'Donnell: For life?
Dunn: Yeah.

Janaye Lovely

Junior Janaye Lovely also has mixed feelings on the issue.
Lovely: Because it depends on the crime. I think that they should suffer out of old age and they need to think about it for a long time. And I think that it is very crucial in a way, but some people do deserve it and some people don't.
O'Donnell: What type of crimes do you think the death penalty should be applied to?
Lovely: Murder. Child molestation, because that's just crazy.
O'Donnell: So especially heinous crimes, committed against other people and children?
Lovely: Yes.
O'Donnell: What alternatives do you think would be used for the death penalty?
Lovely: Long time in jail I guess.
O'Donnell: So a life sentence?
Lovely: Yeah.

Brian Richard

Senior Brian Richard, a young man strongly in favor of capital punishment.
O'Donnell: Why?
Richard: Well if you kill someone, or something to that aspect, you should be punished in a equal manner.
O'Donnell: How important is the death penalty issue is to you?
Richard: Pretty important. If like one of my family members would die, and it was like murder, I would want it properly taken care of.



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