Death row inmate speaks on campus

By Melissa Mariani
March 19, 2009

On Monday, March 16, the Cabrini mansion held an up-close and personal meet involving exonerated death row inmate Curtis McCarty.

McCarty was convicted of a 1982 murder in Oklahoma City and was sentenced with the death penalty. He spoke about his conviction, innocence and the value of human life. By portraying his voice against the death penalty, McCarty hopes for closure.

“I try to be positive about my life, I try to be a good neighbor, citizen and voice to people,” McCarty said.

After 21 years serving jail time, 19 of them death row, McCarty was released with innocence due to false DNA testing. In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction; the DNA evidence proved that McCarthy did not commit the murder.

“Most people who believe in the death penalty are superficial, it’s an unnecessary problem. We consider it as a tool when it is really a weapon,” McCarty said.

McCarty’s views against the death penalty were strong, especially when he started to talk about a friendship he had encountered at prison. Spending 11 years with his friend, who was also a convicted death row inmate, life wasn’t easy. McCarty had helped pack his friends belongings as he was sent to the death chamber.

“I’m sorry if I get emotional about this but Billy was my friend and it was unfair,” McCarty said.

Since the ’70s, more than 120 people have been exonerated and released from death row after their innocence was proven. The Cabrini Wolfington Center and the Witness to Innocence organization sponsored McCarty’s appearance. The Witness to Innocence organization assists men and women who are wrongfully convicted of the death penalty through activism, advocacy and education.

“I have always been against the death penalty, but now after Curtis’ talk, I feel stronger in my belief that it is always wrong,” Chris Catagnus, sophomore biology major, said.

A message that McCarty sent to the audience was to not forget about the men and women in prison, and think about if they are really supposed to be there. He also urged that we as young professional people should try and help the drug addicts, convicted felons and people in poverty.

“Before I heard him speak, I was uncertain about the death penalty, now I am still uncertain. I’m leaning towards against because its a flawed system,” Meaghan Conroy, sophomore psychology major, said.

Being put in jail for so long, McCarty expressed that he of course has days where he thinks about times spent locked up.

“I try to stay away from people until my rage is gone. Since my release, when talking to people who believe in the death penalty, this proves to me they don’t know any better.”

Melissa Mariani

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