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Life After the Death Penalty

Finding forgiveness in the dark corners of the criminal justice system

Virtual event
  • Laura Coates
  • ,
  • Alex Mar
  • Josie Duffy Rice
Speaker headshots for Life After the Death Penalty

Paula Cooper was just 15 years old when she killed a 78-year-old Bible teacher in a violent home invasion. Despite Cooper’s age — too young for a driver’s license or to register to vote — she was condemned to death row. Her case reverberated around the world, with many questioning how the United States could sentence teenagers to death. The controversy around Cooper’s story deepened when her victim’s grandson chose to publicly forgive her, shocking both the prosecutor and the larger community.

A new book, Seventy Times Seven: A True Story of Murder and Mercy, details the 1985 case and the questions that arose out of it, such as what are we really looking for when we ask for “justice,” and where does empathy fit into our legal system?

There is substantial evidence that the death penalty is applied inequitably in the United States and that people sentenced to death suffer in ways that may well violate the constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Despite this evidence, thousands of people are currently sitting on death row. On the campaign trail, President Biden vowed to end the federal death penalty and work toward banning it on the state level, but his Department of Justice continues to seek the death penalty in some cases. And as we approach the 2024 presidential election, some of the leading Republican candidates are demanding broader, swifter use of capital punishment as a natural extension of their “tough on crime” platforms.

Join us for a live panel discussion on Wednesday, June 7, at 3 p.m. ET with Alex Mar, author of Seventy Times Seven: A True Story of Murder and Mercy, and journalist Josie Duffy Rice. The conversation about capital punishment will be led by moderator Laura Coates of CNN.


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