On Tuesday evening, several hundred Yale students and faculty braved the sweltering heat of Woolsey Hall to hear Reverend Al Sharpton advocate for abolishing the death penalty in a debate hosted by the Yale Political Union.

Sharpton — a Baptist minister, civil rights activist and radio host who was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 — spoke passionately against the death penalty, refuting many common arguments in its favor. After Sharpton spoke, representatives from different parties within the YPU continued to debate both sides of the resolution, “Hang the Death Penalty.” When the final tally was taken at the end of the event, there was a clear majority in favor of abolishing capital punishment.

Sharpton began his argument by relating a personal story about meeting a death row inmate who requested that Sharpton be there to observe the inmate’s final moments. Sharpton said this was an emotional experience that reinforced his conviction that the death penalty is morally wrong.

“We are not preventing anything, and we are not providing justice,” he said. “We cannot answer murder with murder.”

Sharpton emphasized that in the United States court system, black people are disproportionately more likely to receive the death penalty than members of other demographic groups. The death penalty helps uphold a racist judicial system, he said.

Sharpton also addressed the negative consequences of the death penalty. Pointing to statistics on death row prisoners who are proven innocent, Sharpton argued that even one wrongly executed person would be too many. The death penalty should not exist so long as there is the possibility of innocent death, he said.

He also said that states without the death penalty have a lower rate of murder than states with the death penalty.

When Sharpton’s speech drew to a close, Michael Lemanski ’16 of the YPU Party of the Right took to the podium. Arguing in favor of the death penalty, Lemanski said society has the ability to determine the seriousness of a crime. The death penalty may have its problems, but it is not inherently broken and can be improved, he said.

Likewise, Eric DeVilliers ’17, a member of the YPU Federalist Party argued that the death penalty should not be abolished. According to DeVilliers, the death penalty is actually more merciful than lifelong incarceration because condemning someone to a life in prison is tantamount to “amputating people’s souls.” Giving someone the death penalty thus enables that person to avoid the suffering of long-term imprisonment, he said.

Furthermore, DeVilliers said that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment because it forces criminals to evaluate their life choices during their final hours and realize that their fate is a consequence of their crime.

In contrast, Spencer Weinreich ’15, a member of the YPU Party of the Left, stated that the death penalty is “society-sanctioned murder.” Rather than providing justice, an execution merely displays the power of the state, he said.

Ella Wood ’15, a member of the YPU Independent Party, argued that society should focus on prisoner rehabilitation rather than the death penalty.

Audience members interviewed responded positively to the debate.

Alice Zhao ’18 said she appreciated hearing Sharpton speak and enjoyed seeing how much he interacted with the Yale students and vice versa.

Mark DiPlacido ’15, the YPU president, said the union was pleased with the turnout and energy of the debate.

“Al Sharpton is an interesting, controversial figure who offers experienced insight in this much-needed debate regarding the death penalty,” added Zachary Edelman ’16, the vice president of operations for the YPU.

Edelman said that recent events — such as the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York City this summer — have brought the controversial relationship between the justice system and blacks to national attention. Sharpton was able to provide an important perspective on that relationship, he said.

Sharpton currently hosts his own radio show, “Keepin’ It Real With Al Sharpton,” on WWRL.

  • WindsorLambiotte

    ..is The Yale Black Political Forum active??

  • Bladderball2

    “Baptist minister, civil rights activist and radio host”?
    “Sharpton currently hosts his own radio show, ‘Keepin’ It Real With Al Sharpton,’ on WWRL”?
    Are you kidding? That’s like saying Jon Stewart is an occasional host of the Academy Awards.
    You have heard of MSNBC, right?

  • aaleli

    This is surely a low point for Yale, that this buffoon / race profiteer would be given an ounce of legitimacy.

  • theantiyale

    The day after the beheading of an American journalist by ISIS’ eye-for-an-eye “justice” are we Americans actually debating the legitimacy of this form of state sanctioned death ?
    Execution is execution.

  • Threefifths Tes

    When the Check Clears.AL will be there.

  • Negishi Sissies

    Behead , the u.s. government -Devilment !

  • hammerclaw

    The murders of 48 year old Jennifer Hawke-Petit, her 17 year old daughter Hayley Petit and her 11 year old daughter Michaela Petit are the reason why a punishment such as the death penalty must exist. Selected at random at a Cheshire supermarket and followed home, they along with William Petit were subjected to a day of terror, which included Michaela being sodomized by Joshua Komisarjevsky, Hawke-Petit being raped by Steven Hayes. Then all three of them killed via fire as they were bound by rope to their bed frames as the house was doused in gasoline and set ablaze. Gravely wounded, William Petit barely escaped the inferno and the police caught the two perpetrators as they escaped the house in the Petit’s SUV.

    Mrs. Hawke-Petit had believed the lies the two career criminals told. If she just gave them $15,000 in cash, her family would be untied and unharmed and the criminals would leave their home with their take. She went to the bank, she withdrew the substantial amount of money and gave it to Steven Hayes who was waiting in the car. However that didn’t help, for when she returned she was subject to ghastly violation and subsequent murder.

    The two defendants were captured red handed at the scene of the crime. There was a plethora of evidence indicating the extent of their vile conduct. they were given ample opportunity an adequate defense attorneys to their case during the trial. But how could one explain or defend such a night of savagery?

    it is fair that both defendants were sentenced to death for their crimes. It is the only appropriate response to such a grievous case of violence against an innocent family.

  • Nancy Morris

    No honest or intellectually honest person can hear the name “Al Sharpton” or listen to him speak without thinking the equivalent of Mary McCarthy’s zinger: “every word … is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” There is no good evidence that black murderers receive the death penalty more often for equivalent crimes than their murdering white counterparts. There is an unexplained statistical anomaly concerning the fact that black murderers may receive harsher sentencing for murdering whites than for murdering blacks. If that kind of anomaly disturbs you, you are easily disturbed.

    On the other hand, the best current research indicates that each execution in the United States prevents between 3 and 18 murders. That’s quite a deterrent. Efforts to undermine this research have been shown wanting. “The evidence on whether it has a significant deterrent effect seems sufficiently plausible that the moral issue becomes a difficult one,” said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who has frequently taken liberal positions. “I did shift from being against the death penalty to thinking that if it has a significant deterrent effect it’s probably justified.”

    Professor Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, a law professor at Harvard, wrote in their own Stanford Law Review article that “the recent evidence of a deterrent effect from capital punishment seems impressive, especially in light of its ‘apparent power and unanimity,’ ” quoting a conclusion of a separate overview of the evidence in 2005 by Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford, in the Annual Review of Law and Social Science.

    “Capital punishment may well save lives,” the two professors continued. “Those who object to capital punishment, and who do so in the name of protecting life, must come to terms with the possibility that the failure to inflict capital punishment will fail to protect life.”

    On the other hand, one can always choose instead to follow and believe the egregious liar and race baiting creep Al Sharpton, who has more than one death to the credit of his unending inflammatory race hating. Decisions, decisions.

  • Nancy Morris

    The bogus data brandished by the likes of Sharpton often have academic sources. And such preposterous manipulation of crime data by intellectually dishonest liberal academic “researchers” does not stop with murder and the death penalty, especially where the issue at hand is racial discrimination. That dishonesty goes all the way down to traffic speeding.

    The critical 1993 survey compared speed stops on the New Jersey turnpike to the population of ALL drivers on the turnpike. Based on the unsupported assumption that blacks speed just as much as whites, Temple University’s John Lamberth announced that while only 13.5 percent of drivers along a particular stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike were black, 46 percent of those stopped for speeding were black.

    From this absurd study Lamberth and the Clintonites then in power deduced the hand of racial discrimination was at work. The New York Times promoted the study as “the most thorough documentation of the contention that the police regularly pulled over black drivers.”

    Statisticians, state troopers, police departments and other people with common sense tried to explain to liberals that any study purporting to show that too many blacks are stopped for speeding must first determine how many speeders are black. After much resistance, the DOJ and the New Jersey attorney general commissioned a statistical investigation from the Public Services Research Institute in Maryland.

    Using expensive monitors with high-speed cameras and radar detectors, the study clocked the speeds of nearly 40,000 drivers on the relevant section of the turnpike and then examined the photos to determine the race of the driver — without knowing whether the driver was speeding, which was defined as going more than 80 mph in 65 mph zones.

    The result: No racial profiling. Blacks constituted 25 percent of all speeders and they were 23 percent of drivers stopped for speeding. Controlling for age and gender, blacks sped at about twice the rate of whites. The racial disparity was even greater for drivers exceeding 90 mph.

  • joey00

    Here’s one from Al’s buddy David Dinkins :

    http://youtu.be/9zrbYgn0E3M

    One of Big Al’s moments ;

    http://youtu.be/4xdNR7JjGKw

    I can’t find the howard Stern diddy about “Al Sharpton to the rescue”
    God Bless Al.