by Laura Caldwell
Dick Devine, the former Cook County State's Attorney, is now a law professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. In particular, Dick is teaching a death penalty seminar, which I have been fortunate enough to audit. As the former prosecutor, some might assume Professor Devine is a dogged proponent of the death penalty and that he might push his views on the students. On the contrary, Devine understands the myriad issues surrounding the death penalty. He's taken great pains to probe the topic from every angle and has ensured that the speakers who attend class weekly are representative of the wide range of philosophical, emotional, legal, practical and intellectual views about capital punishment.
One of the classes pitted a current state's attorney who has frequently sought the death penalty with a staunch opponent, Rob Warden of Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions. I don't know how else to describe the debate except to say that it was an intellectual cage match between two learned and passionate people. The class should have been held outside the Acropolis.
Professor Devine has also invited victims' families who have had loved-ones killed. Some strictly believed in the death penalty, others are working to oppose it. Also speaking to the class was Scott Turow, the writer, who as a former federal prosecutor felt the death penalty was "an ugly necessity," but is now an opponent of capital punishment. Numerous other attorneys spoke including those who had worked on the John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck cases and many others where the death penalty was imposed or sought. Devine even invited jurors who decided a capital case and made the agonizing decision on whether or not someone should be put to death.
I continue to think of a couple of things as I attend this class. One, I'm learning so much more now that I don't have to memorize anything or write a paper. Two, this is the kind class I wish everyone could attend—one with honest, frank, emotional discussions about issues in our culture and our society with view points from every possible person, where concepts, ramifications, feelings and philosophies are widely discussed and where students are ultimately left to their own devices in terms of their thinking.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The Kind of Class Everyone Should Attend
by Laura Caldwell