The death penalty should be abolished, not only in the United States, but throughout the world, speakers said Friday night at the Western Regional Conference of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
The three-day free, public conference resumes at 8 a.m. Saturday and continue through noon Sunday at the Salt Lake Community High School, 233 W. Second North.Camille Bell, who was among the speakers Friday night, said she sought punishment for the killer of her 9-year-old son, Yusuf, who was murdered in Atlanta in 1979.
But, she said, she abhorred the idea of her son's killer being executed. Six months ago, her beliefs led to the founding of Solace, an organization of murder victims' families opposed to the death penalty.
Solace is dedicated to helping victims' relatives live through their grief without the need for vengeance, she explained.
"Killing a killer isn't the answer," Bell said. "How are we any different from the murderer if we kill him?"
She said the conference is being held in Utah because it has executed three murderers since 1976. Outside of nine southern states that have had 99 executions since 1976, Utah ranks among the nation's leaders in exercising capital punishment, conference participants said.
John Healey, executive director of Amnesty International USA, who will be the keynote speaker at the conference Saturday at 7:30 p.m., said the death penalty is a "human rights abuse."
He said Amnesty International, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, investigates and publicizes human-rights abuses worldwide. U.S chapters of the organization, which has its headquarters in London, include more than 350,000 members.
Amnesty International announced Monday it was starting a campaign to abolish the death penalty worldwide.
Speakers Friday night said the death penalty in the United States is racially biased, arbitrary and unfair. Blacks account for more than 40 percent of the prisoners on death row and nearly 90 percent of them were sentenced to death for killing whites.