MCC student group to host death penalty discussion

CRYSTAL LAKE – A McHenry County College student peace group has planned an informational panel on the death penalty to promote local discussion about the controversial issue.

Two high-profile speakers are lined up for the seminar, titled “Legal Murder: Exposing Flaws and Injustices in the Death Penalty.” Jeremy Schroeder, executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, will discuss the efforts to remove the death penalty from the state criminal code.

Gary Gauger, a Richmond man convicted of his parents’ murders and sentenced to die in 1994, will share his experience of how he eventually was exonerated and freed. Gauger has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “60 Minutes,” “20/20” and other TV programs. He also has written a book, “In Spite of the System,” about his ordeal.

There also will be a representative from Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights who will explain why the group is against the death penalty. The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. April 8 at McHenry County College’s Conference Center, 8900 Route 14 in Crystal Lake.

The college’s Student Peace Action Network has hosted two forums on controversial global issues – the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – this year.

The previous events have produced collegial discourse and community conversations, which is what student group had set out to do.

However, they also have sparked emotional outbursts, anger and outrage. College security officials routinely are asked to supervise.

“We know what to expect now,” said SPAN action coordinator Molly McQueen, a 23-year-old student. “These are controversial issues.”

That’s putting it mildly. McQueen had to change her e-mail address and notify police after receiving death threats in the wake of the Iraq war discussion in March.

Nonetheless, McQueen said, the SPAN group and its members have evolved and learned from the previous events.

“I think it is really exciting; we’re getting more organized and more involved,” McQueen said. “We want the students to think about these issues, and we want to educate people.”

The group’s events have become increasing popular, even outdrawing a recent Crystal Lake City Council and McHenry County College Trustee candidates election forum sponsored by the McHenry County League of Women Voters.

For information about “Legal Murder: Exposing Flaws and Injustices in the Death Penalty,” call the MCC Student Activities Office at 815-455-8772.

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