The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday February 6th

Forum Aims To Advance Moratorium

Rose Clark, the sister of death row inmate Ernest Basden, opened the campus forum sponsored primarily by the UNC Campaign to End the Death Penalty by apologizing in advance for her emotions. She said her experience with the death penalty was a harsh education.

Clark said during her brother's trial she became aware that money and a high social status sometimes give defendants greater influence in court.

"When you're an average poor person, you don't have as good of a chance as wealthier people," she said.

"If you're ignorant (about the judicial process), then it's even worse. It's not an equal system at all."

Darby Tillis took a more personal attack against the death penalty. He described his experience on death row as nine years of pure horror. "I was incarcerated for nine years, one month and 17 days in a penal system for a crime that I did not commit," he said.

Tillis was sentenced to death row in 1977 for double murder and armed robbery and was later acquitted.

Tillis said the death penalty is the most powerful weapon that a state can use against criminals because once sentenced, inmates only can sit and contemplate about when they will be executed.

"Once you have lost the promise of life, you are no longer a participant," he said.

"You're there dying every day until they kill you."

Tillis said the treatment of inmates on death row is comparable to the recent treatment of animals that have been infected with foot-and-mouth disease. "When you're condemned, you are treated like contaminated meat to be disposed of," he said.

Tillis also asserted that the death penalty serves no real purpose in society.

He said his mission is to put a face on the death penalty and reveal the truths that no one wants to hear.

"I refuse to shut up," he said. "I refuse to not speak out about this illness. You don't solve killing by killing.

"It's dead wrong."

With tears forming in her eyes, Clark repeatedly thanked members of the audience for taking time from their schedules to attend the forum.

"You're the ones who can make a difference," she said.

"Unless people like you get involved and try to make a difference, then nothing will change."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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