The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Unabomber's Brother Speaks Against Death Penalty

David Kaczynski said it was hard knowing that his testimony to the FBI could cause his brother to receive the death penalty.

Just a few minutes after 8 p.m., David Kaczynski, brother of Ted Kaczynski, stepped onto the stage of Union Auditorium in a program sponsored by Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

In an extensive speech that began with background on the death penalty and the problems with the justice system, Kaczynski described the series of slow realizations that led him and his wife to approach the FBI with the possibility that Ted Kaczynski might be the mysterious Unabomber who had been mailing bombs to U.S. residents since 1978.

The decision to go to the FBI had been a painful one to make, Kaczynski said, because he knew that despite what he had become, Ted Kaczynski was still a real person.

Kaczynski said it was also difficult knowing that his testimony to the FBI might put his brother on death row.

"It was the ultimate idea that ... if we did nothing, if another bomb was sent, we would have blood on our hands," Kaczynski said. "And we could not deal with that."

Ultimately, Ted Kaczynski received an unconditional life sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

After describing his personal struggle with his brother and his fight to get him a sentence of life in prison instead of death, Kaczynski went back to his cause to fight the death penalty.

"I think that (the cause) is an extension of the values that motivated me from the beginning to turn in my brother when I suspected him of harming others," he said during an interview after his speech. "We must value human life. We must show concern for others and promote compassion and nonviolence in our society."

Kaczynski was the keynote speaker of a month of events organized by CEDP to promote awareness of the death penalty on campus, said senior Brock Towler, a member of the student organization.

Towler said he hopes Kaczynski gave students a different perspective on the death penalty by sharing his experiences as the brother of a man who was almost put on death row.

"David Kaczynski is going to help put several faces on the issue of the death penalty," Towler said. "What helps people to understand the injustices that are implicit in the justice system is when a personal face is put on it."

One audience member said that he thinks of Ted Kaczynski as a revolutionary and that the government needs to reconsider the death penalty and do more to protect people accused of crimes. "It's a shame that as powerful as the United States is, that it does a very poor job of protecting its own people," said Eric Laurilla, who attended the meeting after seeing chalk messages promoting the event written on pavement around Chapel Hill.

CEDP member John Johnson met David Kaczynski during Fall Break last semester while attending the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty conference in Raleigh, where Kaczynski spoke informally in front of the governor's mansion at a rally, Towler said.

Impressed with Kaczynski as a speaker, Johnson went on to suggest him as the keynote speaker for this semester's CEDP events.

Kaczynski is the executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty and a board member of NCADP.

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

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel 2024 Graduation Guide