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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 16, 2003

Turow, Crier To Discuss Death Penalty In UI Appearance

Attorney and novelist Scott Turow and Court TV reporter and attorney Catherine Crier will discuss the death penalty when they meet at the University of Iowa at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 30, in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.

Admission to "Capital Punishment: A Conversation With Scott Turow and Catherine Crier" is free and open to the public. The gathering will be an informal, unscripted discussion between two of the most prominent attorneys in America today.

Turow, known for such bestselling novels as "The Burden of Proof" and "Presumed Innocent", has both prosecuted and defended death penalty cases. He was also a member of the Illinois commission that investigated the state's use of the death penalty and raised questions about the veracity of the convictions of those on Death Row. The report helped prompt then-Gov. George Ryan to commute the sentences of all 164 prisoners awaiting execution.

Turow said his service to the commission helped him realize the death penalty is not good public policy.

"I came to recognize that while there is a compelling argument for the death penalty as an ultimate punishment for ultimate evil, it fails when used for those symbolic purposes because the justice system can't sift finely enough to unfailingly identify either ultimate evil or who committed it," he said. "We have a symbol that ends up representing the failings of the law rather than the kind of exacting justice that the death penalty stands for in the minds of most Americans."

Turow recently wrote his thoughts on the death penalty in a combination memoir and essay, "Ultimate Punishment: One DA's Quest to Prosecute Predators and Defend Victims," to be published in October. This is the first stop on a nationwide tour planned to promote the book.

Catherine Crier became the youngest state judge ever elected in the state of Texas when she won election to the bench in 1984 at the age of 29. She served for five years, then moved onto journalism, working at CNN, ABC News and Fox News before moving to Court TV in 1999. She serves as executive editor, legal news specials, in addition to hosting Catherine Crier Live, a live daily series that premiered in February 2001. She is also the author of last year's bestselling book "The Case Against Lawyers," a treatise on the law where Crier shares her outrage at the state of the justice system and calls American citizens to demand reform.

Crier said her views on the death penalty have been informed by her own work in capital cases, when defense attorneys are often "inexperienced, overworked or underpaid... Rarely is sufficient funding available to the defense to truly investigate the facts. There are a few specialized firms that handle these matters, essentially pro bono, but they can handle but a small percentage of the pending cases and appeals.

"There are failings throughout the criminal justice system," she said. "Unfortunately they can be fatal in capital cases. Gov. Ryan could see from Illinois reversals alone that the likelihood that innocent people were being executed was too great for him to tolerate. These people will be locked up the rest of their lives. Life without parole is the right compromise to resolve this moral and legal dilemma."

Crier said she is looking forward to her appearance with Turow.

"As an author and legal advocate, he is knowledgeable and engaging," she said. "His recent focus on the perils of the death penalty is an important and welcome addition to the debate. And Iowa is a great place for such a conversation."

Their appearance is sponsored by the UI Lecture Committee. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact the UI Lecture Committee at 319-335-3255.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010, tom-snee@uiowa.edu