From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

St. John Vianney students use teleconference, interview to explore opposition to death penalty

by Chris Shaw, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 17, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

(Editor’s note: The seventh and eight graders at St. John Vianney School, Spokane, recently took part in a teleconference interview with actor Mike Farrell (Providence, M*A*S*H). During the interview Farrell discussed his anti-death penalty activism. This report is by seventh grader Chris Shaw.)

Mike Farrell, an actor on the current TV show Providence, is strongly opposed to the death penalty. He is a successful, wealthy, and generous man who is working for more verdicts of life in prison without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty.

Mr. Mark Hartley, the seventh grade teacher at St. John Vianney School, was persistent, patient, and motivated to get some time for his interested students to talk to this busy man over the phone. The students gathered Nov. 26 in the multi-purpose room to ask Farrell questions and take extensive notes on his answers. The teleconference was a great success as well as a period of learning for the children, and most thoroughly enjoyed it.

Farrell is the president of Death Penalty Focus and a member of the advisory board of The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Farrell has proven that life sentences without parole are less expensive and more humane than the death penalty. He showed it cost less money to keep someone in prison for life than to put them on death row, because of the expensive appeals process (for death row inmates). As an example of the inhumanity of the death penalty, Farrell told the students of a father who lost a daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing. “At first the father would have liked nothing more than to feel the throat of (convicted bomber Timothy) McVeigh in between his hands and to strangle him, but then he saw that killing was wrong and thought, ‘Why should I stoop to his level? What good would that do?’ The father fought in his daughter’s name for McVeigh not to be killed. And now he opposes the death penalty also.” In other words, he is saying that two wrongs don’t make a right.

One student asked, “If you had five minutes alone with Osama bin Laden, what would you do or say?”

Farrell responded, “Well, assuming that no one would get hurt....” This got a laugh from the seventh and eighth grades. In Farrell’s opinion, the courage it takes to spare someone’s life is more than the courage it takes to kill that person.

Farrell has been to many countries that are war-torn and he is a prominent individual in the field of human rights activism. One of the most important trips for him, personally, was to Rwanda. A passage from an article he wrote describes a horrifying scene he witnessed: “Piles of bones, the outlines of the body they once supported still defined by the ragged remnants of clothing. They lay where they came to rest, tossed and strewn about by the force of the blast, the bullet, the thrust of the spear, blow of the club, and the swipe of the machete. Again and again and again the machete.” This describes only one of many sites of mass murders in Rwanda, but for me, it was an eye-opener. I never realized how horrible one group of people can be to another group of people. In my mind and God’s eyes, all people are equal.

Compared to most people, Farrell is an extremely successful man, but unlike most celebrities today, Farrell is using his money, time and energy for a cause: to fight for the end of the death penalty. He has taken the time to travel to war-torn nations to help with humanitarian actions. He is the spokesperson for several humanitarian organizations. He contributes a part of his income to charitable groups.

Farrell has many reasons why the death penalty should be stopped, backed by solid arguments. Through all these efforts, Farrell shines bright in the war on the death penalty.


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