Thompson Forum to examine death penalty Nov. 28


The death penalty remains an intense and impassioned debate, one that draws strong opinions on everything from morality to money. Two experts on the topic will aim to offer new insights on the debate during a Nov. 28 public appearance as part of the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues.

J. Kirk Brown, Nebraska Solicitor General; and Michael Radelet, a sociologist from the University of Colorado Boulder who has extensively researched capital punishment; will present “The Death Penalty: Justice, Retribution and Dollars” at 7 p.m. at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. The event, which is free and open to the public, is also this season’s Chuck and Linda Wilson Dialogue on Domestic Issues.

In a debate moderated by Susan Poser, dean of the UNL College of Law, Brown and Radelet will explore such questions as whether the death penalty is humane, fairly applied, reduces violent crime, or is cost-effective. They’ll also examine impacts on the condemned person, the legal and judicial systems, victims’ loved ones, and the taxpaying society at large.

While free to attend, the event does require a ticket. To reserve free tickets, call the Lied Center at 402-472-4747. Tickets may also be picked up in person or ordered by downloading a form from the forum’s website, All tickets are for general admission seating.

Radelet has focused his research on capital punishment, problems of erroneous convictions, racial bias, and ethical issues faced by health care personnel involved in capital cases and executions. His work on erroneous convictions (with Tufts University’s Hugo Adam Bedau) is widely credited with introducing the “innocence argument” into contemporary death penalty debates.

Radelet has testified in dozens of death penalty cases, before congressional committees, and in legislatures in seven states. He has worked with scores of death row inmates and families of homicide victims. At the request of then-Illinois Governor George Ryan, he completed a study of racial biases in the death penalty in Illinois that Governor Ryan used in his 2003 decision to commute 167 death sentences.

Brown has served as Nebraska’s Solicitor General since 2003. He previously served as the Nebraska Department of Justice’s chief of the Criminal Bureau, chief of the Criminal Appellate Section, and chief of the Civil Litigation Section. For more than 28 years, Brown has been Nebraska’s primary counsel in capital cases and was counsel of record in Nebraska’s three, most recent executions: State v. Otey (1994); State v. Joubert (1996); and State v. Williams (1997).

A graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Law (1973), Brown has lectured nationally on the death penalty, appellate practice, federal habeas corpus and corrections law.

This season’s Thompson Forum lectures have been organized around the theme of religion, rights and politics. A variety of distinguished speakers have been assembled to discuss international religious freedom, the death penalty debate, human rights concerns, and the role of women in religion, among other issues.

Forum lectures will be available live online at and on Lincoln TimeWarner Cable Channel 21, UNL campus Channel 8 and UNL’s KRNU radio (90.3 FM).

Sign language interpreters will be available.

The Thompson Forum is a preeminent lecture series and cooperative project of the philanthropic Cooper Foundation, the Lied Center and UNL. It was established in 1988 with the purpose of bringing a diversity of viewpoints on international and public policy issues to the University of Nebraska and the residents of the state to promote understanding and encourage debate.

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