Three men sentenced to death answered students' questions face to face.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
CHAMPION -- Many students just read about death row either in textbooks or the newspaper, but five Trumbull Career and Technical Center students got to meet men who are awaiting execution for their crimes.
TCTC students Kathryn Fatula, Chris White, Kim Osborn, Dionna Simpson and Josh Murphy; and teachers Donna Marscio and Jason Gray visited with three death-row inmates last week at the Mansfield Correctional Institution.
The inmates were housed in an area assigned to death-row prisoners who have been well-behaved during incarceration.
As part of a unit in their government classes about the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment, the students had to write a paper and create a poster explaining their views either for or against the death penalty.
"They were supposed to make posters that they would take to a rally either for or against the death penalty," Marscio said.
The five best projects from the 350 to 400 government students were chosen by Trumbull County Educational Service Center staff, and those students got to go to the prison.
White, a junior from Niles McKinley High School, opposes the death penalty, saying that it's a worse fate to spend years in prison.
"That's what one of the prisoners said, too," Gray said. "He said that prison is killing him in way that death can't kill you."
Simpson said she was scared at first, but the men made the students feel comfortable once they started talking, she added.
Two of the men grew up in middle-class homes. The other grew up in the ghetto. One, who has been in prison for 18 years, recently had his appeal rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. He could hope for clemency from Gov. Bob Taft but told the students he doesn't want that.
He expects to learn his execution date in the next few months.
The prisoners talked only as much about their crimes as the students asked.
From bad to worse
The man awaiting his execution date earned a college degree in business and was a high school athlete.
"He described it as a bad day that just got worse, and everything snowballed," said Fatula, a junior from Newton Falls High School. "He said he wished his car hadn't started that day."
The man was convicted of killing the woman with whom he was having an affair. He expressed remorse for his crime.
"I'll cry if they execute him," Fatula said.
Another of the men told the students that if he ever were released from prison he'd return to a life of burglary.
"He said he would have to because no one would hire an ex-con," said Simpson, a senior from Warren G. Harding High School.
The prisoners also had some advice for the kids.
"One guy told us to get rich, because there aren't any rich people on death row," said Murphy, a Lakeview High School senior.
Many of the students' parents had misgivings about their youngsters meeting face to face with convicted murderers.
"She tried to talk me out of it," Osborn, a senior from Mathews High School, said of her mother.
Murphy told his father of his reluctance, and his dad urged him to go believing it would be a good experience.
"After being there, I wish all of the students could have gone," Gray said, adding that it shows a real life example of what the students are learning in class.