Last updated on: 11/10/2008 | Author:

Ellen S. Kreitzberg, JD Biography

Professor of Law at Santa Clara University
Con to the question "Should the Death Penalty Be Legal?"

“Personally I’m against the death penalty and I’m against it in all circumstances…

First, there are two things that happen when a murder or a tragedy occurs: One is the personal grief that the victim and the victim’s family are going to feel, and there is no depth that can even measure how great that grief might be. The second thing is how do we punish the person who committed these acts? We have always recognized that since we’re a system of law and not of men or women, we can’t allow an individual person’s grief to dictate what the punishment should be. Even to the extent we do, executing McVeigh [for example] is not going to bring back those children. Certainly if executing an individual would bring back a victim, I would be standing in line to encourage people to do that. It would seem that then there would be a greater purpose, a more noble purpose, but we know that’s not going to occur. In fact, many people now state quite definitively that it doesn’t bring the closure or the solace or the comfort that many of these victims look to, so it often gives a very false hope to the victims of these tragedies.

The second [level] is we need to separate the individual, who maybe we can say on some scale deserves to die, from how the system works in its application in every case. While Timothy McVeigh is easy for us to identify, that doesn’t make the system one that works. McVeigh was charged under a federal death penalty, which the Department of Justice’s own study showed was unfairly and unevenly applied to persons of color and to persons in certain geographic areas. So we cannot uphold the system because we feel good about it in one particular case, when it is really not working most of the time. We have to ask, Does the system work? If the system is not working, we can’t allow it to go forward even in the one awful case, the worst of the worst.”

Ethics Today interview conducted by David Perry and aired on KSCU Radio Station, May 7, 2001

Involvement and Affiliations:
  • Professor of Law, Santa Clara University Law School
  • Created and directs the Death Penalty College, Santa Clara University Law School
  • Board of Governors, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • Committee member, Death Penalty Seminar
  • Trial Attorney, Public Defender’s Office, Washington, DC
  • Annual Guest Lecturer, Trial Advocacy Program, Harvard Law School
  • JD, George Washington University Law School
  • BA, University of Pennsylvania
  • None found