David Kaczynski: Unabomber's Brother Campaigns Against Death Penalty

Categories: Courts
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Photo by Craig Malisow
David Kaczynski hasn't heard from Ted lately
Once you become forever known as "The Unabomber's Brother," there are probably two ways you can go: you can do your best to hide (say, maybe move to a cozy, isolated cabin in Montana?) or you can use your position to further a cause close to your heart.

David Kaczynski chose the latter, and he spoke at the South Texas College of Law today as part of the anti-death penalty group Journey of Hope.

Comprising family members of killers, victims, and the exonerated, JOH questions both the moral and legal aspects of capital punishment. Although Ted Kaczynski ultimately pleaded guilty and avoided death row, he originally faced the death penalty, and brother David had to come to terms with the fact that he's the one who put Ted in that spot.

Describing the moment in 1995 when his wife first broached the subject of turning in his "crazy brother Ted," Kaczynski said he quickly realized that "any choice we made could result in someone dying."

The deeper he got into the mechanics of the criminal justice system, Kaczynski said, the more he felt that what's legal and what's right don't always coincide. He is now the executive director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. (Giving props to Texas, Kaczynski referenced the infamous 1993 Herrera v. Collins decision, which Hair Balls feels is one of the most kick-ass cases ever, since it appears to state that killing an innocent dude is not unconstitutional. We defy you to name one other state that would have the stones to force such an axiom of awesomeness out of the men in black!).

Fortunately for everyone who opens mail on a regular basis, Kaczynski suggested to the authorities that his brother just might be the guy they were looking for. He and his wife knew they couldn't sit idly by and risk the Unabomber claiming another victim. (Suffice it to say that, ever since, Kaczynski has not received even one Christmas card from Ted).

Kaczynski said he found himself unsettled by the influence of things like a defendant's wealth, an attorney's idiocy or excellence, a victim's race, or the jurisdiction of the crime. Ultimately, he said, the way the death penalty is meted out falls short of that whole "Equal Justice Under Law" thing.

Following Kaczynski's speech was a presentation by JOH member Bess Klassen-Landis, who, in a quiet voice with an almost affectless tone, told about the unsolved, brutal rape and murder of her mother when Klassen-Landis was just 13. It's difficult to recount a journey from paralyzing fear and hatred to peace and closure without getting all sentimental and Lifetime-y, which made Klassen-Landis's account all the more powerful. It's the kind of speech you don't forget.

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