Alum death penalty documentary sparks controversial discussion


Ariyanna Wilkes

Rick Stack engages the audience in a discussion after the film.

Lucinda Costello-Kumfer, Guest Writer

On Monday Oct. 17, students gathered into the library in front of the big screen to view a documentary about the death penalty, In the Executioner’s Shadow, directed by Rick Stack, a U. City alum and a 2022 inductee to the Hall of Fame. Toi Drummer, social studies teacher, and Matthew Tuths, restorative justice teacher, brought their classes for the screening.

The documentary tells three different stories. 

“One is the story of amazing forgiveness,” Stack said. “A family who lost their young adult daughter to a very vicious crime when she had finished her first year of graduate school, and the parents fought to spare the lives of the daughters’ killers. One story is a women who is the finish line of the 13 Boston marathon when the bombing occurred. In the middle of those two stories is the story of the former chief executioner for the states of Virginia over seventeen years leading up to about the year 1989.”

The stories highlighted different perspectives.

“I think it was an emotional film,” Mariyah Graham, sophomore, said. “I feel bad for the lady when they lost their lives from the bomb and stuff. I feel real bad about all the stuff that happened to them. All of those people got hurt for no reason, they just got bombed out of nowhere. It happened fast too.”

Different students had different opinions on the film.

“It was quite a different view, the people who were involved in different murders,” Tavonte Day, senior, said. “It’s probably sensitive to some people but to me it wasn’t really an emotional reaction.”

There was hope that this documentary would open students’ perspectives and give them the opportunity to think more about justice.

“I’m hoping hearing different perspectives in the documentary, very emotional very real perspectives connected to the death penalty, will help students be able to take that and apply their own perspectives, their own views, and really like dig in a little more deeply into that question,” Tuths said.