I almost didn't go to the lecture. Ungraded research papers tugged at my conscience, and my kids tugged, literally, at me as I walked out the door. But I had promised the coworker who had organized the event that I'd attend. Besides, how often do you get to hear the firsthand story of someone who almost died?
That someone is Nathson "Nate" Fields, who had been scheduled to be executed for a double murder for which he was later exonerated -- but only after spending 18 years in prison, more than 11 of those years on death row in Illinois.
Fields, now a speaker for the Witness to Innocence project, shared his story on April 19 with criminal justice students and others at Aurora University, where I teach, as part of a discussion about the death penalty and wrongful convictions.
"You guys will be the future judges, the future lawyers, the future presidents," Fields told the audience, citing the "human factor" as the reason he believes the death penalty should be abolished.