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A Father’s Grief and Change of Heart

Bob Curley discusses the death penalty at Howard Thurman Center Wednesday

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Bob Curley comes to campus March 31 to talk about his journey from advocate to opponent of the death penalty. Photo by Mitch Weiss

In 1997, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, was sexually abused and murdered by two men who lured him with the promise of a new bicycle. In the months following the East Cambridge boy’s murder, his father led a movement to reinstate the death penalty in Massachusetts, thinking it was the best way to see that justice was done for his son. Years after lawmakers rejected the reinstatement by one vote, Bob Curley had a change of heart, and became an outspoken opponent of capital punishment.

Curley will be on campus Wednesday evening to discuss the death penalty and his journey from advocate to opponent. The event is sponsored by the BU chapter of Amnesty International, which lobbies against the death penalty.

“After Jeff was killed, it seemed like I was supposed to be for the death penalty,” Curley says. “It took time for me to step back and realize the problems with it.”

One problem is socioeconomics, Curley says, which affected the sentences of Sal Sicari and Charles Jaynes, the two men found guilty in Curley’s murder. Sicari was sentenced to life without parole, while Jaynes was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 23 years.

“It was clear that Jaynes was the real bad guy, and Sicari was just a not-so-bright tag-along,” Curley says. “But Sicari got a longer sentence because he couldn’t afford a private attorney like Jaynes.”

Curley also talked with people who had been through similar tragedies. One was Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombings. “Bud showed me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to be for the death penalty just because of what happened to Jeff,” Curley says.

Brian MacQuarrie, a Boston Globe reporter who became friends with Curley while covering Jeffrey’s murder, will also be at the discussion, to be held in the Howard Thurman Center. Published last year, MacQuarrie’s book The Ride chronicles Curley’s transformation.

“I thought it would just be a true crime book,” he says. “I soon realized the story was about Bob’s ride as much as it was about Jeffrey’s ride.”

“Bob Curley’s reasons for opposing the death penalty are not emotional or moral, but about justice and facts,” says Paige Buckley (COM’12), secretary of the BU chapter of Amnesty International. “That’s something I think could change a lot of minds or at least inspire people to learn more.”

A Discussion on the Death Penalty: Brian MacQuarrie and Bob Curley will be held Wednesday, March 31, at the Howard Thurman Center in the lower level of the George Sherman Union, 775 Commonwealth Ave., from 7 to 9 p.m.; it is free and open to the public. More information can be found on the Amnesty International at BU Facebook page here.

Caroline Hailey can be reached at chailey@bu.edu.

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