Thursday, 8 March 2007

Death row prisoner moves pupils to tears

Death row prisoner moves pupils to tears

A FORMER death row prisoner shared his moving life story with dumbstruck schoolchildren.

Nick Yarris, 45, spent 22 years in a Pennsylvania prison in the USA for a murder and rape he did not commit.

Mr Yarris was jailed in 1981, but was released three years ago after DNA evidence exonerated him.

He now campaigns against the death penalty with UK human rights charity, Reprieve, and in May 2005 married British woman Karen Karbritz, who he met at one of his speaking engagements. The couple have a baby daughter, Lara.

Mr Yarris was invited to share his experiences with pupils at Barking Abbey, Sandringham Road.

Head of sociology Eugene Spiers said: "He talked about how he overcame adversity and there was an excellent student response.

"Before the talk, lots of students were a bit sceptical about his story and the trouble he was in, but a couple of students were crying at the end. It's raised a lot of interesting questions about crime and the death penalty."

Mr Yarris spoke to year 13 theology and sociology pupils and other students from years 11 and 12.

Mr Spiers said: "It was the quietest I've ever heard all the students. You could have heard a pin drop for the 45 minutes he was talking.

"Several of them asked questions and some stayed behind at the end to talk to him. He's a very inspirational man."

Pupil Samuel Draper, 17, said: "It was very moving and it acted like a verbal lesson to make sure that I try to minimise my mistakes. I have never been a fan of capital punishment and I wish Reprieve every success in its aims."

Sarah Halliday, 17, said: "The talk was very interesting and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

"I found the talk inspiring as well as moving and thought that Nick Yarris was extremely brave to talk about his ordeal in front of a large audience. Hearing him speak has completely changed my view of capital punishment."

* More schools ever week in the Barking and Dagenham Recorder.

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