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CNN Today

Italians Challenge USA to Abolish Capital Punishment

Aired February 15, 2000 - 1:23 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Italians are challenging the rest of the world to abolish capital punishment.

CNN's Gayle Young reports from Rome, where death penalty opponents have the USA in their crosshairs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GAYLE YOUNG, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): On a cold, rainy night, the site of untold thousands of executions in ancient times glows in silent tribute, because Bermuda has just abolished the death penalty. Italy has become a major crusader for a proposed international ban on capital punishment in the year 2000, and every time a death penalty is commuted anywhere in the world, Rome covers its famed Coliseum in golden lights.

ELIZABETTA ZANPARUTTI, ACTIVIST: I cannot say that I am living only in Italy. We are going toward an international community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: USA abolish that policy.

YOUNG: In 1998, Italians took to the streets when the United States put convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker to death in the state of Texas. Italy banned capital punishment in 1948, and it's become increasingly critical of countries where it's still practiced. Italians may be influenced by the Catholic Church, headquartered in Rome, which opposes capital punishment, but Italians in general seem to have a special sympathy for people who break the law.

(on camera): The Italian judicial system is considered quite accommodating. Prison sentences of less than two years are routinely suspended, and many elderly and sick prisoners can serve their times in the confine and comforts of their own homes.

(voice-over): Italy's strident anti-death-penalty crusade is not always welcomed by the countries it targets. A recent advertising campaign by the Italian clothing chain Benetton features portraits of American death row inmates by a fashion photographer. Some victims' families are furious, but the advertisers say that putting convicts to death is also murder.

OLIVIERO TOSCANI, BENETTON PHOTOGRAPHER: Any serial killer is an amateur next to the state of Texas. YOUNG: Historians say tens of thousands of convicted prisoners were killed under horrendous circumstances in the Coliseum in the first century A.D. Now, Italians want it to become a symbol against putting prisoners to death in the 21st century.

Gayle Young, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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