Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where it belongs

Coverage of New Mexico's repeal of the death penalty continues not only with news stories but also with editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor around the country. Here's one that emphasizes the victim's perspective, from MVFHR board member Walt Everett in the March 22 Pennsylvania Daily Item:

On March 18, Gov. Bill Richardson, of New Mexico, signed into law a bill that abolishes the death penalty in that state. Importantly, the repeal package, which includes other bills currently working their way through the New Mexico Legislature, places emphasis where it belongs: on murder victims' families.

When my 24-year-old son, Scott, was murdered in 1987, I was devastated. Losing a loved one to murder tears apart the lives of victims' family members. There are no easy answers. But I know that government policy must be redirected to programs that help those victims' family members heal.

New Mexico's bill to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life without the possibility of parole is a major step in that direction. The additional measures being considered as adjuncts to this newly enacted legislation focus on enabling New Mexico to use the savings gained from ending the death penalty to provide support to children of murder victims, provide services and programs to murder victims' families, and create a murder victims' family services fund. Another measure requires employers to provide time off for family members to attend judicial proceedings.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent to murder. It is too costly and has insufficient protections against wrongful executions.

It is time for Pennsylvania to follow New Mexico's lead in providing restitution for victims' family members, as well as alternatives to the death penalty.

Walter H. Everett,

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