Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It Simply Doesn't Happen

Saturday's Hartford Courant had an article, "Rell Vows to Veto Measure Abolishing the Death Penalty," which features this photo of victims' family members at a press conference.



The photo caption reads:
Families of victims of murder speak at a press conference in support of a bill passed by the legislature Thursday that would abolish the death penalty. Pictured are Gail Canzano, at podium, Elizabeth Brancato of Torrington, State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven, Rev. Walter Everett , Cindy Siclari of Monroe and Anne Stone of Farmington

Here's the article:

Just hours after the state Senate gave final legislative approval Friday to a historic measure abolishing the death penalty in Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell came out with an expected announcement:

She said she was going to veto the measure as soon as it hits her desk.

"I appreciate the passionate beliefs of people on both sides of the death penalty debate. I fully understand the concerns and deeply held convictions of those who would like to see the death penalty abolished in Connecticut," she said in a statement.

"However, I also fully understand the anguish and outrage of the families of victims who believe, as I do, that there are certain crimes so heinous — so fundamentally revolting to our humanity — that the death penalty is warranted."

It's a position that Rell has consistently taken. But murder victims' family members who oppose the death penalty implored the governor Friday during a morning press conference to let the legislature's vote stand. The measure did not pass by a sufficient margin to override a veto.

"I ask Gov. Rell to take the weekend to search her soul, to pray, to examine her own feelings and reach a rational decision," said Gail Canzano of West Hartford, a clinical psychologist whose brother-in-law was slain.

State Rep. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the judiciary committee, said that the governor was too quick to lock into a position on the death penalty bill. The bill will take days, if not weeks, to reach her desk.

The East Haven Democrat urged Rell "to reach out to our state's prosecutors and judges before taking action. Ask these front-line professionals their off-the-record opinions on whether anyone will ever be executed in Connecticut. I believe that she will be told what many of us have been told — the Connecticut death penalty is a false promise."

Lawlor said he was certain that the "unprecedented bipartisan votes to abolish our death penalty" would mean that no death penalty case "will be successful from this point forward in the state's trial courts or appellate courts."

At Friday's press conference, the Rev. Walter Everett, whose son, Scott, was killed in Bridgeport in 1987, was askedwhat he would say to Dr. William Petit of Cheshire, whose wife and two daughters were killed in a home invasion and arson in 2007 — a crime that traumatized the state.

Petit spoke in favor of the death penalty before a hushed audience of state lawmakers at a hearing in March. The bill approved by the General Assembly would not directly apply to any of the 10 inmates currently on death row or any pending cases — including the Cheshire killings. The state is seeking the death penalty for the two men accused of the crime.

Everett, a member of two groups of survivors of homicide that he said represent 4,000 families, said he believes that Petit is experiencing the rage that all families feel in the first couple of years. He said that Petit might, indeed, come to oppose capital punishment as time goes on.

Everett said he forgave his son's killer, Michael Carlucci, who is now out of prison and speaking about crime and punishment at schools and jails. Everett said that his decision to forgive Carlucci rather than seek retribution was the first step in a healing process, and that he believes both he and Carlucci are better people for it.

Anne Stone of Farmington, whose son, Ralph, was murdered in Washington, D.C., in 1997, echoed a theme shared by the families when she said that capital trials and the seemingly endless appeal process provide no closure to the survivors, even if an execution were to take place.

Canzano, who works with trauma victims, said that the death penalty offers false hope to people at a time when they are experiencing crushing grief.

"There is no trauma like murder and no grief like homicide grief," said Canzano. "But we err as a society if we believe ... the death penalty helps the survivors."

She said that capital punishment appears to promise "that something will be made right, but truth be told, this is something that can never be rectified no matter what we do. The notion of balancing the scales is ludicrous — it simply doesn't happen."

6 comments:

dudleysharp said...

Is the death penalty closure? Of course.

For those who have lost loved ones to murder, the execution of the murderer definitely brings closure.

The execution is closure to the legal process, whereby execution is the most just sanction available for the crime and the family is relieved that the murderer is dead and can no longer harm another innocent - a very big deal.

The confusion with "closure" is when some imply that execution can bring psychological or emotional closure to the devastation suffered by the murder victim's loved ones.

I know of no victim survivor who believes that execution could bring that type of closure. How could it? No punishment can, nor is that the intention.

The concept of emotional "closure" via execution is, often, a fantasy perpetrated by anti death penalty folks, just so they can denounce it, with a talking point, as in: "Those supporting capital punishment claim that closure is a major reason to support the death penalty - but there is no closure."

Do you know of any murder victim survivor who says that their emotional or psychological pain was closed once the murderer was executed? Me neither.

Murder victim "Mary Bounds' daughter, Jena Watson, who watched the execution, said Berry's action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend, and that pain will never go away."

"We feel that we have received justice," she said Wednesday after the execution. "There's never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues."

Ina Prechtl, who lost her daughter Felecia Prechtl. to a rape /murder said, after watching Karl Chamberlain executed: "One question I ask myself every day, why does it take so long for justice to be served?" It took 17 years for the execution. ("Texas executes 1st inmate since injection lull", 6/11/2008, MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer, HUNTSVILLE, Texas)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sharp,

I suppose I am confused by your assertion and would like clarification if possible.

This appears affirmative and that closure does indeed exist for the loved ones of victims: "Is the death penalty closure? Of course."

Then there appears to be a complete reversal of the original statement in providing examples that the death penalty does NOT indeed provide closure.

Can you clarify, please? Are you saying this merely semantics?

Thank you.

dudleysharp said...

Anon:

I could not have been more clear.

To repeat paragraphs 2,3,4 & 5

The execution is closure to the legal process, whereby execution is the most just sanction available for the crime and the family is relieved that the murderer is dead and can no longer harm another innocent - a very big deal.

The confusion with "closure" is when some imply that execution can bring psychological or emotional closure to the devastation suffered by the murder victim's loved ones.

I know of no victim survivor who believes that execution could bring that type of closure. How could it? No punishment can, nor is that the intention.

The concept of emotional "closure" via execution is, often, a fantasy perpetrated by anti death penalty folks, just so they can denounce it, with a talking point, as in: "Those supporting capital punishment claim that closure is a major reason to support the death penalty - but there is no closure."

What is your confusion? There is no "semantic" component. It is very direct meaning.

Anonymous said...

I could not disagree more with the Governor’s position, as I also disagree with the concept that the death penalty brings about “closure.” Governor Rell’s only argument in support of the death penalty is that it allows the victims to feel better. But does it? Clearly, this blog proves that many family members of victims are in fact opposed to the death penalty, as they don’t see it as closure of any kind. Additionally, the fact that the death penalty is so inconsistently applied makes it hard for me to see how maintaining it helps families overcome their grief. If it is rarely applied, and only in certain cases, not only is that unfair from a legal perspective, it also gives families that do want to see the death penalty used false hope.

The Governor’s statement “that there are certain crimes so heinous — so fundamentally revolting to our humanity — that the death penalty is warranted” also troubles me. Is rape not also a heinous crime? Are there not countless crimes that have been committed that are “revolting to our humanity” that did not result in the death of another person, and therefore cannot be subject to the death penalty? The simple fact that a crime is heinous should not be the justification for an immoral punishment.

I have no idea what it is like to have a member of my family murdered. I can only imagine that if I ever was in that situation, I would want the murderer to receive the most severe punishment possible. But that would be true of any crime, not just murder, that was committed against my family. The healing process for the victims’ families, which is what Governor Rell cites, cannot be the sole reason that the death penalty remains.

dudleysharp said...

Anon:

I don't recall the Gov every calling it closure.

Is the death penalty closure? Of course.

CLOSURE and EXECUTION
Dudley Sharp, contact info below

For those who have lost loved ones to murder, the execution of the murderer definitely brings closure.

The execution is closure to the legal process, whereby execution is the most just sanction available for the crime and the family is relieved that the murderer is dead and can no longer harm another innocent - a very big deal.

The confusion with "closure" is when some imply that execution can bring psychological or emotional closure to the devastation suffered by the murder victim's loved ones.

I know of no victim survivor who believes that execution could bring that type of closure. How could it? No punishment can, nor is that the intention.

The concept of emotional "closure" via execution is, often, a fantasy perpetrated by anti death penalty folks, just so they can denounce it, with a talking point, as in: "Those supporting capital punishment claim that closure is a major reason to support the death penalty - but there is no closure."

Do you know of any murder victim survivor who says that their emotional or psychological pain was closed once the murderer was executed? Me neither.

Murder victim "Mary Bounds' daughter, Jena Watson, who watched the execution, said Berry's action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend, and that pain will never go away."

"We feel that we have received justice," she said Wednesday after the execution. "There's never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues."

Ina Prechtl, who lost her daughter Felecia Prechtl. to a rape /murder said, after watching Karl Chamberlain executed: "One question I ask myself every day, why does it take so long for justice to be served?" It took 17 years for the execution. ("Texas executes 1st inmate since injection lull", 6/11/2008, MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer, HUNTSVILLE, Texas)

copyright 2009 Dudley Sharp, Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites

essays http://homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

http://www.dpinfo.com
http://www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
http://www.coastda.com/archives.html http://www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm http://www.prodeathpenalty.com http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
http://www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Kathryn said...

In the case of Connecticut, the state's legislature accurately mirrors the sentiments of the population at large. This makes Governor Rell's decision to veto the measure abolishing capital punishment an abuse of her executive power-- usurping Connecticut citizens' concept of justice for the sake of revenge or a futile attempt at restitution. While Governor Rell claims to "fully understand the anguish and outrage of the families of victims," she wrongly assumes that all victims of crime support the death penalty. In reality, watching another human die, even if this person committed a violent crime, does not offer true closure for family members. It is likely that the trial and appeals were strung out through several years, during which time a healthier method of reconciliation could have taken place if not for prosecutors' vigilant pursuit of capital convictions. The possibility for human error-- via ineffective counsel, coerced confessions, prosecutorial misconduct, or cases of mistaken identity-- results in too grave and too permanent an error to justify capital punishment, even for "the worst of the worst." Right now Governor Rell likely views the death penalty abstractly, having never overseen an execution. Connecticut as a state has only had one execution in 1976, although eight prisoners currently live on death row. Just as former Illinois Governor Ryan realized when he issued blanket commutation, "once it's your job, everything changes," so, too, will Governor Rell. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" does not equate to 100% certainty of guilt and the risk of wrongly executing an innocent person would be frightening to anyone in her position.