Thursday, February 18, 2010

Not for the reason you might think

From yesterday's San Jose Mercury News, "Death Penalty Takes Resources Away from Solving Other Murders," by Judy Kerr:

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of Jeanine Grinsell, who was killed by David Raley in Santa Clara County. A second victim, sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times, survived and has spent the past 25 years trying to put the memory behind her. Raley was apprehended, convicted and sentenced to California's death row, where he remains today.

When I hear stories of inmates on death row for murders that happened decades ago, I am filled with rage against the death penalty, but not for the reasons you might think.

I'll be marking a milestone this month, too. My brother, Robert James Kerr, would have been 50 years old, and I would have been celebrating with him. But in 2003 he was severely beaten, strangled and left shirtless and shoeless on the side of the road 30 miles from his apartment. His bank accounts were raided during the three weeks that authorities took to identify his body. There is surveillance video of someone repeatedly using his ATM card after his death.

His killer remains free.

There are over one thousand unsolved murders such as Bob's each year in California. Yet counties are closing cold case units, rape evidence kits are left unprocessed and lawmakers are cutting corrections budgets. We have more people in prison in California than in most countries in the world, but still a thousand families each year are left to fear and wonder and grieve.

In the months and years after Bob's murder, I have talked with investigators and detectives. I have pleaded with state DNA testing lab directors about delays in processing evidence. I have studied the details of the coroner's report for clues that might have been missed by someone who didn't care as much as I do or simply had too many other cases to process.

If Bob's murderer were ever to be apprehended and charged with capital murder, I would face decades of revisiting the horrific details of his death — much like Grinsell's family and Raley's surviving victim. The state would plod endlessly onward with costly appeals and no possibility of closure for my family.

Read the rest of the piece.

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