Monday, May 10, 2010

It would dishonor her memory

It's unusual to see coverage of friends or associates of a murder victim speaking publicly against the death penalty for the person responsible for that victim's murder, but this May 7 Associated Press story presents that perspective:

Slain Va. prof's students don't want death penalty for accused killer
Some former students of a slain Longwood University professor are asking prosecutors not to seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing her and her family.

Debra Kelley, her 16-year-old daughter Emma Niederbrock, Emma's father Mark, and Emma's 18-year-old friend Melanie Wells of Inwood, W.Va., were found bludgeoned to death in Kelley's Farmville home in September.

Emma's boyfriend, 21-year-old Richard “Sam” McCroskey III of Castro Valley, Calif., has been charged in connection with the deaths.

Two of Kelley's former students, Jessica and Scott Hintz, started an online petition asking prosecutors to seek a life sentence for McCroskey.

They say Kelley was opposed to capital punishment and a death penalty in the case would dishonor her memory.

A longer version of that AP story also discusses opposition to the death penalty on the part of victims' family members -- in general, not in reference to this particular case -- and quotes from MVFHR member SueZann Bosler:

... While petitions asking to spare criminals are not new, prosecutors and advocates said, pleas most often come from the families of those killed.

SueZann Bosler of Miami worked more than 10 years to get the man who stabbed her multiple times and killed her father off of Florida's death row. Her father, a minister, was a death penalty opponent, so Bosler made it her mission to get his killer's sentence reduced after prosecutors refused to listen to her pleas not to seek the death penalty.

Bosler is the co-founder of the anti-death penalty Journey of Hope.

"Even when I saw him laying in the floor bleeding to death, taking his last breath," she said of her father, "I knew he did not change his mind."

"I am so positive that he forgave him before he took his last breath."

Death sentences have declined by about 60 percent since 2000, even in Virginia, which is second only to Texas in the number of executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

Prosecutors are seeking capital punishment less in favor of plea bargains for life in prison, which are less expensive for states and save the families from reliving the crime over and over throughout lengthy appeals.

But in the end, it's the prosecutor's call, said Dieter, with the Death Penalty Information Center.

"It's not the victim versus the defendant, it's the state versus the defendant," he said.

In North Carolina, district attorney Jim Woodall must decide whether to seek the death penalty against a man who pleaded guilty to killing University of North Carolina student body president Eve Carson two years ago. Federal prosecutors dropped the death penalty and allowed a plea bargain for life, but Woodall still could pursue death on state charges.

Carson's family has said they oppose the death penalty. Woodall has not announced his decision.

"It's one of many, many factors, but it's a big one," Woodall said of the family's concerns. "It can't be the controlling factor."

No comments: