From the April 14th Stamford (CT) Advocate, "Death penalty harms survivors":
I know all too well the horror of murder. My brother David Froehlich and four of his friends were murdered by their landlord, Geoff Ferguson in Georgetown, Connecticut in 1995. My experience with the prosecution of my brother's killer and my observance of our state's use of the death penalty has led me to the conclusion that Connecticut's death penalty divides and harms surviving family members.
First, the death penalty can divide the family and friends of victims at a time when they need each other the most. I can assure you that all family members who lose a loved one to murder want to recover their shattered sense of safety. We all want to know that the person who caused such irreparable harm is held accountable and kept from harming others. However that doesn't mean we're all on the same page about whether we'd favor the death penalty over life imprisonment.
When my brother was killed, I was very concerned that the case would become a capital case and potentially create a division between those of us who reject the death penalty and those who believe it is useful. All families represent many viewpoints about many issues, including capital punishment. No family needs to engage in the traumatic death penalty debate when we are at our most vulnerable. This can cause real additional lasting pain.
Second, the death penalty in Connecticut divides victims by attempting to reserve it for the "most heinous" crimes. I just don't know what that means. Every family who loses a loved one to murder sees their crime as the most heinous. How do we choose which victims are worthy of seeking the ultimate punishment? I was against the death penalty before my brother's murder and remained so after, but I must share that it was baffling and hurtful that his case, where five young men were murdered, was not deemed worthy of the death penalty. We as human beings are just not capable of deciding the "worst of the worst," and it is insulting to victims that we try.
So what are we left with? We have a death penalty in Connecticut that spends millions and millions of dollars a year to try to execute a handful of people. The press's obsession with death penalty cases puts the victims' families through decades of constant media attention with no end in sight. Meanwhile, most of us never hear about the rest of the murder victim family members in the state -- the silent majority of victims deemed unworthy of sensational capital cases. These families need our help and support, too. There are many who need help with funeral expenses and important services to help them process and begin to heal from the trauma. It is offensive to me that these needs are unmet while an expensive, failed death penalty policy remains on our books.
The death penalty in Connecticut fails all victims. It fails the very few who obtain a death sentence and are subjected to a never-ending judicial process, and it fails the rest who are not noticed and could use the resources being wasted.
Catherine Ednie is a Stamford resident.