Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cannot be predicted

As victims' family members who oppose the death penalty increasingly make their voices heard and their views known, journalists increasingly recognize that it's impossible to predict or assume how a victim's family member will feel on the issue. In his Texas Death Penalty blog for the Dallas Morning News, Michael Landauer wrote yesterday, "Families reactions cannot be predicted":

Some people who support the death penalty say they just want the nightmare to end for the victims' families. Some who oppose the death penalty say the same thing. How can both sides claim to have families' best interests at heart?

Easy. They are both wrong. And both right. Sometimes.

In Houston, the family of a slain police officer is upset about the killer getting life.

Amy Hamilton, Jesse Hamilton's widow and the mother of the couple's two young daughters, had something more emphatic to say to Robles: "I hope your life is so miserable that you look forward to death."

Amen, I say to that. God Bless Amy Hamilton and her family. If I were in her shoes, I would also hope for this killer to find nothing but misery in his cell day after day.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, there is
the opposite situation. A death row inmate there is ready to call it a day, and the state will assist in his suicide. He is waiving all appeals and asking for an execution date. It will be the first time the state has taken a life since the last time an inmate formally expressed a similar death wish. The widow of the victim in that case takes a different tack:

Clarinda Perez married David Polin in 2007, just four months before he was stabbed dozens of times in a prison recreation area by two other inmates."I think that's just an easy way out. He's sitting in a cell since 2004, 23 hours out of the day without a window. That would be miserable for anybody," said Perez. "I'm not going to get any relief from him being put to death."

The reality is that, not only are co-victims unpredictable in whether they seek a death sentence, but that their views shift, evolve and sometimes even reverse over time. Can such human emotions be the compass we use to decide just punishment? I don't see how.

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