Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"9/11 Husband Urges No Death Penalty"

From Monday's NBC New York News, "9/11 Husband Urges No Death Penalty for Accused Terrorists":

The husband of a 9/11 victim who was among the handful of relatives at Guantanamo Bay for the arraignment of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other alleged terrorists says the accused murderers should not be put to death if convicted.
Blake Allison won one of 10 lottery tickets available for relatives of 9/11 victims who wanted to see their loved ones' accused killers formally arraigned on terrorism, conspiracy and other charges last weekend, reports The New York Post.
His wife, Anna, was a software consultant en route to visit a client in Los Angeles and was on board American Airlines flight 11. She was 48.
Allison told friends and family he wanted to go to Guantanamo Bay to "see the faces of the people accused of murdering my wife," reports the Post. While there, the 62-year-old ended up meeting with the lawyers of the accused, offering to testify against the death penalty should a military commission convict them of capital charges, according to the paper.
The wine-company executive's staunch opposition to the death penalty predates his wife's death. Allison told the Post he believes the death penalty should be off the table in the 9/11 case, though he acknowledges his wife's relatives and the relatives of the other 9/11 victims who went to Guantanamo Bay disagree.
"They want what they perceive as justice for their loved ones," Allison said of the other families. "I would never tell anybody in my position what they should feel."
"The public needs to know there are family members out there who do not hold the view that these men should be put to death," he added. "We can't kill our way to a peaceful tomorrow."
Allison said that his opposition to the death penalty does not mean he doesn't seek justice for his wife's killers, nor does it mean he believes that, given the opportunity, KSM and the alleged terrorists would take a different course of action.
"But for me, opposition to the death penalty is not situational," he told the Post. "Just because I was hurt very badly and personally does not, in my mind, give me the go-ahead to take a life."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Short film from AI South Korea

Amnesty International South Korea has produced a 19-minute video, "The Death Penalty: Another Murder," that features several people speaking about the death penalty in South Korea, including Kim Dae-jung, former death row inmate and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience and the 15th President of South Korea.  At about 13 minutes into the film, you can see members of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights with our banner and then a brief interview with Executive Director Renny Cushing.

Read our earlier post about our participation in events last September in connection with South Korea's 5,000th day without an execution.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

We didn't give up

Monday's National Catholic Reporter has an interview with MVFHR member Toni Bosco, "Connecticut repeal thrills long-time death penalty opponent":

Writer, journalist and well-known death penalty opponent Antoinette Bosco, 83, has been against the death penalty her whole life. When she moved to Connecticut in 1981, she continued her campaign to abolish the death penalty in the state with the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty. What makes her commitment even more compelling is that her son and daughter-in-law were murdered in 1993 in Montana. She and her other children wrote to the judge and said they did not want the killer executed.

On April 25, the campaign in Connecticut came to a close -- Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a law to repeal the death penalty. NCR talked to Bosco about the decision. The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

NCR: What have you learned from working to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut?
Bosco: The nice thing I've learned is that a lot of people who never thought they'd be interested in this have joined. That is a good thing. We do make "converts" on this. And the other thing is that we have just had a repeal of the death penalty law in Connecticut. When I first started back in the '80s, if anybody said to me, "It'll take 25, 30 years, but it will happen," I would've said, "Yeah, sure," because I knew how adamant so many people were that we have to keep it. But it happened. It happened just now that Gov. Malloy signed the repeal of the state's death penalty. So I just feel, "Thank God for the young people." Thank God for them. Because they were the ones I have to give credit to, along with a few of us old ones. So you can understand, can't you, how happy I feel about this? Because sometimes you just felt like giving up. But we didn't. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

This Mother's Day: Walk for Peace

This Sunday, MVFHR will be participating in the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's Mother's Day Walk for Peace.  The Peace Institute was founded in 1994 by Tina Chery after her 15-year-old son, Louis, was murdered in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  The Peace Institute does vitally important work in reaching out to family members and helping them to rebuild their lives after a homicide. They have created a special curriculum for young children who have had a sibling or parent or caretaker murdered, and they work within the community to prevent violence and promote peace. Without the Peace Institute, so many Boston-area families would be left to cope alone after murder, at a time when a lack of help and support only compounds the grief, pain, and isolation that comes after a family member is killed. 

You can support Team MVFHR as we walk with hundreds of other murder victims' family members, demonstrating our solidarity with other victims and offering our support to  those who do so much to provide help after homicide and work to prevent it fron happening to others.  
Go here to donate to our Team.

Read our blog post about last year's Walk for Peace.

Read an earlier post about the Peace Institute's work.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Valuing All Lives

From yesterday's Greensboro, North Carolina News-Record, this op-ed by MVFHR board member Yolanda Littlejohn, "The promise of the racial justice law":

North Carolina took a step closer to applying justice equally in death sentencing April 20, and also took a step toward valuing all lives regardless of race.

As a family member of a murder victim, I believe this is a big step toward a better quality of justice for murder victims’ families and all citizens of North Carolina. All lives matter; all lives have value; all lives should be treated equally. We should insist that our courts act accordingly.

In the first case heard under the N.C. Racial Justice Act, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks found that racial bias did indeed play a role in death sentencing in our state.

The judge pointed to “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, persuasive and distorting role of race in jury selection” in the specific case of Marcus Robinson and also in capital murder trials across the state. The evidence was so clear that the judge rightly changed Robinson’s sentence from death to life in prison without parole. He also called for broader action to correct the widespread problem of race unjustly influencing death sentencing. 

Studies presented at Robinson’s hearing showed that white lives have routinely been valued more than black lives in our state. To my mind and heart, this is not justice.

I lost my sister, Jacquetta Thomas, when she was murdered in Raleigh in 1991. I know the pain, grief and anger of losing a loved one to murder. The wrong individual, Gregory Taylor, was convicted and served more than 17 years for her murder.

He was freed in 2010 after an investigation by the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission. I never believed Taylor was guilty, and I often have thought about what would have happened if he had been executed. 

My experience strengthened my belief that we need a judicial system that treats everyone’s life as having equal value. If there is inequality, if there is racial bias, there is no justice for the loved ones taken from us.

Judge Weeks said something else that really spoke to me as a family member of a murder victim. He said, “The very integrity of the court is jeopardized when a prosecutor’s discrimination invites cynicism respecting the jury’s neutrality and undermines public confidence.”

I want a court system that is strong. I want a trial process that I can trust.

Finally, North Carolina is beginning to see the racial injustice that has been going on for many years in our death penalty system. The troubling revelations of racial bias brought to light by this hearing offer us a chance to look at how broken the system is. While the RJA doesn’t repeal the death penalty, I pray this ruling will eventually lead to the death penalty being abolished in our great state.

I am especially proud of our state for examining our justice system, acknowledging injustice within the system and acting on it. I am convinced this can only strengthen our system and result in greater justice for us all — including justice for our murdered loved ones.

If anything, the RJA doesn’t go far enough. In light of this ruling that confirmed racial bias in our death penalty system, it’s time for North Carolina to seriously consider repealing the death penalty, as five other states have done in the past five years.