Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Challenging the Stereotype

Yesterday's Salon.com has this reposted this story from The Crime Report:

Death penalty opponents' unlikely allies. 

Across the country, family members of murder victims have come out against capital punishment

Monday, August 20, 2012

At the NOVA conference

MVFHR is at the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) conference this week, where we will be presenting workshops on "Working with Victims Who Oppose the Death Penalty" and "Victims After Exoneration." We look forward to giving reports of both workshops. In the meantime, check out NOVA's many valuable services for victims of crime.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Memoriam: Hugo Bedau

We were saddened to learn yesterday of the death of Hugo Bedau, who was widely known for his work on the death penalty. As MVFHR Executive Director Renny Cushing wrote, "Hugo was such a giant, a hero and an inspiration, a teacher in every sense of the word. All of us who work for human rights and the abolition of the death penalty mourn today."

The Death Penalty Information Center has this notice:

Dr. Bedau had been the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University, and is best known for his work on capital punishment. Dr. Bedau frequently testified about the death penalty before the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures. He authored several books about the death penalty, including The Death Penalty in America (1964; 4th edition, 1997), The Courts, the Constitution, and Capital Punishment (1977), Death is Different (1987), and Killing as Punishment (2004), and co-authored In Spite of Innocence (1992).  This last book, written with Prof. Michael Radelet of the University of Colorado and Constance Putnam (Dr. Bedau's wife), contained one of the best early collections of people who had been wrongly convicted in death penalty cases. In 1997, Bedau received the August Vollmer Award of the American Society of Criminology, and in 2003 he received the Roger Baldwin Award from the ACLU of Massachusetts.  Dr. Bedau was a founding member of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Family doesn't want the death penalty

From the Clanton (Alabama) Advertiser, 8/2/12, "Family of shooter, victims asks prosecutor not to seek the death penalty":

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for Ann Campbell, who is accused of shooting her two sons in June 2011, killing one.

C.J. Robinson, deputy district attorney, said officials originally sought the death penalty but changed course after conversations with the family of Campbell and the victims.

“The family unanimously asked us not to pursue the death penalty,” Robinson said. “The death penalty is no longer on the table.”

Robinson said he recently notified the court of the decision. Prosecutors will now seek a sentence of life in the prison without parole.

It does a disservice

MVFHR's Program Director Kate Lowenstein is quoted in today's Time magazine piece, "Dancing Around the Death Penalty" by Erika Christakis:

Our eye-for-an-eye approach to the death penalty is getting progressively harder to support with reason. We know the death penalty doesn’t deter people. We know it is extremely expensive to apply “fairly.” So the only remaining arguments are emotional — the most compelling of which is that the families of murder victims want it.

Interestingly, the “closure” defense of the death penalty only gained traction in the early 1990s when deterrence arguments came up short and states found it increasingly difficult to bear the costs. Yet, defending the death penalty out of revenge or sensitivity to the victims’ families does a disservice to the many families who do not want this kind of justice. “It’s almost like if you really loved the person who was killed, you should seek the death penalty,” Kate Lowenstein, program staff at Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (and the daughter of a murdered father), explained to TIME.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I was forced to contemplate it

Yesterday's New York Times has an opinion piece from a victim's family member about the unusual circumstances under which he came to oppose the death penalty. Matthew Parker was 19 when his brother John was murdered.

My brother had been stabbed numerous times, his throat slashed. The crime occurred in a park in South Phoenix. An ex-con from Oklahoma was later found guilty of first-degree murder.
Overnight, I became a believer in the death penalty. Before John’s murder, I thought that killing a person in any form was wrong. “I want closure,” I would rant to anyone who’d listen. “I want justice.” But what I really wanted was blood and vengeance.
A few years after John died I moved to Arizona and, several years after that, was sentenced to prison. I was a junkie and a petty thief, the latter a direct result of the former. Between 1987 and 2002 I was constantly being locked up. Aside from time in the county jail, I also served roughly 10 years in both federal and state institutions.

Matthew Parker confronts the possibility of encountering his brother's murderer in prison, and writes:

It’s easy enough to think about vengeance, even to declare a desire for it, but being confronted with the mechanics of murder is a different matter entirely. It forced me to examine my motives more closely, and to think about the sheer intimacy inherent in acts of violence. I’d been in fistfights in jail and prison — fighting is just a fact of life on the inside — but they were relatively harmless and over quickly. Now I was forced to contemplate actual murder, and decided that it just wasn’t in me to attack another human being with intent to kill or, a distinct possibility, be killed. It took [being in the same prison system as my brother's murderer] to teach me that I didn’t want to kill anybody, and from there it wasn’t much of a mental leap to conclude that I didn’t want the state do it for me, either.