Saturday, September 15, 2012

A victim's plea for mercy

From MVFHR Board Chair Vicki Schieber's op-ed, which appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday, September 14.  Vicki will be in Harrisburg on Monday testifying at the clemency hearing. See yesterday's post for the letter that MVFHR submitted to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.

A victim's plea for mercy. 
Many have come forward with concerns about the execution of Terrance Williams, which is to take place Oct. 3 unless his sentence is commuted. One objection in particular should be given great weight: that of Mamie Norwood, the widow of the man Williams killed in 1984.

I know what it means to lose someone you love to violence. In 1998, my beautiful daughter, Shannon, was murdered in Philadelphia. Shannon was a brilliant young woman and a student at the Wharton School. Every year that passes is full of reminders of what she might have become if not for an act of brutal, senseless violence.

Losing a loved one to murder is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. At first, my husband and I didn't know how we could go on with our lives. In the years since, working as an advocate for others affected by violent crime, I have learned that this is not unusual among victims' families. Many experience a similar cycle of emotions, from confusion and despair to anger and, for the lucky ones, some kind of peace, acceptance, and ability to continue living productive lives.

For my husband and me, our lifelong Catholic faith was the cornerstone of our ability to heal. All Christian faiths are based on humility before God and kindness to others. We are commanded to follow the Lord's Prayer, asking God to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." And because of our beliefs, we did not want the man who murdered our daughter to be put to death.

Shannon's murderer was known as the "Center City rapist." In addition to the murder of our daughter, he was ultimately charged with 13 sexual assaults in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

When our preference for a sentence of life in prison was made public, many wondered whether our wishes should be honored. The district attorney even publicly questioned our emotional health. This disrespect for a victim's family was an unexpected and very painful blow at a time when we were struggling to heal from the loss we had suffered.

I pray that Mamie Norwood gets more respect than we did. ...

Rest the rest.

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