Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty
ACLU NEWS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Don't Kill In My Name Say Families of Murder Victims
Ten Family Members Who Oppose the Death
When someone is murdered, most people wrongly believe that the family members want the killer executed. In recent years, however, a large proportion of family victims have spoken out and said they do not want the death penalty imposed on the murderer of their loved one. Many of these individuals are members of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, an anti-death penalty organization now almost 30 years old.
Some of their stories are chronicled in a new book, DON'T KILL IN OUR NAMES: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty (Rutgers University Press; 2003; $27) which relates how they came to be against capital punishment even though they and their families were marked forever by devastating tragedy.
Written by Rachel King of the American Civil Liberties Union's Capital Punishment Project, DON'T KILL IN OUR NAMES presents the stories of ten individuals who are unrelenting and public about their beliefs, sometimes at great personal cost. Not only do they endure the hostility of their loved ones who want the murderer executed, but they also often endure discrimination by the state and social ostracism in their communities.
All of these first hand experiences with homicide did not convince the family member that the death penalty was the solution to violence in our society, nor would it help them personally to heal. Two of the ten individuals featured in the book were strong supporters of the death penalty before their own personal tragedies. Four others had not formed a strong opinion on the issue. Several developed personal relationships with the killers and even worked to save their lives.
Marietta Jaeger Lane, whose seven-year-old daughter, Suzie, was kidnapped and murdered, says in the book: "The main reason I opposed the death penalty is because it dishonors Suzie's life. She had a sweet and gentle spirit. I don't want that spirit dishonored by having her death avenged with more violence."
King tells the story of the Reverend Billy Bosler who was stabbed to death in his church parsonage by a drug addict, who also grievously wounded Bosler's daughter, SueZann who became a member of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. "The justice system has had twenty-six years since reinstatement of the death penalty and they have not proven to us, the people that oppose the death penalty, that it works as a deterrent," SueZann Bosler says. "It won't bring our murdered family members or friends back. But killing them will make their families and friends suffer the way we have. There will be more victims."
The author says, "The people in this book have experienced the ugliness of violence firsthand. But instead of adding to the violence with another execution, they have chosen another way to heal. By renouncing violence and retribution, they have brought a small measure of peace to our troubled world. Ultimately, this is a book about hope."
Among favorable early reviews, Booklist said "These are heart-wrenching stories that tell of chilling encounters with murderers and kidnappers and heart-breaking struggles with other family members. King effectively explores both the personal and the public aspects of this controversial social issue, and relates how a project focused on the death penalty evolved into an examination of forgiveness and healing in the wake of family tragedy."
Before joining the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project, King was legislative counsel for the organization's Washington, D.C. national office where she lobbied on criminal justice issues and legislation. She is currently writing a book about the families of death row inmates.
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royalties go to:
Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights