Don't Kill in Our Names

Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty

A book by Rachel King

Gus Lamm's (left) daughter Audrey Lamm was only two when her mother Vicki Zessin and a friend were stabbed to death while the three women spent the night in a Quaker meetinghouse.
Photo by permission of the family


Subject: Sociology/
Criminology/Public Policy/
Cultural Studies
ISBN 0-8135-3182-9
Cloth: 304 pp.

All book royalties go to:
Murder Victims' Families
for Human Rights
Journey of Hope…
From Violence to Healing

Gripping stories of people who have lost a loved one to murder and oppose the death penalty.


Review by Colman McCarthy in the
Washington Post - In Brief
Sunday, August 24, 2003

Among death penalty opponents, only a few came to that conviction the hard way: in the course of dealing with a family member's murder. After the normal emotions of grief, rage and a desire for vengeance, they embraced forgiveness, mercy and, in some cases, reconciliation with the killer. Many go further by pleading with judges and juries not to execute their relative's executioner.

The stories of these abolitionists, artfully and factually reported by ACLU attorney Rachel King in Don't Kill in Our Names , adds to the growing literature on the death penalty. In 10 chapters, the narrative effectively weaves the details of the homicides with the personal reflections of the survivors. "They have rejected the values of retribution and vengeance," King writes, "for a belief in the power of redemption and change-both for the victim and for the offender." In addition to paying high emotional prices for this belief, many faced the cost of unexpected surtaxes from members of their own families who favor capital punishment. Bill Pelke, an Indiana steelworker whose grandmother was knifed to death by a rampaging teenager was publicly criticized by his father for being "one of the so-called new breed who doesn't believe people should have to pay their debts." Maria Hines, sister of a Virginia state trooper slain in 1989, has been ignored by many of her relatives.

For SueZann Bosler, who was repeatedly stabbed in 1986 in her Florida living room by an intruder who had just killed her father a few feet away, it went further. At a sentencing hearing, where she told the jury that she forgave her father's killer and opposed his execution, Bosler was threatened by the judge with criminal contempt and six months in jail if she dared express those sentiments again to the jury.

Those whose stories are here belong to Murder Victim's Families for Reconciliation based in Cambridge, Mass. Membership grows.


All royalties go to: Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights
and Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing.
Author Rachel King, at the time of her death, Aug. 25, 2008, was a lawyer on staff of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and former anti-death penalty organizer for American Civil Liberties Union Capital Punishment Project.
Order online her books Don't Kill in Our Names and
Capital Consequences: Families of the Condemned Tell Their Stories
Read Rachel's articles and 2007 novel, Tales of the District free online!
Email Us   ©2003-2016

See Rachel King video interview