Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Be careful when you're 'assuming'

Guest Column in amarillo.com by Linda L. White

Your recent editorial regarding the death penalty mentioned that one particular number was left out of the equation because it's too difficult to calculate - that of the number of victims of these 200 executed along with other victims of horrendous crimes. Left out also was the incalculable suffering of these victims.
I am one of those victims.

My 26-year-old daughter, Cathy, was murdered 22 years ago.

I assure you that I know and sympathize with their anguish over the loss of their loved ones. Rather than offer more statistics, though, I do believe in their merit when viewing the death penalty in our state, I will offer one simple story - mine.

It is the only subject that I am an expert in.

My daughter was killed by two 15-year-olds, so there was no death penalty, though they stood trial certified as adults and were given long sentences. I had no real position on the death penalty at that time - just the same visceral response that anyone has to hearing of truly heinous crimes. I often wanted to administer the punishment myself - I sometimes still do when I hear about crimes against children for I have five grandchildren of my own.

Three years after Cathy's murder, however, I decided to quit thinking on a purely emotional level and initiate a research project of my own about the death penalty. Following that exhaustive research, I became an opponent of capital punishment, and the last two decades have only strengthened my resolve. I believe it does nothing good for us as a society and only enlarges the circle of pain since it creates another grieving family, that of the offender who is executed by us.

Neither do I believe it is victim-friendly, since it consumes huge sums of money that could be used for direct victims' services, such as counseling, funeral expenses, and educational help for the children left behind.

Additionally, it focuses on the offender rather than on the victims - how many of us know the names of any of Ted Bundy's victims, for instance? Or of other high-profile killers? And finally, it promises closure (whatever that's supposed to be) to those who have had their loved ones murdered. Most of us would say that this is a false promise. We need healing, not closure on our loved ones.

I know I will never "get over" my daughter's death, any more than I expect others to.

But I also know that I have not gotten one single moment of comfort by the state of Texas' putting people to death on my behalf. What's more, I would hate it if that's what it took for me to move forward in my life.

Please don't assume that all victims are alike and that we all want killing done - or justified - in our names.

Linda L. White is a retired college professor. She lives in Magnolia.

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