News&Record: Opinion: Better choices than the death penalty

By Dr. Jean Parks

“I am writing in response to the article “Study ties race to death penalty” (Aug. 15). Specifically, I am concerned about the comments of Tom Bennett of the N.C. Victim Assistance Network.

He appeared to be speaking for all family members of murder victims when he said we don’t care about studies and averages concerning how the death penalty is imposed and that the death penalty shows society’s respect for survivors and puts some value on the life of the murdered person.

Mr. Bennett does not speak for me. My sister was murdered in Raleigh in 1975. The man convicted of her murder was sentenced to life in prison. I strongly oppose the death penalty and was relieved that he was not sentenced to die.

I feel offended whenever anyone suggests that the death penalty should be imposed for the benefit of victims’ family members. The execution of the murderer would not ease any of my grief. If you support the death penalty, please do not advocate for it in my name.

The death penalty perpetuates the violence in our society and creates another grieving family. As long as N.C. continues to have the death penalty, it is critical that we impose it fairly, without racial bias, conscious or unconscious. I am proud that legislators passed the Racial Justice Act to make it possible for those facing execution to use statistical evidence to demonstrate bias if it exists. That’s why we need the research and studies.

I know other North Carolinians who have lost a loved one to murder and oppose the death penalty. If N.C. citizens want to show respect to our families and value our loved ones’ lives, there are many things they can do instead of killing more people.

For example, N.C. could make counseling free and easily accessible to survivors. The state could fund enough victim advocates so that all families receive adequate information and preparation before a trial begins and develop a victim-offender dialogue program so that the family members who wish to do so can talk to the murderer in a safe and controlled encounter.

The money N.C. spends on the death penalty for trials, appeals and executions could instead be spent on violence prevention and offender intervention programs such as the Juvenile Justice Project at Campbell University. Preventing violent crime is something that would truly honor our loved ones.”

«Better choices than the death penalty

The original article this is in response to:

«Study ties race to death penalty