Death Penalty Will Not Be Sought for Killing at Jewish Federation

Following an announcement that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty for Naveed Haq, who is accused of killing one woman and wounding five others at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, two of Haq's victims said they supported the decision to seek a life sentence. "The death penalty most likely promulgates further violence and revenge," said Cheryl Stumbo, who was wounded in the attack.  King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng classified it as "one of the most serious crimes that has ever occurred in this city." Layla Bush, who was also wounded by Haq during the July shooting, noted that she believes life in prison will be a tougher punishment than execution, adding, "I think this guy is someone who could feel remorse in prison. Two wrongs don't make a right."

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NEW RESOURCES: Victims' Group to Release Report on Families of the Executed

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights will release a new report on December 10 entitled “Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.” Families of the executed are victims, too, according to the new report, which draws upon the stories of three dozen family members of inmates executed in the United States and demonstrates that their experiences and traumatic symptoms resemble those of many others who have suffered a violent loss.

“I don’t think people understand what executions do to the families of the person being executed,” says Billie Jean Mayberry, one of the family members featured in the report. Mayberry’s brother, Robert Coe, was executed in Tennessee in 2000. “To us, our brother was murdered right in front of our eyes. It changed all of our lives.”

“Creating More Victims” includes recommendations for mental health professionals, educators, and child welfare advocates. MVFHR also plans to deliver the report to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights and request that that office undertake further study of the impact of executions on surviving families.

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NEW VOICES: Life Without Parole Offers Prosecutors, Jurors, and Victims an Acceptable Alternative to the Death Penalty

Prosecutors in Utah have stated that the sentencing option of life without parole has been very helpful in giving jurors and family members of victims a viable alternative to the death penalty.  Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom noted that life without parole is often a better option to present to jurors:  "It's a tool for juries as well as prosecutors and defense attorneys, too," Yocom said. "It's an alternative to avoid asking a jury of 12 people to make that decision," to impose the death penalty.

"I've talked to a lot of jurors in death-penalty cases, and the hardest thing you could ask a citizen to do is sit in judgment of life or death over an individual. It's a very difficult job to do," he added.

Robert Stott, another prosecutor with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, said the life-without-parole sentence is seen as just by many victims.  "What we found is that oftentimes what the families of victims want is to ensure the person not be able to commit the same kind of crime," Stott said.

He noted that many crime victims don't crave revenge, but simply want to make sure that there are no more victims and that the perpetrator never leaves prison. "I don't mean to speak for all of them, but I've dealt with many who find this satisfies their needs and desires," Stott said.

Utah has 22 prisoners serving life without parole and 9 inmates on death row.
(Deseret News, Nov. 13, 2006).  See Life Without Parole and Victims.
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NEW VOICES: "Death penalty isn't the justice I seek"

Bonita Spikes' husband was murdered 12 years ago.  She now works to end the death penalty in Maryland.  She recently wrote about her perspective on capital punishment in the Baltimore Sun.  She stated, in part:

I know that my late husband, Michael, who was an innocent bystander in a 1994 convenience store shooting in New York City, would be proud of me because he, too, opposed the death penalty.

. . . [M]ost relatives of murder victims drop their guard when I tell them that I experienced the grief-driven impulse for revenge when the hospital curtain was pulled aside, revealing my husband's body with a bullet wound in the chest.

But Michael's killers were never found, and I eventually realized that my desire to see the murderers brought to justice was prolonging my pain. I know I was a basket case until I decided to "let go and let God," as they say. I also know that it is wrong to kill and, therefore, punishing a murderer with death is as wrong as the original crime.
. . .
As an African-American woman, my opposition to capital punishment deepened when I learned how race infects who gets sentenced to life and who gets sentenced to death. . . . The murders of white Marylanders are more than twice as likely to bring death sentences, a disparity that only increases when the defendant is black. The vast majority of murder victims in our state are black, but all the men currently sitting on our death row were convicted of killing white people.
. . .
We may be moving toward ending the death penalty. We will all be better for it.

(Baltimore Sun, Nov. 7, 2006).  Read the article.  See Victims.


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NEW VOICES: NJ Assemblyman Changes Position on Death Penalty - Legislator Also Lost A Family Member

State Assemblyman Nelson T. Albano of Cape May, New Jersey, announced at a forum on the death penalty that he has changed his mind and now opposes capital punishment. Albano said that his change of heart came after reading a book about Kirk Bloodsworth, the 1st death-row inmate in the United States to be exonerated by DNA evidence. The book led him to the insight into that the capital-punishment system is flawed and should be put on hold.

"I think we owe it to the people in our prisons who are innocent to stop executing," he said.

Albano noted that his 19 year-old son was killed in 2001 by a drunken driver who was a 5-time repeat offender. He considers his son's killing an act of murder.

Nevertheless, he said a life sentence was more appropriate than the death penalty.  "I know what it feels like to want revenge," he said. “Let the guilty truly suffer and live their lives without freedom."

The state currently has a moratorium on executions while a commission is reviewing all aspects of the death penalty system.
(Atlantic City Press, Sept. 19, 2006).  See New Voices and Victims.

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EDITORIAL: Life Without Parole Would Serve Victims Better

As the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission continued its review of the state's law, the Asbury Park Press called for replacing capital punishment with the sentence of life without parole.  This would better serve the families of victims, according to the editorial, because the death penalty causes years of uncertainty with little prospect that the sentence will be carried out.  The editorial stated:

Reasons to drop death penalty Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 09/15/06

State legislators need no further proof about the merits of the death penalty law than to listen to the families of murder victims. Their pain at the thought that their loved one's killer can walk free after a successful appeal or at the end of his sentence should convince any wary lawmaker that life without parole is a far better punishment than a cell on death row.

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New Jersey Commission Weighs Whether Death Penalty Should be Continued

During its first public hearing on capital punishment, the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission heard testimony from witnesses representing a broad spectrum of opinions. Almost all those testifying spoke against retaining the death penalty.  Among those who testified before the 13-member panel were legal experts, religious leaders, murder victims' family members, and exonerees such as Larry Peterson, who spent 18 years in a New Jersey prison for a rape and murder he did not commit.

During the hearing, Peterson noted that he was grateful that jurors in his case chose not to hand down the death sentence sought by prosecutors because "if you take a life, you can't turn around and correct the wrong that has been done." It took Peterson's attorneys a decade to secure testing of biological samples using DNA technology. Those tests led to the reversal of his conviction and his release in May 2006. Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project in New York City, also testified about the issue of wrongful convictions during the hearing, noting, "It's ridiculous . . .to assume that mistakes will not be made. We have demonstrated that there is a lot of error in the system."

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"For survivors' sake, abolish the death penalty" by Richard Pompelio

From the Star Ledger.

For survivors' sake, abolish the death penalty
Monday, June 12, 2006

When capital punishment was reinstated in New Jersey more than a quarter-century ago, it was applauded as a declaration by our elected officials that they were going to be tough on crime. It has evolved, however, into an ideological war between the courts and the Legislature. It is a war with many casualties, including crime victims who are constantly caught in its crossfire. It is time to end this war. The death penalty process in the courts of New Jersey revictimizes crime victims by keeping them in the criminal justice system for as many as 20 years, with the re sult being the same: a reversal of the trial jury's death penalty verdict. This judicial process is an insult to survivors of murder and a disservice to the taxpayers who fund this travesty. It is time to bring some sanity to a law that by virtue of its implementation by those in power has no sanity.

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DPIC Bestows Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at National Press Club Luncheon

The Death Penalty Information Center held its 10th Annual Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards at the National Press Club on Monday, June 26.  This year’s award recipients were Jacqui Lofaro and Victor Teich of Justice Productions for their documentary “The Empty Chair,” and reporter Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times for his coverage of death row exoneree Ray Krone.

Lofaro and Teich received this year’s Award for excellence in the television broadcast category.  Their documentary, “The Empty Chair,” aired last year on the Hallmark Channel’s World of Faith and Values television network. This documentary tells the story of murder victims’ families confronting the loss of their loved ones and explores whether the death penalty can address their pain.

Robert Nelson of the Phoenix New Times received this year’s Award for excellence in print journalism. Nelson’s article “About Face” profiled the case of Ray Krone, who was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in Arizona before he was freed based on DNA evidence. The piece explores the state’s efforts to keep Krone behind bars, as well as Krone’s life after his exoneration. Krone and Renny Cushing of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights presented this year’s Thurgood Marshall Journalism Awards.

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NEW VOICES: Mother of September 11 Victim Opposes Death Penalty for Moussaoui

Alice Hoagland's son, Mark Bingham (pictured), was killed on September 11 as he joined with fellow United Airlines passengers to ground a plane that may have been headed toward the White House. Hoagland is urging a life sentence for Zacarias Moussaoui, who faces the death penalty for his role in the terrorist events of that day. In an interview with The Advocate, Hoagland noted that sparing Moussaoui's life would honor "a reverence for all life" and that it would prevent some from viewing him as a martyr. Hoagland, a former flight attendant who is now active in transportation safety issues, stated:

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