Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Another Way

More often than not, when our staff goes out to make a presentation in the community, we will get the comment, "You would feel differently about the death penalty if someone you loved was brutally murdered." Of course, I cannot pretend to know how that reality must feel for a loved one--the devastation, the rage, the pain that never goes away.

And yet, when I get such a comment, going to the heart of many people's support for the death penalty, I usually respond by saying, "You are right. I don't know how I would feel, but I hope that I would choose to respond in the same way that some murder victims' family members who I am privileged to know have responded."

Last night, I had the pleasure of sharing a meal and conversation with several family members of those who have lost children, siblings, and parents to murder, all who believe that the death penalty does nothing to bring healing, and in fact, only creates a more violent society and more devastated victims.

This group of family members have come together with other TCASK activists to create the Murder Victims' Family Speakers Bureau. The Speakers Bureau partners a victim's family member with an activist who then become a speaking team, making presentations to faith communities, on college campuses, and to legislators with the goal of ending the death penalty in Tennessee.

The hope is that the team can support one another, providing both with inspiration and confidence as they talk with various groups. While the family member shares a very difficult story of personal tragedy, the activist shares the facts about the failure of the death penalty as a public policy. Not only can such a team share the message of abolition in a powerful and personal way but can also inspire other victims' families who are opposed to the death penalty to find their voice, a voice which may have been silenced by the current system--a system often determined to seek the death penalty even, at times, against the wishes of the family.

There is no greater witness to the healing power of forgiveness than these courageous family members who, in spite of their pain, choose to seek a way to healing which does not require the death of another person. As Clemmie Greenlee, the mother of a son who was murdered on the streets of Nashville often says, "Why would I, the Mama of a murdered son, want to see another Mama's son murdered? I can't live with that."

In the tradition of Murder Victim's Families for Human Rights and the Journey of Hope--organizations of family members speaking out against the death penalty--TCASK hopes that this Speakers Bureau adds a much needed voice to the discussion of the death penalty in Tennessee while providing a powerful witness to the citizens of our state that there is a better way to support victims' families.
Comments :
I think courage is better exemplified by Maureen Faulkner, a woman who goes to every one of the court hearings for Mumia Abu-Jamal, despite the fact that animals spit on her. Perhaps, people on your side will take the time to decry that outrage.
I don’t see how comparing the courage of individuals taking action amidst great pain accomplishes anything. Faulkner and our Murder Victims’ Family Speakers Bureau are both doing things that I would find excruciatingly painful and cannot relate to because I have not had a family member murdered.

Now, I’m not aware of what “animals spit on her” but it’s almost as if you are equalizing their actions to our inaction to laud what Faulkner does. I feel for Faulkner—I feel for every family member that has to go through the pain of murder—but I am disappointed to see folks think that our actions translate into a general disrespect for family members of murder victims.

Perhaps, you should stop assuming that we do not think that these things are wrong. Perhaps, people on your side will hear our MVFSB and listen to their powerful stories of family members murdered and how death, in any form, solves nothing.
Ike, I don't believe I said that you guys didnt care about Mrs. Faulkner. What I am saying is that in your perpetually outraged states, none of you ever seems to take the time to note some pretty awful occurrences like what has happened to Mrs. Faulkner and to tell those people to stop.
It is always horrible when someone loses their life. When someone else chooses to be a part in ending that person's life it is terribly grievous. However, I doubt that most people do not understand that the actual sentencing of the person who takes the life of another is self-imposed. Do you think a conscious human being could ever STOP thinking about that act?

I applaud this group's efforts simply because every person on Death Row is not guilty. I know this because my son sits on death row as one of the "innocent ones".

However, even if we could prove without a "shadow of a doubt" that everyone on death row deserved to be executed, I still can not find a reason for even a govermentally sanctioned pre-meditated MURDER. Murder by any other name is still MURDER.

I have heard and read numerous reasons which supporters of the Death Penalty present as arguments to support their actions. Yet I have not yet found one which is LEGALLY nor morally valid.

Perhaps I am the one who is wrong. If so, All I ask is that someone show me proof, REAL proof that they are right!!!!

It is time that we use our legal system as it was originally intended.

Again, I whole-heartedly support all of your efforts to bring a Moratorium on this Barbaric act, so that this country can reach a level of true "civilization".
We are abolishing the death penalty in Tennessee. We are accountable for people that are part of our organization, TCASK. Some abolitionists do not act accordingly such as in the case of Mrs. Faulkner. Is this our fault as well? Should we go out of our way to apologize for these folks?

Why bring these folks up in the first place, it is negative advocacy that obviously accomplishes little. The same can be said for those who are extremely negative against us...since I've been here (4 weeks), I've seen no mention of this. We do not feel the need to bring that up.

Thanks "baby boy's mother" for posting some great points and following up on the importance of those who have REAL experience with having a family member on death row speaking out.
The death penalty is not barbarism. Not by any stretch.
These family members of victims speaking out against the Death Penalty are heroes in my book. They show the victorious spirit of Christ to rise above and win over hatred and vengence. Each time they choose the course they take in this matter, it's very inspirational for me in a much broader sense.
Like Philip Workman they teach all of us that we can win over death. Hopefully state sanctioned killing will cease to exist.
I have a question for baby boy's mother. Let me preface it by saying that if your son is truly innocent, then I hope that the truth comes out.

My question is this--why would ridding the country of the death penalty, be an act which allows us to reach a true level of civilization? The reality is that, putting innocence issues aside, lenience toward violent criminals can be traced to far far more deaths (of necessarily innocent people) than capital punishment. Why isn't then stopping lenience to violent criminals more of a priority than stopping the death penalty?

Whenever people say that the death penalty is barbaric, I think of crimes like this. Not so much because of vengeance, although the people that perpetrated this awful crime need to be executed, but rather the preventability of such crimes. Both of the criminals here had long records and therefore should have been put away for life. But they weren't, and three people got to die because of it, in an unimaginable way.

What kind of barbarism is unleashed by these soft on crime policies and why is it somehow less barbaric than executing murderers?
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