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The Death Penalty and the Victim’s Family. Brandon Crunkilton Jim Rogowski. Organizations for the needs of victims. Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR)

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The Death Penalty and the Victim’s Family


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    1. The Death Penalty and the Victim’s Family Brandon Crunkilton Jim Rogowski

    2. Organizations for the needs of victims

    3. Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) • Founded in 1976, Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation is a national organization of family members of both homicide and state killings who oppose the death penalty in all cases. Their primary mission is to abolish the death penalty. They support programs and policies that reduce the rate of homicide and promote crime prevention and alternatives to violence. They advocate for programs that address the needs of victims, helping them to rebuild their lives. • Murder Victim’s Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) • An international, non-governmental organization of family members of victims of criminal murder, terrorist killings, state executions, extrajudicial assassinations, and “disappearances” working to oppose the death penalty from a human rights perspective.  • Justice for All • A Texas-based not-for-profit group advocating for criminal justice reform with an emphasis on victim rights. Justice for All is a strong advocate of the death penalty.

    4. Victim Impact Statements • What are they? • Detailed accounts of the emotional, physical and financial effects the crime has had on the victim/family members • Who can submit them? • Crime victims • Close relatives of deceased victims and guardians of victims • Close friends (depending on jurisdiction) • What are the benefits? • Helps victims/family members feel they are participating in the justice system—gives them a feeling of “being heard” • Allows judges to see the impact of crimes on victims’ families

    5. States that allow VIS’s(2003—DPIC)

    6. How the VIS is used (Texas)

    7. Sample VIS (Mississippi)

    8. Impact Statement for Family Members or Friends of a Loved one

    9. Mother of James Connor • “May it please the Court.  I  represent my son, James Patrick Connor, who is not here, and my husband, and  our daughters and our four grandchildren.  More than anything else, I do this to honor him, because had the roles been reversed, he would be standing here today.  I also owe this to the other victims of violent crime who either stand silently by, or who speak and are not heard.   I owe it to the public,  I owe it to Jeffrey St. Pierre, who may not yet understand the magnitude of the loss he inflicted on the night of August 23, 1998.”

    10. Mother of Philip Ray Dover • Court edited the VIS • Defendant’s family was allowed to plead for his life, despite the fact they had not seen him for 4 years • Family members of the 4 slain victims were not allowed to address the jury with anything but their edited VIS…they were not allowed to inform them that they desired the death penalty • “When he can commit crimes like that and not get the death penalty, it seems like they won, not us.”

    11. “Right to View” Statutes • Guaranteed right for family members: • Oklahoma, Washington • Administrative hearings in order to determine who can attend: • California, Florida, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Illinois (may view through closed circuit TV)

    12. Right to View Statutes (Ohio) • ORC 2949.25 Attendance at execution of death sentence. • (A) At the execution of a death sentence, only the following persons may be present: • (1) The warden of the state correctional institution in which the sentence is executed or a deputy warden, any other person selected by the director of rehabilitation and correction to ensure that the death sentence is executed, any persons necessary to execute the death sentence by lethal injection, and the number of correction officers that the warden thinks necessary; • (2) The sheriff of the county in which the prisoner was tried and convicted; • (3) The director of rehabilitation and correction, or the director’s agent; • (4) Physicians of the state correctional institution in which the sentence is executed; • (5) The clergyperson in attendance upon the prisoner, and not more than three other persons, to be designated by the prisoner, who are not confined in any state institution; • (6) Not more than three persons to be designated by the immediate family of the victim; • (7) Representatives of the news media as authorized by the director of rehabilitation and correction. • (B) The director shall authorize at least one representative of a newspaper, at least one representative of a television station, and at least one representative of a radio station to be present at the execution of the sentence under division (A)(7) of this section. • Effective Date: 11-21-2001

    13. Victims’ Families Views

    14. Pro-Death Penalty Family Members

    15. Pro-Death Penalty • Opportunity for closure • Final opportunity to represent their murdered family members in the criminal justice process • Gives family members a sense of justice, although many family members express a desire for a more painful execution method

    16. Cary Ann Medlin • 8 year old girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in Tennessee • Just before being killed, she looked up at her murderer and said “Jesus loves you” • Murderer (Robert Glen Coe) was sentenced to death, but after 21 years, his sentence was overturned by an anti-death penalty judge • Cary’s mother had to go to Washington to appeal to a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee

    17. Anti-Death Penalty Family Members

    18. Anti-Death Penalty • No retaliatory death will compensate for the loss of a loved one • Closure comes from forgiveness, not witnessing an execution • A family needs compassion, not a grisly spectacle • Victims often seek a meaning to their victimization, not revenge—Some family members have found healing through reconciliation • Sometimes the prosecution will ignore the victim’s family members’ wishes and seek the death penalty—will go as far as attempting to prevent the impact statement from being seen/heard

    19. Anti-Death Penalty • Right to View Statutes • Adds another element to the already arbitrary death penalty process by leaving attendance decisions ot the discretion of prison officials • Additional problems arise if the prisoner killed more than one victim (limited viewing space)

    20. Anti-Death Penalty • States risk an emotional confrontation between the family members of the victim and the family members of the prisoner if they both attend the execution

    21. Rickey Langley Case • Murder of a six year old child • Prosecutors seeking to bar the use of VIS, since the mother of the victim has expressed opposition to the death penalty • “Too often, family members who oppose the death penalty are silenced, marginalized and abandoned, even by the people who are theoretically charged with helping them”

    22. Renny Cushing • Head of MVFHR • Three primary ways in which victims who oppose the death penalty face discrimination: • Denial of the right to speak and be heard • Denial of the right to information • Denial of the right to assistance and advocacy

    23. Maria Chavez • With the support of MVFR, California became the second statewide campaign to hire someone whose only job is to reach out to murder victim’s family members and families of the executed