A frequent justification for pursuing the death penalty is to do justice for and provide closure to the families of victims. To be sure, families’ views on the death penalty are deeply personal. But it is important to realize that to some family members, the death penalty only compounds the pain and trauma of losing a loved one.
The Voices of Family Members
My mom is in prison for murdering my grandma, but she doesn’t deserve the death penalty Fusion, September 13, 2016
This piece highlights the stress that comes with wondering if a family member will be subjected to the death penalty.
Death penalty punishes survivors like me: Column USA Today, August 28, 2016
Tanya Coke reflects on her experience after her sister’s murder and how the death penalty can deprive victims of closure.
“Darlene Farah: Prosecutors won’t budge on death penalty.” WJAX, January 21, 2016.
This article describes a mother’s efforts to convince prosecutors not to seek the death penalty against her daughter’s accused killer, in order to avoid the pain of a long judicial process.
Dawn Mancarella. “Capital Punishment a Waste of Energy and Money.” The Register Citizen, January 21, 2016.
Dawn Mancarella, whose mother was murdered 20 years ago, discusses the pain the death penalty causes families, its lack of closure, and the imbalance of resources spent on the capital cases versus victims’ services.
Christy Sheppard. “Richard Glossip case: We can’t be cavalier about the death penalty.” The Oklahoman, September 12, 2015.
Drawing on her personal experience as the man sentenced to death for her cousin’s murder was exonerated, Christy Sheppard underscores the difficulty and importance of ensuring that those sentenced to death are actually guilty.
Rita Boller & Gene Kimmi
Rita Boller and Gene Kimmi. “The Kansas Death Penalty is Broken.” Kansas City Star, May 5, 2015.
Two sisters whose mother was murdered speak out against the death penalty, citing its cost and the fact that “Too often, those who suffer the most from the current system are murder victims’ families.”
Bill & Denise Richards
Bill and Denise Richards. “To end the anguish, drop the death penalty.” Boston Globe, April 17, 2015.
The parents of the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombing opposed the death penalty so that their son’s killer would be taken out of the spotlight to allow them to heal.
Karil Klingbeil. “Death Penalty – Costly for Families of Victims Too.” Seattle Times, September 4, 2011. In this column, Karil Klingbeil, whose sister was murdered 30 years ago speaks about her experience with the system and how her views shifted from supporting to opposing the death penalty.
Studies and Other Resources
Jason Marsh. “Does Death Penalty Bring Closure?” CNN.com, May 20, 2015.
This article examines whether the death penalty brings closure for families, and surveys recent studies that indicate that it does not.
Corey Burton and Richard Tewksbury. “How Families of Murder Victims Feel Following the Executions of Their Loved One’s Killer: A Content Analysis of Newspaper Reports of Executions from 2006-2011.” Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology 2013.
This study analyzed post-execution media statements by victims’ family members, and found that 31% expressed feeling closure, and 35% expressed a sense of justice being served.
Thomas Mowen and Ryan Schroeder. “Not In My Name: An Investigation of Victims’ Family Clemency Movements and Court Appointed Closure.” Western Criminology Review 2011.
This study surveys media coverage of executions to ascertain how often victims’ families support or oppose the death penalty. The authors conclude that families’ opposition to the death penalty has increased over the past two decades.