Dead Brother Walking

Having the state act in a manner that models the kind of behavior society deems acceptable is why many of those dealing with the loss of a loved one believe the death penalty creates barriers to healing the emotional and social wounds caused by murder. The negativity of taking a life makes it harder victim’s families to have a positive focus on their loved when the state repeatedly reminds them of the event by killing in their name.

David Gallagher, a local attorney and death penalty opponent, explains the implications of the death penalty on victims’ families by referring to Sam Reese Sheppard, the son of Dr. Samuel H. Shepard, who was convicted of killing his wife but later acquitted. Gallagher debunks the idea that anger and retaliation can lead to healing and peace frequently called “closure.”

“Sam speaks as the son of an innocent man on death row and a murder victim, his mother. When he talks about the victim’s families who become fixated on the death of the killer providing them some sense of closure, some sense of relief, (they) are left with a true sense of hollowness when that even happens.

“Once that death is gone, there’s nothing left to take that place any more. These people find they have permanently damaged or severed ties with family and close friends because they became almost consumed with the death of the killer. They talk about the wasted energy and hours and days spent on somebody that most of society would say should never have been the focus of their attention.”

Jay Clark, a Cincinnati attorney and teacher at UC, believes the death penalty defies the argument of justice for the victims by artificially elevating their importance to a point where other murder victims are deemed less valuable.

“Supporters will say it’s just another way to deny justice to the victim’s family. Bullshit,” he says. “In a death penalty case, you have to have the aggravating circumstance of a robbery, a murder or rape. Why is a victim’s life more valuable if he was being robbed than if he was shot randomly? In other non-capital crimes cases were the death penalty doesn’t apply, are those victims’ lives less valuable?”

The rhetorical question frequently posed by those who oppose the death penalty brings the point home in a way many never consider: What if that were your brother on death row?

Insert child, parent, aunt, cousin or anyone you love and you get the idea that just because someone else doesn’t value the life of your loved one doesn’t mean the value you have for him disappears.

— Margo Pierce

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One Comment on “Dead Brother Walking”

  1. “David Gallagher, a local attorney and death penalty opponent,”

    I’ve never heard of Gallagher, but I felt the need to inform the too numerous dyslexic here that there is a big difference betwixt Gallagher’s and Gallaher’s.
    Over in Ireland, we’d be gunnin’ for one another. Here we simply need to share a brewski, and understand one another.

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