Don't Kill in Our Names

June 9, 2003 12:00 am

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“”Don’t Kill In Our Names”” – New Book Gives Murder Victims Opposed to Death Penalty a Louder Voice in the Debate

Washington, DC – June 9, 2003 – Murder victims who oppose the death penalty often have a tough time being heard. But a new book that profiles 10 such people may change that.

“”One of the reasons most frequently given for the continued use of the death penalty is that it helps the victims,”” says Rachel King, author of Don’t Kill in Our Names: Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty(Rutgers University Press; 2003; $27, 0-8135-3182-9). “”It’s important that people hear about the fact that many victims do not believe this to be true. In fact, they believe that supporting the death penalty harms victims and society at large.””

King, an attorney with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, is donating the royalties from the book to victims’ organizations. The men and women profiled in the book are members of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR,) an organization founded in 1976 by Marie Deans after her mother-in-law was murdered.

“”These are people who are frequently dismissed as saints or lunatics,”” says King. “”But they’re not. They’re ordinary people who have experienced horrible, life-changing events.””

Two of the ten individuals featured in the book were strong supporters of the death penalty before their own personal tragedies. Four others had not formed a strong opinion on the issue. Several developed personal relationships with the killers and even worked to save their lives.

Marietta Jaeger Lane’s seven-year-old daughter, Suzie, was kidnapped and murdered,. “”The main reason I opposed the death penalty is because it dishonors Suzie’s life,”” she says in the book. “”She had a sweet and gentle spirit. I don’t want that spirit dishonored by having her death avenged with more violence.””

SueZann Bosler’s father, the Reverend Billy Bosler, was stabbed to death in his church parsonage. She was seriously injured in the same attack. “”The justice system has had twenty-seven years since reinstatement of the death penalty and they have not proven to us, the people that oppose the death penalty, that it works as a deterrent,”” she says in the book. “”It won’t bring our murdered family members or friends back. But killing them will make their families and friends suffer the way we have. There will be more victims.””

King interviewed dozens of people while researching the book, ultimately choosing these stories because they illustrate particular aspects of the death penalty: innocence, racial bias, mental retardation and juvenile executions.

“”The people in this book have experienced the ugliness of violence firsthand,”” says King. “”But instead of adding to the violence with another execution, they have chosen another way to heal. By renouncing violence and retribution, they have brought a small measure of peace to our troubled world. Ultimately, this is a book about hope.””

Before joining the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, King was legislative counsel for the organization’s Washington, D.C. national office where she lobbied on criminal justice issues and legislation. She is currently writing a book about the families of death row inmates.


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