Linda Burks Brown, Sister of Willie. Denver, Colorado

Sharing painful stories is hard; yet the more we share the more healing takes place. The pain becomes power; and with power there is freedom. My brother was murdered by his stepson. And, during the same time, my daughter was convicted of a crime that she did not commit. I was living a tale of two scenarios. On one hand I was a crime victim. On the other, I was victimized. I saw the justice systems through very diverse lenses and such was treated in two distinct ways. As a victim of crime, even though I had many needs that weren’t met, I was treated with compassion and tenderness. As a loved one of the accused, I was treated like I committed a crime – with disdain and pity. Regardless, I believe that life is precious. People can redeem themselves; and more importantly, the financial investment of putting someone to death can be redirected to help the families that need it most – usually the victims.

There is something that I know as truth. Just as there are men and women that are guilty of causing harm or death to another – there are also innocent men and women behind bars who are left to rot by a judicial system that is not perfect. If there is any purpose in my pain – it is this – advocacy for life, justice and the pursuit of happiness. Mostly the pursuit of life, healing and a criminal justice system that rights the wrong with life; not righting the wrong with death.

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