All executions upset me. The prolonged execution of Dennis McGuire was particularly distressing. My sister was murdered in 1975, and I oppose the death penalty for many reasons including the additional pain and violence that accompanies a capital murder trial, including the appeals and execution. I am a member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR). Our members are people like me whose loved ones have been murdered or executed and who oppose the death penalty.
When I heard about Mr. McGuire’s execution, I immediately thought of Joy Stewart’s family. They have already endured years of pain with the murder, the trial, appeals and media coverage detailing the brutal violence of Joy’s murder. Joy and her family are almost forgotten in the firestorm of controversy and international coverage that is unfolding since the execution. Had Mr. McGuire been given a sentence of life without parole, Joy’s family would have been able to put the court proceedings and media coverage behind them long ago.
I also thought about Mr. McGuire’s children who witnessed the execution. They were subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” and are now a traumatized and grieving family. My fellow MVFR member, Rose Clark, witnessed the execution of her brother Ernest in 2002. She said, “The horrors of the death penalty do not end with an execution, it is in the hearts and faces of the victims left behind. Both victims of the person that was murdered and the family of the person executed. They are sentenced to living with it for the rest of their lives.”
It is time for the United States to acknowledge that the death penalty cannot heal the victim’s family, and by perpetuating the violence it is meant to punish, it creates more trauma and grief. It is time for us to find better ways to provide safety and respond to victims’ families’ needs.
Jean Parks MVFR Member North Carolina