As many of you who follow the blog regularly know, we tried something a little different for the holidays this year. With the help of Susannah Sheffer over at Murder Victims Family Members for Human Rights, we published a ten-part series that looked at a forgotten and neglected population: the family members of people who are executed and what their experiences are like when executions happen.
All of the stories touched me. I have to tell you, though, the stories involving the children and the young adults touched me the most.
Today, as a post-script to the series, we are publishing part of an Associated Press story. This AP story -- like our 10-part series -- was prompted by the MVFHR report Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind.
Families of condemned suffer silently
By Kristen Gelineau
RICHMOND, Va. — The phone call Ida Reid had been fearing finally arrived on the evening of Sept. 9, 2004.
"They're gonna do it," her brother said.
Her stomach churned. Her body shook.
In a few hours, her brother would be dead.
The clock in the kitchen of her Charlottesville home ticked down the final minutes. Just after 9 p.m., she clutched her mother and began to cry.
In Virginia's death chamber, James Reid was receiving a lethal njection, his punishment for murdering an elderly woman.
In her kitchen, a pain Ida could not explain had taken over, and it felt
like a punishment, too — but one she would have to endure forever, even as her brother's came to an end.
In the contentious death penalty debate, they are a group that usually goes overlooked. Family members of the condemned haven't committed the crimes that landed their loved ones on death row. But they often feel punished anyway, by a society that sometimes shuns and vilifies them, by a grief that few understand.
Their unique experiences are detailed in the report "Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind," by Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. The anti-death penalty organization in Cambridge, Mass., is made up of families of murder victims and families of the executed.
"These are victims, too," said Susannah Sheffer, co-author of the report, which is based on interviews with 36 relatives of executed inmates across the nation. "These people exist, they are harmed and we need to address that harm."
Since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, more than 1,000 people have been executed in the United States.
"You think about the family of the person the crime was committed against, but I don't think a lot of people think about the family of the person who was executed — who are also innocent victims," said Melanie Hebert, whose uncle, Spencer Goodman, was executed in Texas in 2000 for the abduction and fatal beating of a Houston woman. "People think of us as kind of throwaway people."
You can read the rest of the Associated Press article here.