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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Victims group in town to share testimony

October 8, 1994
    They are not public prosecutors.
    They are not defense attorneys.
    They are not law enforcement officials.
    They are not professors of criminology, social scientists, psychiatrists, or sociologists.
    They are ordinary American citizens with one difference – somebody in their family has been murdered.  Brutally, senselessly, violently, murdered.
    These citizens, black and white, male and female, are members of a national organization called Murder Victims for Reconciliation.  These people do not believe that capital punishment is the appropriate penalty for the crime of murder.
    They have been telling their story all across Georgia the last two weeks in what they call a Journey of Hope.  They have traveled from Atlanta to Waycross, from Milledgeville to Albany.  Now they arrive in Columbus.
    What unites these people – in addition to the murder of a family member – is their religious conviction that the death penalty is wrong.  They understand that vengeance is not the answer to violence.  Vengeance cannot heal the pain.
    Marietta Jaeger’s 7-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped, strangled, decapitated and dismembered while on a camping trip in 1983.  The murderer was apprehended.  Yet Jaeger is one who opposes the death penalty.  One of her reasons is “To kill someone in a cold-blooded, premeditated manner in my daughter’s name would violate and profane the goodness, sweetness and beauty of her life.  The loved ones who have been wrenched from our lives by violent crime deserve a more noble and honorable memorial than state-sanctioned killings, which only create more victims and more grieving families.”
    This is a powerful testimony coming from anybody…but coming from the lips of one who has suffered first hand, it carries the ring of authority.
    Members of MVFR do not advocate easy sentences, a slap on the wrist and then a return to society.  They advocate life sentences that are really for “life.”  But they refuse to let their lives be bound up in hatred, retribution and vengeance.
    The death penalty is overwhelmingly popular with the American public.  Whenever a brutal, ugly murder takes place the blood boils.  Cries for revenge ring forth.  Those who opposed the death penalty are always asked, “You might be against the death penalty in this case, but what if it were somebody in your own family who was murdered?”
    That’s what makes the voices of these people so eloquent.  They have tasted grief and pain and are working through it out of a faith stance based on something more than an eye for an eye.
    On Oct. 11 and 13 they will be here in Columbus.  They want to speak to anybody who will listen as they share their pain, their journey and their hope.  A partial schedule includes: Oct. 11: LaGrange Interagency Council at Advent Lutheran Church; 12:30-2 p.m. at Columbus College; 5:45-7 p.m. on WOKS Radio in Columbus.  Oct. 14: 7:45-9 a.m. on WEAM Radio in Phenix City; noon-1:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Columbus; also noon-1:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Library, Hamilton, Ga.,; 6-8:30 p.m. at Holy Family Church in Columbus; and 7 p.m. at St. John Episcopal Church in West Point, Ga.
    If you have ever had any doubts about the efficacy of the death penalty, these families of murder victims have a powerful testimony.  For more information about the organization, times or dates, call Vicky Partin in Columbus at 327-0400.