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Monday, November 19, 2018

Visiting group calls for ending of death penalty


By: Angela Cummings
The Union-Recorder
October 13, 1994


    The only ounce of kindness ever shown to one man came from the daughter of an old couple he slaughtered in their Oklahoma farmhouse in 1990.
    “I told him, if you’re guilty, then I forgive you,” said Kansas native Sue Norton.  “If God could forgive (him), then I could too.”
    Norton told a small group of Milledgeville residents Wednesday how she clasped the hardened criminal’s hand in hers, and said a prayer – asking the Lord to forgive his sins.
    She spoke during an emotional meeting at the First Presbyterian Church.  She is part of a group called Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.  Its members, many of whom have lost relatives to violent crime, believe the death penalty is not the answer to crime.  A band of members visited Milledgeville during a statewide tour.
    “Forgiving (him) was a healing process for me,” said Norton.  She even drives eight hours round trip, regularly, to visit the convicted murderer on death row.
    “I’ve been fighting the state, trying to get him off death row.  I don’t think he should be free.  But I don’t want him killed,” she said.  “Execution creates another set of victims.”
    “There’s no comfort or justice in the death penalty.  There’s often no compassion in the justice system for victims,” said Charlie King from Connecticut.
    “Don’t kill for me,” said Eloise Williams of New Orleans, fighting back tears she’s cried many times over her 19-year-old son, who was killed in 1982.  Although she said she believes her son’s murder was planned by local law enforcement, she doesn’t agree with the death penalty.
    “I don’t want anyone to kill for me.  But I want (the killer) to go through the due process, to stay in prison long enough to think about what he’s done.  But don’t’ kill for me.”
    Elizabeth Minter, a church member who has always opposed the death penalty, said more money and time needs to be spent on preventing crime.
    Williams agreed.
    “We need to stop thinking about after-the-fact.  If you want to get something better, then you have to give something better,” she said.
    One member wore a T-shirt that said, “An eye for an eye makes the world blind.”  He suggested an alternative: life with the possibility of parole – perhaps after 25 years or so – because mandating life without parole deprives an inmate of hope and can even produce worse criminals.
    The group also supports rehabilitating criminals, then getting them to counsel youngsters and other criminals.
    Group members told the audience to write their legislators, asking them to oppose the death penalty.
    “I think it’s interesting to hear the reaction from people who have had someone in their family murdered,” said the Rev. Bill Morgan, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.