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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10-10 The Post

Victim’s daughter opposes death penalty
By: Katie Rife

    A group of about 45 Ohio University student and Athens residents gathered at Chris the King University Parish, 75 Stewart St., last night for the Journey of Hope, a national tour of murder victims’ family members speaking about their opposition to the death penalty.
    Kristi Smith, a stay-at-home mom, spoke about her opposition to the death penalty as part of the tour.  In 1978, three men fled the scene of a robbery and shot Smith’s father three times in the chest, killing him.
    “I was just absolutely stunned,” Smith said of the murder.  “I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t live in a worth of violence…at 18.  Things like that are hard to deal with.  They’re still hard to deal with.”
    Smith said because of her Christian faith, she is unable to hate the men who killed her father.  Instead, she decided to forgive them and said, “I couldn’t kill them, because killing them would make me just like them.”
    Sixteen years later, Smith decided she wanted to talk to the men convicted of killing her father.  “I needed to tell them face to face that I forgive them.  I needed to face my fear,” she said.
    Through the prison chaplain, she arranged a meeting with one of the men.  Smith said when she told the man she forgave him, a “huge burden” was lifted from her shoulders.  She said she was thankful for the experience.
    “If we had the death penalty in Kansas, we wouldn’t have been able to experience that,” Smith said.
    Three years later, she testified with the man’s family to have him released on parole and was present when he left prison.  Their relationship continued after he was released.
    “I am a victim’s family member.  I am someone that the district attorneys say ‘we want to kill in your name.  It will give you closure.’  But I don’t believe in closure.  I don’t need closure because I have peace,” Smith said.
    Athens lawyer Jay Wamsley said 207 people currently are on death row in Ohio.  Eight men have been killed since Ohio restarted executions in 1999.  Athens County currently has no prisoners on death row.
    One hundred and four death row prisoners are African-American and one is female, according to the Ohio Department of Corrections Web site:
    Most people in attendance were in agreement with Smith’s message.  When she asked the audience if they supported the death penalty, two hands were raised.
    OU student Emily Miner said she already was opposed to the death penalty before attending the program.
    “It’s nice to see someone that forgiving.  I’m glad that her personal choice was to forgive,” Minor said.