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Murder Victim's Families for Human Rights Report-creating More Victims-2006

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2161 Massachusetts Avenue • Cambridge MA 02140 USA • 617-491-9600

A report from Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
with a foreword from Amnesty International USA

Creating More Victims
How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
Cambridge, MA

Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the Families Left Behind, by Susannah Sheffer and Renny Cushing.
© 2006 by the authors and Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
Cover photos (from left to right) by Abe Bonowitz, Scott Langley, Fabian Biasio.
Interior photos by Abe Bonowitz and Scott Langley.
Design and Production: Angela Mark and Red Sun Press.
To request multiple copies of this report for distribution to classes, workshops, trainings, or other audiences, write
MVFHR, 2161 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02140; email, telephone
For helpful comments on drafts of this report, we are grateful to Elizabeth Beck, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Richard
Dieter, Aaron Falbel, Robert Meeropol, and Margaret Vandiver


he cruelty of the death penalty is


cycle of violence by generating more

become “shadow victims,” stigmatized

not confined to the prisoner

victims. I am thus heartened by the

within their communities, marginal-

whose life is toyed with in the name of

timely publication of Creating More

ized by the media, and bypassed by

justice. Families of the condemned are

Victims: How Executions Hurt the

the authorities in the years before and

also ensnared in the cycle of hope and

Families Left Behind, by one of our

after an execution. Creating More

despair that this degrading punish-

long-time partners in the abolition

Victims breaks new ground by square-

ment inevitably breeds. The mistakes

movement, Murder Victims’ Families

ly placing this issue within a human

and inequities of the capital justice

for Human Rights.

This report,

rights framework and maintaining that

system are perpetrated not only on the

released appropriately on Internation-

families of the executed deserve the

defendants, but also on their relatives.

al Human Rights Day, serves to strip

same recognition and support afforded

And in the end, and for no measurable

away the “conspiracy of silence” and

any group that has suffered a violent

benefit, all the state achieves by an

give voice to a group of victims who

and traumatic loss. This is an invalu-

execution is one more dead body and

have for too long been largely ignored

able tool for victims’ rights advocates,

more grieving family members.

in the debate surrounding the death

mental health professionals, child wel-

As an organization that works on

penalty: the families of the executed.

fare advocates, as well as for Amnesty

behalf of victims of human rights

The mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters,

International activists who can use this



sons, and daughters of the con-

report to bring to greater public con-

International has always maintained

demned undergo a trauma that is

sciousness these forgotten victims of

that the death penalty perpetuates the

uniquely painful and poignant. They

an outdated government policy.


Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA


“It’s not like a relative dying from a
terminal illness. When someone you
love gets killed, you can’t prepare for
that type of pain.”
– Wendy
“I have health problems that I didn’t
have before this happened. It never
really ends, emotionally. The pain is
always there.”
– Jonnie
“All these years later, it’s something
you don’t ever get over. You just learn
to live with it.”
– Pam


here is no such thing as an isolated act of victimization: for every
direct act against another human
being, there are additional family
members and friends who experience
their own form of suffering. Marlene
Young, president of the World Society
of Victimology, made this point in a
2006 address to the United Nations
Commission on Crime Prevention and
Criminal Justice. Young gave figures
about the number of victimizations
that occur around the world each year
and then observed:
These numbers do not take into
account the families and friends
who will also suffer loss, pain and
trauma as a result of the violation
of a loved one. A psychiatrist in
the United States once said that for

every person killed there are three
people whose relationship with
that person will cause them to suffer for the rest of their lives. I ask
you to consider whether only three
people would grieve and suffer if
you were to die? I suggest that for
most people the extended circle of
pain after such a death involves
While the death of a family member always represents a significant
loss, Young is referring here specifically to the effect of a loved one’s being
killed as opposed to dying. The shock
and the awareness that death was
caused by the deliberate act of another human being are distinctly traumatic and provoke questions that a death
from natural causes does not.
Wendy, Jonnie, and Pam, the
three surviving family members quoted above, offer a glimpse of the distinct and ongoing suffering to which
Young refers. The relatives of these
particular survivors were killed by
state execution, and the survivors
report feelings and experiences that in
many ways resemble those of murder
victims’ family members. But as a
group, family members of the executed have only very recently begun to
receive notice.2 The recognition and
assistance that the victims’ rights
movement has managed to secure for
many survivors have not yet reached
this group.

The past three decades have
brought a tremendous surge in recognition of victims’ rights and victims’
needs, both in the United States and
worldwide. All 50 states in the U.S.
now have laws recognizing victims’
right to be treated with respect and
dignity and to be informed and heard
throughout the criminal justice
process. Victims’ advocacy organizations and victims’ service professionals
aim to help victims cope with the
effects of violence and trauma.
In 1985, the UN General
Assembly unanimously adopted the
Universal Declaration of Principles of
Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse
of Power. Although the document is
non-binding – it urges but cannot
require countries to take the actions
that it recommends – it represents a
kind of international consensus and
aspiration about how to help survivors
in the aftermath of a victimization.
Although family members of executed persons are not explicitly
named in the Declaration, we believe a
strong case can be made that this
group falls within the Declaration’s
parameters and therefore deserves the
recognition and attention that ought
to be accorded to any people who
have suffered a violent and traumatic
loss. Our collective aspiration about
responding to survivors in the aftermath of violence ought to extend to
the death penalty’s surviving family

Marlene A. Young, “Action on UN Standards and Norms on Victim Issues,” submitted to the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, April
27, 2006. Marlene Young has also served as the Executive Director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance, the largest victim assistance organization in the U.S.
See Rachel King, Capital Consequences: Families of the Condemned Tell Their Stories (Rutgers University Press, 2005), Susan Sharp, Hidden Victims: The Effects
of the Death Penalty on Families of the Accused (Rutgers University Press, 2005), Elizabeth Beck, Sarah Britto, and Arlene Andrews, In the Shadow of Death:
Restorative Justice and Capital Offenders’ Family Members (Oxford University Press, 2007), and Robert Meeropol, An Execution in the Family (St. Martin’s Press,


On October 27, 2005, a group of parents,
children, siblings, nieces, and grandchildren
of people who have been executed in the
United States gathered in Austin, Texas for a
private support meeting. It was, for many, the
first time they had ever had the opportunity
to talk with other family members of the executed.
Following the private meeting, the group
held a public ceremony that marked the official launch of Murder Victims’ Families for
Human Rights’ No Silence, No Shame project. Participants placed two roses in a vase:
one in memory of their relative who was executed and one in memory of the murder victim. While holding the roses, participants
took a moment to name each person being
remembered and to say a few words.

In evaluating the social costs of
the death penalty, we should not
only be weighing the harm that may
be caused or prevented by executions themselves. We must also ask
about the costs of creating a new
group of victims, and about what
we need to do to address the emotional and physical harm to family
members caused by executions that
have already occurred.
If family members of the executed are not named in the
Declaration, how can we assume
that they are covered by it? The
document makes clear that the
principles of justice it puts forth are
for victims of crime and abuse of
power, and “abuse of power” is
defined this way:
B. Victims of Abuse of Power.
18. “Victims” means persons
who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury,
emotional suffering, economic
loss or substantial impairment
of their fundamental rights,
through acts or omissions that
do not yet constitute violations
of national criminal laws but
of internationally recognized
norms relating to human rights.
Does this include the death
penalty? It depends on whether you
believe that the death penalty constitutes a violation of an internationally recognized human rights norm
– a question that has arisen repeatedly since the adoption of the UN

Convention on Human Rights in
1948. While we cannot take up the
entire argument or present its full
history here, we note that UN resolutions, covenants, and charters in
the years since 1948 have repeatedly stated complete abolition of the
death penalty as a goal.3 In 2005,
53 countries debated the question
at the annual meeting of the UN
Commission on Human Rights and
ultimately passed a resolution condemning the death penalty and
urging all nations to abolish it.
This in itself is a compelling
reason to consider the possibility
that family members of executed
persons count as victims under the
Declaration and should be
responded to as such. But there is
also another way to approach the
question. The basis for the
Declaration, for the state and
national victims’ rights laws that
have been established over the past
two decades, for victim assistance
programs, and indeed for any
movement or effort toward recognizing the needs and rights of victims, has always been the experiences of victims themselves.
Whatever we as a society know
about the effects of victimization,
we have learned from victims’
reports of their experiences, feelings, symptoms, and recovery.
That has been the basis of the
work of Murder Victims’ Families
for Human Rights as well. Founded
in 2004, Murder Victims’ Families
for Human Rights seeks to reframe
the death penalty as a human
rights issue rather than a criminal

See, for example, the history offered in Roger Hood, “Capital Punishment: The USA in World Perspective,” Center for Human Rights and Global Justice
Working Paper, November 3, 2005.



justice issue. We assert that executions do constitute a violation of
basic human rights. From the start,
our members have included survivors of victims of criminal murder (including terrorist attacks),
survivors of extra-judicial killings,
and survivors of people who have
been executed.
In 2005, we launched an initiative called “No Silence, No Shame”
that focuses on family members of
the executed in the United States.4
To launch the project, we brought a
group of 17 family members of the
executed together for a private
gathering and public ceremony in
Austin, Texas in October 2005, and
over the following months we conducted interviews with those participants and 10 others.5 These
interviews, along with statements
and other materials from the participants, form the basis of this report.
A word of acknowledgment
before we continue: although we
assert that there are important
commonalities in the experiences
of family members of murder victims and family members of executed persons, we also recognize
that there are important differences
that cannot and should not be
ignored. One obvious difference is
that when an individual is killed by
execution, the perpetrator is “the
state” – a more ambiguous and less
easily confronted offender than an
individual murderer.
Another difference, perhaps
even more obvious, is that the per-

son killed during an execution is
not an innocent victim.6 Even if it
can be argued that family members
of the executed suffer undeniable
harm, the narrative of victimization does not begin with the execution and its aftermath but rather
with original murder and its aftermath. As a victims’ organization,
this is not something we forget or
dismiss. But we do not believe that
the pain of one group of survivors
is redressed by causing pain to
another group of survivors.
Moreover, while it is obvious
that as an anti-death penalty
organization we oppose executions, our focus in this document is
on the effect of the death penalty
on surviving family members –
people who have not committed
any crime. Supporters of the death
penalty may argue that the suffering of the family members is simply “collateral damage” – a price
society must be willing to pay for
the administration of justice in the
aftermath of a murder. Our interest
– again, as a victims’ organization –
is in minimizing harm wherever
possible. If, as we are about to
show, each execution causes
demonstrable harm to the surviving family members, such that they
constitute victims as defined by the
Declaration of Basic Principles of
Justice for Victims of Crime and
Abuse of Power, it is incumbent
upon us to reduce or eliminate that
further victimization by choosing
an alternative response.

Jonnie Warner’s brother,
Larry Griffin, was executed in
Missouri in 1995. “People don’t
understand that the death penalty
has an impact on families that is so
far-reaching. My mother has never
gotten over it. She has changed so
much since it happened. All of the
kids have a hard time understanding it. The death penalty creates so
many more victims.”

The U.S. focus at this stage of the project is both practical and philosophical: as a new organization, based in the U.S., it is practical for us to begin where we
are. As well, we recognize that the United States’ continued use of the death penalty is significant within the international human rights debate. MVFHR’s membership includes people outside the U.S., however, and in time we anticipate expanding the scope of the No Silence, No Shame project.
In writing this report, we drew upon material from these interviews and also from contact and discussion with family members of the executed within our
membership that occurred prior to the official development of the No Silence, No Shame project. See Appendix 2, page 23, for a list of families whose stories
inform this report.
Except in cases in which doubt has been raised about the individual’s guilt.


The Impact of Victimization

ow are families affected by vio-


make the case that what they have

lent loss, and what can society

gone through is as much a victim-

do to help? A decade after the adop-

ization as anything else described

tion of the Declaration of Basic

in the Handbook. Below are brief

Principles of Justice for Victims of

excerpts from the Handbook and a

Crime and Abuse of Power, the UN

discussion of the relevant findings

Commission on Crime Prevention

from our interviews with family

and Criminal Justice resolved to

members of the executed.

develop a manual that would serve
as a guide for putting its principles
into practice. Published in 1999,
The Handbook on Justice for Victims

By the Deliberate Act of
Another Human Being

was prepared by a group of experts
from more than 40 countries.7 It lays
out guidelines about how victims
ought to be treated, how to develop
victim assistance programs, how to

Irene Cartwright’s son, Richard
Cartwright, was executed in Texas in
2005. “Richard’s daughter Ricki was born a
couple of months before Richard was sentenced, and she was 8 years old when he
was executed. One of the hardest things
I’ve ever had to do was pick Ricki up from
school for her last visit with her father
before he was killed.”

provide training for various groups
who help or interact with victims
(including, for example, health care
professionals, clergy and spiritual

Crime is usually experienced as
more serious than an accident
or similar misfortune. It is difficult to come to terms with the
fact that loss and injury have
been caused by the deliberate
act of another human being.
(Handbook, p. 6)

leaders, schools and universities,
media professionals, and employers).

In states that allow the death
penalty, a judicial execution is not

The Handbook devotes a sec-

legally a crime, but the family

tion to the physical, financial, and

members we interviewed certainly

psychological impact of victimiza-

reported difficulty in coming to

tion and an exploration of its social

terms with the fact that their loved

costs. Looking at the experience of

one’s death was caused by the

family members of the executed in

deliberate act of another human

light of the Handbook’s observations

being. Their narratives of trauma

is a useful exercise that allows us

and confusion in the aftermath of

simultaneously to present the voic-

the experience have this as a cen-

es of these family members and to

tral question.

The Handbook on Justice for Victims: On the use and application of the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, published by the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention and the Centre for International Crime Prevention.


“I don’t think people under-

Irene initially thought she was

stand what executions do to the

handling her son’s execution fairly

families of the person being execut-

well, considering the obvious hor-

ed,” says Billie Jean Mayberry,

ror of it, but the first Christmas

whose brother, Robert Coe, was

afterward and the subsequent

executed in Tennessee in 2000. “To

months were difficult. Irene found

us, our brother was murdered right

herself overcome with lethargy,

in front of our eyes. It changed all

unable to do anything but sit and

of our lives.” The Coe siblings wit-

think about what had happened.

nessed their brother’s execution,

Finally she went on anti-depres-

and it is clear from Billie Jean’s

sants and feels herself “getting

comment that watching the “delib-

back to normal,” but the memory

erate act” of their brother’s life

does not really leave. “It’s some-

being taken felt to them like watch-

thing you carry alone,” she says.

ing a murder.

When Celia McWee protests

Irene Cartwright, whose son

against an upcoming execution,

Richard was executed in Texas in

she carries a sign saying that the

2005, echoes Billie Jean’s belief that

state in question “is murdering a

people don’t give much thought to

mother’s child tonight.” Celia will

the impact of an execution on the

never forget that everyone on

surviving family. Indeed, she

death row is somebody’s child,

admits that before her own son was

because her own son, Jerry

sentenced to death, she herself did

McWee, was executed in South

not consider the families much,

Carolina in 2004. “Some days I

either. “I’d never thought about any

wonder about my ability to go on,”

of these people having a family,”

she says two years later. Her grand-

she says. “It was like they were

daughter, Misty McWee, clearly

hatched and grew up in isolation.

struggled with the same question

I’m ashamed to say that, but I think

in the aftermath of the execution.

that’s where a lot of people are.

At 14, Misty was shocked when

Now I wish people could under-

she learned that her father had

stand that everyone who is execut-

been charged with capital murder,

ed had a mother and father, maybe

but as angry, disbelieving, and

brothers and sisters, aunts and

abandoned as she felt then, she

uncles, friends, whatever, and that

says now that she believes she

each one of those people have been

could have dealt with her father’s

hurt and impacted by the execu-

spending his life in prison. “But to


have a parent executed – knowing

Celia McWee’s son, Jerry McWee,
was executed in South Carolina in 2004.
“Even though we knew what was going to
happen, it was so difficult to talk about it.
We couldn’t even talk about things like,
what hymn would you like them to play
at the service. When somebody’s ill, you
can discuss that sort of thing with them,
but with Jerry, we just couldn’t do it. I
had to fight with him because he didn’t
even want me to be present at the execution. He didn’t want to see me cry. He
said, ‘You’ve cried enough,’ and I said, ‘I
promise I won’t.’ When the day of the
execution came, I kept my promise to
Jerry. In the one instant that he turned to
look at me, I wiped my tears away so he
didn’t see them.”


Robert Meeropol’s parents, Ethel
and Julius Rosenberg, were executed in
New York (by the federal government) in
1953. “I was 3 when my parents were
arrested and 6 when they were executed.
My earliest distinct memories of my parents
are of visiting them on death row. Clearly, I
didn’t understand what was going on, but I
had a sense that ‘they’ were out there, ‘they’
were very powerful, and ‘they’ were attacking ‘us.’ Of course I didn’t know exactly
who ‘they’ and ‘we’ were. So I had a generalized sense of anxiety, an incomprehensible sword of Damocles hanging over me. I
was frightened, angry, and grew up with a
suppressed need to attack those who had
attacked my family. I survived because a
supportive community surrounded me, but
what about other children who do not have
such a support system?”

that he died because someone

until her husband David Martinez

pushed chemicals into him – to me

was executed in Texas in 2005.

that felt like murder as well. It’s

Christina’s father had been mur-

different from his dying of natural

dered when Christina was a young

causes in prison.”

girl of 9, and she remembers

Misty was 28 when her father

responding with a combination of

was executed, and she suffered

withdrawal and aggressiveness as

from severe depression in the year

she struggled to absorb what had

following the event, culminating in

happened. The men convicted of

a hospitalization after a suicide

killing Christina’s father served

attempt near the one-year anniver-


sary. “It felt like the two things were

Christina grew up she maintained

connected, my father’s execution

that she believed in the death

and my cutting my wrists,” she

penalty and thought it was what

recalls. “I didn’t care what hap-

her father’s killers deserved.




pened to me. I felt like I should go

Shocked and devastated when

be with him.” A mother herself

her husband was charged with

now, Misty is finding her way

capital murder, Christina still felt

toward greater emotional stability,

that someone who committed a

but she still struggles to come to

murder deserved to die in return.

terms with her father’s execution

“I couldn’t stand the idea of losing

and the entire process surrounding

him and of what that would do to

it. “Why couldn’t we have had

me and our children,” she recalls,

someone to help us through it?”

“but I did believe he deserved to

she wonders. “When we walked in

die for what he did.”

the courtroom, people gave us

Yet even as she believed in exe-

dirty looks, just because we

cution as a legitimate punishment,

belonged to our father. You won-

she also couldn’t quite believe that

der, what did we as kids do to

it would take place. “It’s hard to

deserve this? There’s so much

explain,” she says now. “I believed

you’re trying to understand and it

it should happen, but I also

doesn’t help to have people judging

believed it wouldn’t actually hap-

you. People look at it like, the

pen. A civilized society doesn’t go

whole family must be bad.”

around killing people. You don’t

Christina Lawson didn’t realize

believe they’re going to take your

the extent to which an execution of

healthy husband and walk him to

a family member would feel similar

his death. You just don’t do that.”

to the murder of a family member



It wasn’t until the day of the

execution that the reality of the
experience hit Christina – on many

From One Generation to
the Next

levels. “A guard asked me if I’d
brought my tickets to the show,”
she says, beginning to recount the
litany of dignity violations that she
experienced as a family member of
the person being executed.
Then they wouldn’t look us in
the eye when they frisked us.
And afterwards, they were
pushing us out the door and I
looked up and saw that not
even a minute had gone by
since his death. I didn’t even
get to stand there and realize
what had happened. Then we

Research shows that the shock
waves from victimization touch
not only the victim but also the
victim’s immediate family
and relatives, neighbours and
acquaintances. This holds true
for the emotional as well as the
financial consequences, and the
effects can endure for years or
even a lifetime. In the case of
genocide, child abuse, exposure
to violence and abuse of power,
the effects can be passed on from
one generation to the next.
(Handbook, p. 5)

started walking out of the
administration building and

We have already begun to see

my whole world started spin-

the ways in which the shock waves

ning. The activists were pack-

from an execution affect the surviv-

ing up and leaving and the pro-

ing family members, and we will

death penalty side was yelling

continue to explore that from vari-

at us and I kept thinking, why

ous angles throughout this report.

are you yelling at me? I didn’t

What is notable about this excerpt

do anything. I realized I was

from the Handbook is the observa-

being punished for something

tion that effects can be passed on

David did.

from one generation to the next.

Barbara Allen’s uncle, Joseph
Stanley Faulder, was executed in Texas
in 1999. “For 14 years my uncle was on
death row in the United States and our
family, in Canada, had no idea. All we
knew was that he had disappeared. He
thought we knew where he was but didn’t
want to have anything to do with him.
When we finally found out, we were
relieved he was alive but overwhelmed by
the sadness and gravity of the situation. I
had given very little thought to the death
penalty before this. It’s just not part of the
social conscience of Canada. I was aware
that it occurred in the U.S., but never in
my wildest dreams did I think my family
would be involved.”

Robert Meeropol, whose parents Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
were executed by the U.S. government in 1953, points out that “no
one has studied how the execution
of an immediate family member
impacts children. We don’t even
know how many children have an
immediate family member on


death row in the United States
today. Worse, we don’t know the
For 15 years, Stanley Faulder’s Canadian family had no idea that
he had been sentenced to death in the state of Texas. According to
the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international

effect that having a parent executed
will have upon their impressionable lives, and the cost society may
pay, for that impact.”8

treaty that the United States has ratified, Texas authorities should

We view the “No Silence, No

have informed Faulder at the time of his 1977 arrest that he had the

Shame” interviews as a beginning

right to seek assistance from the Canadian consulate, and should

attempt to explore the impact of
executions on children in the fami-

have notified the Canadian government of Faulder’s situation if he

lies of the executed. What we are

had requested that they do so.

seeing is that the effects are endur-

Sandra Babcock, an attorney with the Texas Resource Center
who took Faulder’s case in 1992, filed a motion with the U.S.
Supreme Court arguing that Faulder’s rights had been violated under

ing and sometimes manifest themselves even in children who would
not be described as immediate family members.

the Vienna Convention. Although U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine

For fourteen years, Stanley

Albright intervened on Faulder’s behalf, and although the Supreme

Faulder’s Canadian family was

Court initially granted Faulder an indefinite stay, the Court then dissolved the stay and Faulder was executed in 1999. But the case had

unaware that they had a relative on
death row in the United States;
they knew only that he was missing

important repercussions. Sandra Babcock notes that the U.S. govern-

(see sidebar). When the family

ment has since started notifying detained foreign nationals of their

finally learned that Faulder was

right to contact their consulates, and in late 1999 the Inter-American
Court on Human Rights ruled that a state is in violation of interna-

incarcerated and facing a death
sentence in Texas, they became
involved from afar, with Faulder’s

tional law if it executes a person whose rights have not been upheld

niece, Barbara Allen, often serving

under the Vienna Convention.

as the family’s spokesperson.

It is also interesting to note that in 2001 the International Court
of Justice ruled that the United States violated the Vienna

Barbara’s sons were 8 and 11
when the family first learned that a
relative had been sentenced to

Convention when the state of Arizona failed to inform Karl and

death. “They didn’t know him, but

Walter LaGrand, two German nationals who were charged with cap-

they knew he was family,” Barbara

ital murder, of their right to seek assistance from their consulate. The

explains. After the execution,

LaGrand brothers were executed in 1999.

Barbara’s younger son Warren, by
that time 16 years old, had a particularly hard time. “He started to use
drugs quite seriously,” Barbara


From a statement given at the launch of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights’ No Silence, No Shame project, Austin, Texas, October 27, 2005.


recalls, “and he certainly had other

me that question: why?” Rosemary

issues going on in his life besides

remembers. “And there was really

this one, but right at this time he

no way to explain it. Who’s going

got a tattoo on his leg that had

to kill the people who killed

Stan’s initials encircled by flames.

Kelvin? Where does it end?”

The execution had more of an

Christina Lawson’s daughter, who

impact on him than I had known.”

was 10 years old at the time of her

We open the discussion of the

father’s execution, asked a similar

effect of executions on children

question: “They’re going to kill

with this example of a young per-

him because he killed somebody,

son distant both geographically

so when they kill him, who do we

and genealogically from the exe-

get to kill?”

cuted person to make the point
that the impact of an execution can

Pam Crawford’s granddaughter

extend farther than we imagine,

Callie was 8 years old when Pam’s

and can manifest itself in both

brother, Ed Horsley, was executed

obvious and less obvious ways.

in Alabama. Callie is now 19, and

Warren’s tattoo says, quite literally,

Pam observes: “It’s amazing how

“This event left a mark on me.”

things can happen in a family, how

Even though he didn’t know his

it can be a generational thing,

great-uncle directly, this teenager

because all these years later my

had to struggle with the execution’s

granddaughter is going through a

effect on the rest of his family and

depression. I was amazed when I

with the questions that such an

talked to her doctor and he asked

event inevitably raises.

me who was executed in the fami-

A child’s questions about the

ly and how long has it been. I told

death penalty can be deceptively

him, and he said, ‘Did you know

simple. Rosemary Malone remem-

that she’s still affected by it?’”

bers that after visiting her brother

Pam explains that Callie still

Kelvin on death row in California

struggles to come to terms with the

(Malone faced death sentences in

execution: “She asks, if it’s wrong

California and Missouri and was

to kill somebody, which it is, then

executed in Missouri in 1999), she

how can it be right for the state to

and her children saw a bumper

kill?” Pam goes on to describe the

sticker that read, “Why do we kill

symptoms that her granddaughter

people who kill people to show

reported to her, which include

that killing is wrong?”

recurring nightmares. Callie told

“My kids saw that and asked

Pam Crawford’s brother, Ed
Horsley, was executed in Alabama in
1996. “Around the time of the execution, my kids talked openly about their
Uncle Ed, but then other kids at school
began saying, ‘They should’ve killed him
already!’ and other mean things. My kids
started learning to keep it a secret
because they were ashamed of the reaction they would get. They were ashamed
to be connected to him, ashamed to be
who they were.”

Pam that she dreamed that “Uncle


Ed and I are just sitting at the table

as a child, I was telling

inside the prison, but I’m not a lit-

him I’d see him back

tle girl anymore, I’m a grown

home, and I guess she

woman, and I’ll be trying to reach

kind of locked that in her

for him and he’ll be running from

mind, and then it never



He’s running to get behind

that door that he used to go behind
when the guards would come get
him and put the handcuffs on
Pam continues:

A group of children with a particular stake in the death penalty
issue are those who are related
both to the murder victim and to

Desiree Babbitt’s father, Manny
Babbitt, was executed in California
in 1999. “I always felt like my father
raised me from prison. I loved him
and felt his love for me. There were
a lot of secrets in the family, and
although I knew my father was in
prison, no one told me that he was
facing a death sentence until I was
20 and the whole family was going
to California to beg for his life before
the pardon board. I spoke at the
hearing and talked about what my
father meant to me, and everyone
seemed to be listening. I thought we
had saved him, but we didn’t.
Sometimes I think that if I had
understood the truth earlier, I might
have been able to do more. I wish
people could understand how much
it hurt me that he was executed.”


Associated Press, October 26, 2005.


She said one time she

the convicted murderer, as in cases

dreamed she was calling

of domestic violence. Already

him because she could see

struggling to come to terms with

him behind the prison

the trauma of one parent’s death at

walls, but there was a wall

the hands of another, some of these

between them and she

children have then found them-

couldn’t get to him. Now,

selves having to plead with the

this is a child who wasn’t

state not to compound that trauma

even born yet when Ed

by executing the remaining parent.

first went into prison. Her

“If this execution is carried

doctor wanted to know

out, we’ll have two parents mur-

how much she under-

dered,” Rose Syriani said at a press

stood, and I realized that

conference in 2005, when the state

there were some things she

of North Carolina was preparing to

had misunderstood as a

execute Elias Syriani for the mur-

child. When we went to

der of his wife Theresa. Rose and

visit my brother the last

her three siblings had been chil-

time, she heard me say

dren at the time of the murder, and

goodbye and say some-

had testified against him at his

thing about seeing him in

trial. They remained estranged

the next dimension – talk-

from their father for many years,

ing about heaven – and she

but by 2005 each had found a way

thought I meant we’d see

to reconcile with him and were

him back in Charlotte

opposing his execution.9

[North Carolina, where the

The Syrianis were no more

family lived]. In her mind

successful at stopping their father’s

execution than Chris Kellett and

dren has to date come more fre-

Felicia Floyd had been four years

quently from the anti-death penal-

earlier, when they stood before the

ty community than from the victim

Georgia Pardon Board under simi-

assistance community. In Marcus’s

lar circumstances and said, “We

case, it was two local anti-death

beg you not to take our father’s life

penalty activists, who were them-

too.”10 While those in a position to

selves family members of murder

grant clemency to someone facing a

victims, who served as his chief

death sentence may not be swayed

supporters during the execution

by arguments about the effect of

and its aftermath. Valuable as this

the execution on the surviving chil-

was, it raises the question of what

dren, those concerned with victim

formal help is available for children

assistance cannot ignore the needs

in families with intra-familial mur-

of these survivors – which are per-

der who are not lucky enough to

haps especially acute when the

come to the attention of informal

children are still minors.

advocates like these.

Marcus Lawrie was 14 when
the state of Delaware executed his

The Handbook’s observation

father. Seven years earlier, David

about effects being passed from

Lawrie had set fire to his house in a

one generation to the next also

drug-induced rage, killing his wife,

suggests that children can feel the

two of their children, and a neigh-

impact even of family events that

bor’s child. Marcus, now 21, says

did not occur during their own

that as horrific as this tragedy obvi-

lifetimes. Antoinette Bosco was 12

ously was, he did not view the exe-

when she learned that there had

cution of his father as compensa-

been an execution in her family:

tion for his multiple losses: “I lost

Charles Doran, the brother of

my mom and sisters because of my

Antoinette’s aunt by marriage, had

dad, and that hurts, but you’ve got

been executed in New York in

to understand – by giving my

1928, just a few months before

father the death penalty, you’re tak-

Antoinette was born. “I was so

ing my other parent from me.”

affected by this killing when I

It might seem that, among fam-

heard of it as a young adolescent,”

ilies of the executed, survivors who

Antoinette recalls. She remembers

are also related to the murder vic-

trying to make sense of the death

tim would be more easily recog-

penalty in light of the command-

nized as in need of assistance, but

ment “thou shalt not kill,” and she

in fact direct support for these chil-

remembers learning how severely


Billie Jean Mayberry’s brother,
Robert Coe, was executed in Tennessee
in 2000. “You hear about the death penalty in the news, but you don’t really think
about it until it affects you. There’s no way
to describe the hurt my siblings and I had
to go through when we watched our
brother die.”

Susannah Sheffer, “Unheard Voices,” Fellowship magazine, March/April 2003.


the execution had affected the rela-

seeing asked her if there were any

tives who lived through it: “I

skeletons in the family’s closet. At

learned that Charlie’s mother went

that point, Janis began researching

crazy afterward and never left the

her grandfather’s case, and eventu-

house. And I saw that my Aunt

ally she became an outspoken

Margee had never gotten over it.

activist against the death penalty.

She was a teenager at the time of

But she still struggles with its per-

her brother’s execution, and the

sonal legacy:

experience was a direct cause of the
mental problems that plagued her
later in her life.”

this, but it’s very hard for me to

Like Antoinette Bosco, Janis Gay

talk about it. There are

Janis Gay’s grandfather,
Alexander Kels, was executed

learned of the execution in her fam-

nuances I don’t understand, in

ily years after the fact. Janis’s mater-

terms of how it affected me. I

in California in 1924. “Although I
never knew my grandfather and
didn’t learn that he had been executed until I was 21, I felt that he
was a member of my family and I
wanted to understand him and
understand the effect that his execution had had on all of us.”

nal grandfather was executed in

don’t want to sound whiny, but

California in 1924, when Janis’s

I can tell you that Mom’s inte-

mother was a girl of 9. Janis was not

rior life was pretty absorbing

told how her grandfather died until

to her. Helping me and my

she was an adult of 21. Although she

brother with our lives – that

did not grow up with any conscious

just wasn’t available.

awareness of being related to some-

would come home from school

one who had been executed, she was

telling what happened that

affected by the impact that the exe-

day, and Mom would get up

cution and its attendant shame had

and walk away.

on her mother.


How far down the genera-

“Mom would sit in the dark,

tions does it go? I look at my

smoking cigarettes at night,” Janis

life: I’m not married, intimate

remembers. “She saw me as a child

relationships are difficult for

and could see herself as a child,

me. When an execution hap-

what she went through. It brought it

pens in a family – well, it’s vio-

back. She never reconciled to it at

lence that has shattered the

all.” When Janis’s mother revealed

family and you have to take

the family’s secret years later, Janis

care of it. Someone has to.

still “got the message that I wasn’t
supposed to talk about it after that.
I wasn’t supposed to assume the
burden.” It was another several
years before a therapist Janis was


I feel like I’m a survivor of

Conspiracy of Silence

made me feel comfortable by supporting me. Unless someone

Stressful life events seem to
unleash a strong need for sharing
in victims. However, following
extreme traumatic events, victims may participate in the “conspiracy of silence” by not sharing their experiences and their
aftermath. … Certain experiences are seldom revealed unless
specifically asked about by
another who is experienced as
trustworthy and therefore as a
potential source of support.
(Handbook, p. 8)

encourages you to do it, you
Exemplifying the Handbook’s
observation that people who have
suffered traumatic events are more
likely to talk if they are explicitly
encouraged and supported, Jonnie
goes on to say that the No Silence,
No Shame gathering, in which she
was surrounded by others who had
gone through a similar trauma, had
an enormous effect on her: “To
hear everybody who had similar
experiences and similar feelings,
that was a very powerful meeting.

“I didn’t want to talk about it, I
didn’t know how to talk about it,”

And to hear how everybody’s been
affected some kind of way.”

recalls Jonnie Warner, whose

Pam Crawford echoes Jonnie’s

brother, Larry Griffin, was executed

reflections about the value of the

in Missouri in 1995. “It’s kind of

Austin gathering: “I was in a place

shameful to talk about it, because

where I could really be me. I was

how many people have that experi-

not looked down upon because I

ence?” Right away, Jonnie mentions

loved my brother. I could finally

the relative rarity of the experience

just be open and tell the truth, just

as reason to keep silent about it.

be real. I came back with another

She explains that while having an

burst of energy and strength to go

incarcerated family member is –

on. I could talk to people who

sadly – increasingly common

could identify with what I was say-

among people of color, having

ing, because they had felt the same

someone on death row, and then

pain and the same hurt.”

going through an execution, is

Bill Babbitt’s brother, Manny
Babbitt, was executed in California in
1999. “The police promised me that my
brother would get the help he needed.
After they arrested Manny, an officer
said to him, ‘You’re not going to go to
the gas chamber or anything like that.’ I
believed that. My mother believed it.
We never really thought he would be
executed, right up until the last half
hour when I watched my brother be put
to death at San Quentin. For the rest of
my life I have to live with the fact that I
turned my mentally ill brother in and
that led to his death.”

In addition to breaking silence
by sharing their experiences with

“Until I got involved with

others who have gone through

[local anti-death penalty organiza-

something similar, some family

tions], I couldn’t talk about the

members have spoken publicly at

death penalty. These organizations

rallies and other such gatherings,


Stanley Allridge’s brothers Ronald
and James Vernon Allridge were executed in Texas in 1995 and 2004. “I didn’t
plan on being an activist, but I feel like I’m
obligated to talk about the death penalty
and what happened in our family.”

or to classes, church groups, and

brothers had been arrested: “I was

conference audiences. Speaking in

7 years old, and that was the first

these public venues has some of the

time I’d seen my father cry. He

same value as sharing with others in

said, ‘Your brothers are in trouble.’

an intimate setting, but it also has

But after that, it wasn’t really dis-

the additional benefit of bringing

cussed. We just started dealing

private grief into the public arena

with it.”

and, in some sense, demanding that

Stan and the two other surviv-

one’s experience receive public

ing Allridge brothers witnessed

recognition. Jonnie Warner recalled

Ron’s execution in 1995, when

that the public ceremony at the No

Stan had just graduated from high

Silence, No Shame event, in which

school. “I didn’t really believe it at

participants placed roses in a vase

all, until later,” he recalls. “When I

in memory of their executed family

was finally leaving the Walls Unit

member and in memory of the

and driving home, that’s when it

murder victim, was a way for the

hit me, that’s when the tears came.

group to bring their grief to the

But everybody dealt with it in our

attention of others who might not

own individual ways. We didn’t

have previously been aware of it.

talk about it at all, or we talked

“[The ceremony] actually got

about it vaguely, but not how we

the attention and empathy of the

felt about what we had seen. How

other people right there in that

do you talk about that? We never

room,” Jonnie recalls. “Publicly

really thought it was going to hap-

grieving your loved one is different

pen. It’s not like he was terminally

because you want other people to

ill. It’s a murder. You just don’t get

know that you’re human and your

ready for a murder.”

people were human and you love
them too.”

Afterwards, Stan says, “I felt
like my life had totally changed. I
would be separated from other

These days, Stanley Allridge is


individuals. I was forced into this

comfortable speaking to large audi-

state of manhood.

ences about the executions of his

death, witnessing a murder, is

two older brothers, Ronald and

something that’s totally different. I

James, but when he was a young

knew my life would be different –

child, his family didn’t talk about

I didn’t know how, but I knew.”


the way the death penalty had

As the Handbook suggests, vic-

touched their family. Stan remem-

tims are unlikely to talk about their

bers his father explaining that his

experiences unless specifically

asked, but now that Stan gets asked
regularly, he has become an outspoken activist. “I had no idea people would be impacted by my story,

problem of victims can be
in obtaining acknowledgment
that an offence has occurred.
(Handbook, p. 9)

would want to listen to me,” he
says of his early forays into public

Although executions are not

speaking. “But now I feel like I’m

yet universally recognized as abus-

obligated to talk about it.”

es of power, the fact of the offend-

Like Stanley Allridge, Pat

er being the state itself is clearly

Seaborn feels obligated to talk

relevant here. As we noted earlier,

about the effect of executions on

“the state” is a more ambiguous

surviving family members. Pat’s

perpetrator than an individual and

cousin, Ron Spivey, was executed

presents a unique challenge as sur-

in Georgia in 2002, and although

vivors try to come to terms with

she was “scared to death” when she

the taking of their loved one’s life.

was first invited to address a

Christina Lawson described how

church group about her experi-

her 10-year-old daughter, trying to

ence, “it all came together, and peo-

understand that her father’s death

ple were on the edge of their seats

was caused by “the state of Texas,”

because they had never come in

sometimes felt as though that

contact with this.”



Christina Lawson’s husband,
David Martinez, was executed in
Texas in 2005. “I co-founded the
group Victims of Texas to help survivors of murder victims and survivors
of people who have been executed.
We want there to be someone who can
say ‘I understand’ and mean it.”


encountered: “She told me one day
when she went to school, she felt

When the Offender is the
State itself

like everyone was guilty, like she
was walking around among murderers because the people of Texas

Victims of abuse of power have
particular difficulty in gaining
recognition of the fact that they
have been victimized. The
essence of abuse of power is that
it is committed by those who
should be expected to protect the
population. The shock and loneliness of victimization can be
much greater for these victims.
… Where the offender is
the State itself, the principal

had killed her father.”
It may be tempting to dismiss
this as a child’s confusion, but
comments from the adult survivors, as well, suggest that sorting
out one’s relationship to the state
or “the system” after an execution
in the family is not an easy process.
“I have no trust in the system,”
admits Rosemary Malone. “I just
don’t have any faith anymore.”
Ida Reid, whose brother James


Ida Reid’s brother, James Reid, was
executed in Virginia in 2004. “Just
before he was executed, he asked me to
promise that I would never stop fighting.
When I write or speak about the death
penalty, it brings it all back, but I will
keep doing it regardless of how it affects
me, because it’s important that people

was executed in Virginia in 2004,

ing the lethal injection: “They have

expressed similar disillusionment in

different people responsible for all

a way that also underscores the

the different steps, so no one

Handbook’s point about the confu-

knows exactly who did it, but still

sion that results when harm is

– how do you do that?”

caused by those who are expected

Here again we are seeing the

to protect. “I’d always believed in

effort to come to terms with vic-

the system,” Ida recalls. “I partici-

timization occurring at the deliber-

pated in it, did my part. But now I

ate hands of another. Though the

don’t believe in it, and that’s really

family understands that the state is

sad.” Ida’s disbelief comes not only

technically responsible for, or

from the fact of her brother’s execu-

authorizing, the execution, it is dif-

tion but also from the events lead-

ficult – perhaps especially for those

ing up to it: “He had an attorney

who directly witness the execution

who slept during the hearings. The

– not to wonder about the individ-

lead attorney wasn’t qualified, and

uals who actually cause the death.

later he was disbarred for lying. We

As Beatrice Coleman also

didn’t have an actual trial because

noted, a pending execution also

everyone said that pleading him

puts the family in the odd position

guilty was the only way to save his

of planning for a death that will

life. Then later they said they never


said that.”

Beatrice described the process of




The greater one’s previous sense

writing and submitting her broth-

of connection to the state or the

er’s obituary before the execution

government, the greater the feeling

had occurred. Is an execution

of betrayal after an execution may

more like death from a terminal ill-

be. Bobby Fitzsimmons serves in the

ness – because the process is pro-

U.S. Navy and, after his brother

tracted and the family theoretically

James Colburn’s execution, told

has time to prepare for the death –

reporters, “The country I fight for

or more like murder, because the

just murdered my brother.”

actual death is sudden and caused
by others? Many of the family





members we interviewed clearly

brother Andy Smith was executed

struggled with these questions,

in South Carolina in 1998, said that

and regardless of their effort in

one of the hardest aspects of the

some cases to compare the experi-

experience was confronting the

ence to dying of an illness, the dif-

people responsible for administer-

ferences loomed large. As Wendy

Bradley, another daughter of Jerry

defend him, but also felt such

McWee, who was executed in

shame that I wanted to agree.”

South Carolina, put it, “My grand-

Years later, when Melanie was

mother wanted me to come with

a young woman, she requested

her to look at caskets, and I kept

time off from work in order to wit-

putting it off, because it felt kind of

ness her uncle’s execution. “That

morbid, to make all those arrange-

was a really difficult thing to do. I

ments for someone who was still

had to lie and say I had a death in

healthy and breathing and had no

my family – but in fact, I hadn’t yet

physical conditions. It wasn’t

had that death.”

something that we should be

Pam Crawford faced such
direct condemnation around the
time of her brother’s execution that

Family members’ difficulty in

she ended up leaving a job she had

gaining acknowledgment that an

loved. A housekeeper in the dor-

offense has occurred can affect their

mitories of the University of North

relationships with employers and

Carolina, Pam had been close to

others outside the family. Rather

the students and often invited

than being treated with the kind of

them to her home for meals.

understanding or dispensation that

When she came to work after her

might be accorded others who have

brother’s execution, she was con-

gone through a traumatic loss, fam-

fronted by a note on the closet

ilies of the executed often find

door in one of the dorm rooms; it

themselves hiding their experience

read “You’re a murderer.” Clearly

or being ostracized for it.

Pam was not being responded to as

Melanie Hebert was about to

the survivor of a trauma but

enter high school when her uncle,

instead as in some sense indistin-

Spencer Goodman, was charged

guishable from her brother who

with capital murder. Spencer, the

had committed the crime.

adoptive son of Melanie’s paternal

“It wasn’t just the students, it

grandparents, was only seven years

was my co-workers too,” Pam

older than Melanie and felt to her

recalls. “After three weeks, it was

more like a brother than an uncle.

too much. I had to leave. There

“Everyone at school knew we

were times when I felt real guilty,

were related,” she remembers. “I

like I had actually done something

had such a hard time in high

– but the only thing I was guilty of

school because of it. I was taunted:

was loving my brother.”

Melanie Hebert’s uncle, Spencer
Goodman, was executed in Texas in
2000. “I vividly remember when Spencer
was sentenced to death. It was my dad’s
birthday and we were all gathered at my
parents’ house when we heard it
announced on the news. I had a physical
reaction; I just felt so sick. I remember
everyone scattering to different parts of
the house, nobody talking about it but
everybody having to process it by themselves.”

‘I know who you are.’ I wanted to


The Impact of Inequitable Application


hus far, we have focused on
demonstrating that family members of the executed feel the impact of
victimization in the ways that the
Handbook on Justice for Victims delineates, and thus deserve recognition as
victims according to the Declaration of
Basic Principles of Justice for Victims
of Crime and Abuse of Power. We turn
now to an exploration of how
inequitable application of the death
penalty further affects the surviving
We observed earlier that by international norms, the death penalty
itself is increasingly viewed as a
human rights violation. Meanwhile,
various aspects of the application of
the death penalty in the United States
have been repeatedly identified as violations of international agreements –
in particular, the arbitrary and discriminatory imposition of death sentences and the execution of people
with mental illness or mental disabili11
Our interviews suggest that these
additional violations add to the impact
of the death penalty on surviving family members. Without taking up the
entire issue of inequitable application
of the death penalty, we will review
what family members of the executed
report about how these issues affect
their overall experience of a death sentence and an execution.


Arbitrary and
In a report presented to the UN
Human Rights Committee regarding
the U.S.’s failure to comply with
aspects of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, Sandra
Babcock, writing for the National
Coalition of Criminal Defense
Lawyers, asserted that “there is ample
evidence that death sentences in the
United States are imposed arbitrarily
and on the basis of impermissible factors such as race and poverty.
Moreover, there are no uniform standards to guide the discretion of state
prosecutors in seeking the death
For family members, the belief
that race and/or lack of financial
resources played a role in their loved
one’s death sentence can deepen their
sense of victimization and make it
even more difficult to come to terms
with what happened.
“How would things have been different if we’d had money?” Jonnie
Warner wonders, ten years after her
brother Larry Griffin was executed in
The police came to the door, and
Larry went with them to go clear
his name. He never came home. I
guess when you go to get an attorney, that’s when it starts to dawn
on you: they’re saying prices that

are more than you make in a year.
That in itself says that this is real
serious. The lawyer we got said he
didn’t have any death penalty
experience but he would do the
best he could. I do believe that he
did the best he could with his
experience, but he didn’t have any
idea what the court experience
would be like for an inexperienced lawyer trying a murder
case. He was outmatched in
experience and resources.
Though Jonnie and her family
hold no animosity toward the inexperienced attorney, it is hard to imagine
how they can avoid making the connection between their inability to pay
more for Larry’s defense and his
resulting death sentence. Whether
they direct this anger outward at the
inequitable defense system or inward
toward their family and its resources,
they are clearly suffering an additional
burden. In Larry Griffin’s case, this
burden is especially acute because of
doubt that he was guilty of the crime
for which he was executed – doubt so
serious that his case is one of only four
current cases nationwide in which the
convicted murderer’s innocence is
being investigated after the execution
has already been carried out.12
Race may be an impermissible factor in the decision about whether to

These constitute violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for
In 2005, after a year of investigation, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund issued a report raising substantial doubt that Larry Griffin was guilty of the murder for
which he had been convicted and executed. The prosecutor’s office agreed to re-open the case, and an investigation is currently in process.


seek or impose the death penalty, but
family members report hearing overt
comments and predictions telling
them that race is indeed a factor.
Rosemary Malone recalls the prosecutor, during the penalty phase of her
[biracial] brother’s trial, saying,
“You’ve created a mixed breed, this is
what happens. This is what you get –
you get an animal.” Rosemary remembers that each time the prosecutor
referred to Kelvin Malone as “an animal” or “a monster,” Rosemary
responded by saying “my brother,”
and one can easily imagine how the
repeated effort to insist on her brother’s humanity, and to counter the
racism in the prosecutor’s remarks,
added to Rosemary’s burden as a family member of a person facing a death
Pam Crawford remembers that
her family had very little understanding of the criminal justice process
when her younger brother Ed Horsley
was arrested, and when they were told
that, because of his race and the race
of the victim, he would surely
get the death penalty, they believed
that the police officers were talking
about a legal determination that had
already been made:
When the investigators came
out to talk to us, they said, “You
know what this means – he’s in
Alabama, they killed a white girl?”
I said “No, I just know murder is
wrong.” The investigator said, “It
means that they’re gonna execute
them.” I said, “Execute? They’re
just youngsters.” He said, “Ma’am,

they’re gonna execute them.”
They hadn’t been found guilty
at this point, the case was probably about two days old at that
time, but it was like they’d already
been convicted. I wasn’t familiar
with it all, so I was just dumbfounded, I hardly knew exactly
what that meant. And my grandmother and my mother, not being
educated in that area, not knowing anything about an execution,
were just at a loss: what do we
expect? People would try to
explain it to her, saying there
would be a trial first. My grandmother said no, because the
investigator already told us it was
going to happen. She believed
that the investigator was telling
her what had been decided. She
said, “How do we know they
won’t just hang him? How do we
know it won’t just happen?”

Mental Illness and Mental
Bill Babbitt was also unfamiliar
with the criminal justice process when
he agreed to turn his mentally ill
brother Manny Babbitt over to the
police because he suspected him of
being responsible for the murder of an
elderly woman in their California
town. “They promised me that Manny
would get the help he needed,” Bill
recalls. But instead of getting help,
Manny – who had been diagnosed
with paranoid schizophrenia and
post-traumatic stress disorder following his two tours of duty in Vietnam –

was sentenced to death and later executed. “I wish we had been able to get
Manny the help he needed,” Bill says
now. “I wish that as a society we
would devote our resources to treating
people like Manny instead of imposing the death penalty.”
One member’s mental illness
affects an entire family. When relatives
struggle repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to obtain proper treatment, the
burden on the family is already considerable. When the failure to secure
treatment results in the family member committing a crime and then
being executed, the harm to the entire
family is tremendously increased. Lois
and Ken Robison have publicly told
the story of their efforts to get treatment for their son Larry:
Larry was diagnosed as a
paranoid schizophrenic at the age
of 21. Our family tried in vain to
get him proper treatment. Mental
health professionals told us that
he was not well and would get
worse without treatment, but hospitals routinely discharged him
after 30-day stays because he was
“not violent” and they “needed the
bed.” We were told that if he
became violent, he could get the
long-term treatment that everyone
agreed he needed.
Our son’s first and only act of
violence was to kill five people.
Despite his well-documented history of mental illness, he was
found sane and sentenced to die.
The state of Texas executed him in
2000. How can a modern, civi-


lized society choose to exterminate its ill citizens rather than
treat them?13
Tina Duroy’s story is tragically
similar. Tina’s brother James Colburn
was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 14, and had been in
and out of hospitals throughout the
remainder of his teenage years. “When
he turned 18, he was no longer covered by the family’s insurance,” Tina
explains. “My grandparents drained
their entire retirement, their savings,
but when they ran out of money there
was no hospital that would take him
without insurance. Texas has no statefunded mental facility.”
When James was arrested and
charged with murder, Tina says that
she had the possibility of a death sentence “in the back of my mind, but I
didn’t seriously think they would put
someone with such an extensive medical history to death. It was the prosecutor’s first capital murder case, and
after my brother’s execution I sent him
a card saying ‘Congratulations; I hope
you never have mental illness in your
Tina’s bitterness was intensified by
the toll that her brother’s death sentence took on her entire family. “My
mother couldn’t face it,” Tina recalls.
“She probably blamed herself, even
though she couldn’t do any more than
she did.” Tina’s mother died two years
before James’s execution; Tina and
several other family members witnessed the execution in 2004.
Tina says that she still has flashbacks of the event, and continually


questions why her brother could not
have received the treatment he needed
to prevent both his crime and his execution. “I don’t understand how they
can execute mentally ill people when
they don’t try to treat them first,” she
says. “Our police, our lawyers, our
judges need to be educated about
mental illness before they make the
decisions they do.”
The question of whether a criminal murder, and later an execution,
might have been prevented by adequate treatment also haunts family
members of people who have mental
disabilities as a result of brain injury.
Ida Reid, for example, explains that
although the family knew that her
brother James suffered brain damage
as a result of an injury years earlier,
they were not aware of the extent of
the damage until much later, after he
had been arrested and charged with
capital murder. Ida says:
He had been in a terrible car
crash, and I knew that that had
affected him, but I didn’t know to
what extent until I saw the report
that he had bone missing from the
right temporal lobe and that’s the
part of the brain that controls
impulses. And it’s when he was
drinking that the real lack of
impulse control came out. He was
fairly normal if he didn’t drink,
but once he drank it’s like he
became another person. And
when you’re poor, it makes a difference because you can’t get the
services that you truly need.

Though international human
rights standards prohibit the execution of people suffering from mental
illness and mental disabilities such as
those resulting from a brain injury,
such executions have not yet been
ruled unconstitutional in the United
States. In contrast, a 2002 U.S.
Supreme Court decision did rule that
the death penalty for people with
mental retardation is unconstitutional
– a ruling that unfortunately came too
late for Grace Bolden’s son Cornelius
Singleton, who was executed in
Alabama in 1992 despite having an IQ
of between 55 and 65 and being convicted on the basis of a signed confession that he had been unable to read.
“Even before they arrested him,
the DA said they were going to give
him the death penalty, and they didn’t
have any evidence to connect him
with the murder,” Grace recalls. “Neal
didn’t understand what was going
on.” Neal’s death sentence and execution took an enormous toll on Grace;
she lost her house trying to pay for his
defense and she suffers from ongoing
physical ailments in the aftermath.
Families who have struggled but
been unable to secure appropriate
help for a mentally ill or disabled family member suffer the dual anguish of
regret and betrayal. They wonder if
the tragedies of murder and execution
could have been prevented had treatment been available. Compounding
this regret is the knowledge that “the
system,” rather than being a source of
help, ultimately became the agent of
their loved one’s violent death.

Ken and Lois Robison in Not in Our Name: Murder Victims’ Families Speak Out Against the Death Penalty (Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, 2003).


Conclusion: Out Of The Shadows


at Seaborn, whose cousin Ron Spivey was executed in Georgia in 2002, describes families
of the executed as “shadow victims.” Susan Sharp’s book refers to them as “hidden victims.” An editorial in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman titled “The Families Left Behind”
says, “We hardly give them a second thought – if we notice them at all.”
Until very recently, families of the executed have been so unrecognized that it would not
even be accurate to say that their needs have been ignored. It is more appropriate to say that
their needs have been unimagined. As Irene Cartwright said earlier in this report, most people never even consider that individuals sentenced to death have families, much less consider
the impact on those families.
Our goal is to bring family members of the executed out of the shadows. The harm that
families of the executed suffer has distinct characteristics. But at its core, it is more like than
unlike the harm suffered by any people whose family members’ lives have been deliberately
taken. We shine light on this harm so that the sufferers may finally receive the recognition and
assistance they deserve, and so that discussion of the death penalty may include the question:
Can any perceived benefits of executions be justified by the new group of victims they create?


Appendix 1: Recommendations
In the preceding pages, we have argued that family members of the executed ought to be recognized as victims
under the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for
Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power and that recognition
and assistance ought to be offered to this group as they are
to any other victims. Our specific recommendations are as

To educators, we recommend the development of trainings and materials for teachers and school counselors
about the impact of the death penalty on children in families of the accused. Such trainings and materials would
aim to raise awareness about this issue and better prepare
those who encounter children suffering in the aftermath of
a family member’s death sentence or execution.

To the United Nations, we recommend that the Office of
the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) conduct a study of family members of the executed and
include the study’s findings in the OHCHR’s annual report
to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the
United Nations Human Rights Committee. We recommend that the study be undertaken in countries that have
not yet abolished the death penalty and in countries that
have abolished it but still have surviving family members
of people who were executed. We also recommend that,
after taking inventory of the resources and support services available to such families, the OHCHR urge passage of
laws that recognize family members of the executed as victims of abuse of power who are entitled to support and

To child welfare advocates, particularly those who are
developing services to address the needs of children of
incarcerated parents and children who have suffered a violent loss in their family, we recommend that trainings and
literature include specific information and guidance about
children in families of the executed, whose needs and
concerns are in many ways distinct.

To lawmakers, we recommend the passage of statutes
that would give legal recognition to families of the executed as victims deserving of access to assistance and support. For example, in the U.S., laws now make it possible
for relatives of murder victims to receive compensation to
help with the costs of medical care, mental health counseling, and funerals; we recommend that families of the
executed be eligible for this kind of assistance as well.
To religious leaders and counselors, we recommend
that people in the faith community recognize the potential
presence of families of the executed within their congregations, work to identify the needs of such families, and
develop outreach and support programs as appropriate.
To victim advocates and victim assistants, we recommend that family members of the executed be recognized
as victims who may be in need of advocacy and assistance,
and we encourage the development of a protocol for making programs, services, and other forms of help available
to these families. Although advocates and assistants may
need to interact with the criminal justice system in order
to identify and reach out to families of the defendant in
capital cases, we recommend that such advocates and
assistants be independent rather than under the auspices
of either the prosecutor’s or the defender’s offices.


To mental health professionals, we recommend that the
short- and long-term psychological effects of an execution
in the family be included in literature and training directed at social workers, clinical psychologists, trauma specialists, and others who might come in contact with such
families. We also recommend that witnessing executions
be recognized as a “gateway” criterion for post-traumatic
stress disorder.
To academic scholars, we recommend that research be
conducted about the long-term effects of executions on
the defendants’ family members, with particular investigation into the effects on children. While there exists a substantial body of research concluding that the effects of the
death penalty on surviving families are devastating, a
large-scale longitudinal study has not yet been undertaken. Further research into the long-term effects of executions on the surviving family members, particularly on the
children in the family, will inform the policies and practices of educators, child welfare advocates, and mental
health professionals, as we have suggested above.

Appendix 2: List of Family Members
Our deepest gratitude to all the individuals whose stories informed the writing of this report:

Barbara Allen (Alberta, Canada), niece of Stanley
Faulder, executed in Texas in 1999
Stanley Allridge (Texas), brother of Ronald Allridge,
executed in Texas in 1995, and James Allridge, executed
in Texas in 2004
Bill Babbitt (California), brother of Manny Babbitt, executed in California in 1999
Desiree Babbitt (Rhode Island), daughter of Manny
Rena and Ireland Beazley (Texas), parents of Napoleon
Beazley, executed in Texas in 2002
Grace Bolden (Alabama), mother of Cornelius
Singleton, executed in Alabama in 2002
Antoinette Bosco (Connecticut), niece of Charles
Doran, executed in New York in 1928
Wendy Bradley (South Carolina), daughter of Jerry
McWee, executed in South Carolina in 2004
Irene Cartwright-Rekitzke (Illinois), mother of Richard
Cartwright, executed in Texas in 2005
Frances Coe (Tennessee), sister-in-law of Robert Coe,
executed in Tennessee in 2000
Jimmie Coe (Tennessee), brother of Robert Coe
Beatrice Coleman (South Carolina), brother of Andy
Smith, executed in South Carolina in 1998
Calvin Crawford (North Carolina), brother-in-law of Ed
Horsley, executed in Alabama in 1996
Pamela Crawford (North Carolina), sister of Ed Horsley
Yvonne Delvecchio (Illinois), mother of George
Delvecchio, executed in Illinois in 1995
Bonnie DeShields (Tennessee), sister of Robert Coe,
executed in Tennessee in 2000
Tina Duroy (Texas), sister of James Colburn, executed in
Texas in 2004
Felicia Floyd (Georgia), daughter of Fred Gilreath, executed in Georgia in 2001
Jim Fowler (Oklahoma), father of Mark Fowler, executed in Oklahoma in 2001

Janis Gay (California), granddaughter of Alexander Kels,
executed in California in 1924
Melanie Hebert (Texas), niece of Spencer Goodman,
executed in Texas in 2000
Sonia Jacobs (Ireland), wife of Jesse Tafero, executed in
Florida in 1990
Chris Kellett (Georgia), son of Fred Gilreath, executed
in Georgia in 2001
Marcus Lawrie (Delaware), son of David Lawrie, executed in Delaware in 1999
Christina Lawson (Texas), wife of David Martinez, executed in Texas in 2005
Rosemary Malone (California), sister of Kelvin Malone,
executed in Missouri in 1999
Billie Jean Mayberry (Tennessee), sister of Robert Coe,
executed in Tennessee in 2000
Celia McWee (Georgia), mother of Jerry McWee, executed in South Carolina in 2004
Misty McWee (South Carolina), daughter of Jerry
Robert Meeropol (Massachusetts), son of Ethel and
Julius Rosenberg, executed by the federal government (in
New York) in 1953
Ida Reid (Virginia), sister of James Reid, executed in
Virginia in 2004
Ken and Lois Robison (Texas), parents of Larry
Robison, executed in Texas in 2000
Pat Seaborn (Georgia), cousin of Ron Spivey, executed
in Georgia in 2002
Bill Vaught (Texas), brother of John Wheat, executed in
Texas in 2001
Jonnie Warner (Missouri), sister of Larry Griffin, executed in Missouri in 1995
We also want to express our gratitude to those family
members of the executed who have shared their stories
with us but do not feel comfortable having their names
listed publicly.


Appendix 3: Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims
of Crime and Abuse of Power
Adopted by General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 29 November 1985
A. Victims of Crime
1. “Victims” means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental
injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial
impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or
omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative
within Member States, including those laws proscribing
criminal abuse of power.
2. A person may be considered a victim, under this
Declaration, regardless of whether the perpetrator is
identified, apprehended, prosecuted or convicted and
regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. The term “victim” also includes,
where appropriate, the immediate family or dependants
of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm
in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent
3. The provisions contained herein shall be applicable to
all, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour,
sex, age, language, religion, nationality, political or other
opinion, cultural beliefs or practices, property, birth or
family status, ethnic or social origin, and disability.
Access to justice and fair treatment
4. Victims should be treated with compassion and
respect for their dignity. They are entitled to access to the
mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress, as provided for by national legislation, for the harm that they have
5. Judicial and administrative mechanisms should be
established and strengthened where necessary to enable
victims to obtain redress through formal or informal procedures that are expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible. Victims should be informed of their rights in seeking redress through such mechanisms.
6. The responsiveness of judicial and administrative
processes to the needs of victims should be facilitated by:
(a) Informing victims of their role and the scope, timing
and progress of the proceedings and of the disposition of
their cases, especially where serious crimes are involved
and where they have requested such information;


(b) Allowing the views and concerns of victims to be
presented and considered at appropriate stages of the
proceedings where their personal interests are affected,
without prejudice to the accused and consistent with the
relevant national criminal justice system;
(c) Providing proper assistance to victims throughout the
legal process;
(d) Taking measures to minimize inconvenience to victims, protect their privacy, when necessary, and ensure
their safety, as well as that of their families and witnesses
on their behalf, from intimidation and retaliation;
(e) Avoiding unnecessary delay in the disposition of
cases and the execution of orders or decrees granting
awards to victims.
7. Informal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes,
including mediation, arbitration and customary justice or
indigenous practices, should be utilized where appropriate to facilitate conciliation and redress for victims.
8. Offenders or third parties responsible for their behaviour should, where appropriate, make fair restitution to
victims, their families or dependants. Such restitution
should include the return of property or payment for the
harm or loss suffered, reimbursement of expenses
incurred as a result of the victimization, the provision of
services and the restoration of rights.
9. Governments should review their practices, regulations and laws to consider restitution as an available sentencing option in criminal cases, in addition to other
criminal sanctions.
10. In cases of substantial harm to the environment,
restitution, if ordered, should include, as far as possible,
restoration of the environment, reconstruction of the
infrastructure, replacement of community facilities and
reimbursement of the expenses of relocation, whenever
such harm results in the dislocation of a community.

11. Where public officials or other agents acting in an
official or quasi-official capacity have violated national
criminal laws, the victims should receive restitution from
the State whose officials or agents were responsible for
the harm inflicted. In cases where the Government
under whose authority the victimizing act or omission
occurred is no longer in existence, the State or
Government successor in title should provide restitution
to the victims.

16. Police, justice, health, social service and other personnel concerned should receive training to sensitize
them to the needs of victims, and guidelines to ensure
proper and prompt aid.


B. Victims of Abuse of Power

12. When compensation is not fully available from the
offender or other sources, States should endeavour to
provide financial compensation to:
(a) Victims who have sustained significant bodily injury
or impairment of physical or mental health as a result of
serious crimes;
(b) The family, in particular dependants of persons who
have died or become physically or mentally incapacitated
as a result of such victimization.
13. The establishment, strengthening and expansion of
national funds for compensation to victims should be
encouraged. Where appropriate, other funds may also be
established for this purpose, including in those cases
where the State of which the victim is a national is not in
a position to compensate the victim for the harm.
14. Victims should receive the necessary material, medical, psychological and social assistance through governmental, voluntary, community-based and indigenous
15. Victims should be informed of the availability of
health and social services and other relevant assistance
and be readily afforded access to them.

17. In providing services and assistance to victims, attention should be given to those who have special needs
because of the nature of the harm inflicted or because of
factors such as those mentioned in paragraph 3 above.

18. “Victims” means persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental
injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial
impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or
omissions that do not yet constitute violations of national criminal laws but of internationally recognized norms
relating to human rights.
19. States should consider incorporating into the national law norms proscribing abuses of power and providing
remedies to victims of such abuses. In particular, such
remedies should include restitution and/or compensation, and necessary material, medical, psychological and
social assistance and support.
20. States should consider negotiating multilateral international treaties relating to victims, as defined in paragraph 18.
21. States should periodically review existing legislation
and practices to ensure their responsiveness to changing
circumstances, should enact and enforce, if necessary,
legislation proscribing acts that constitute serious abuses
of political or economic power, as well as promoting
policies and mechanisms for the prevention of such acts,
and should develop and make readily available appropriate rights and remedies for victims of such acts.


Appendix 4: Excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human
Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the
equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human
family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in
the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have
resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which
human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief
and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as
the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to
have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of
friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the
Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human
rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person
and in the equal rights of men and women and have
determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to
achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the
promotion of universal respect for and observance of
human rights and fundamental freedoms,


Whereas a common understanding of these rights and
freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that
every individual and every organ of society, keeping this
Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching
and education to promote respect for these rights and
freedoms and by progressive measures, national and
international, to secure their universal and effective
recognition and observance, both among the peoples of
Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights

Board of Directors
Bud Welch

Louise Arbour
Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights
Palais Wilson
Geneva, Switzerland

Brian Roberts
Washington, D.C.

December 10, 2006

Tamara Chikunova
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Vicki Schieber
Bill Babbitt
Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
Rev. Walter Everett
Bill Jenkins
Toshi Kazama
New York
Robert Meeropol
Bill Pelke
Sr. Helen Prejean
Bonnita Spikes
Executive Director
Robert Renny Cushing
Program Staff
Kate Lowenstein, Esq.
Susannah Sheffer
2161 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Dear High Commissioner Arbour:
We respectfully submit to you a copy of Creating More Victims: How Executions Hurt the
Families Left Behind, a report published by Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
and released on International Human Rights Day 2006.
The report, which grows out of the No Silence, No Shame project of Murder Victims’
Families for Human Rights, presents the voices and experiences of three dozen surviving family members of people who have been executed in the United States.
Through analysis of their testimony, the report demonstrates that surviving family
members of executed persons are victims as defined by the Declaration of Basic
Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.
As you will see, the report contains specific recommendations, and we draw your
attention in particular to the recommendation that the Office of the High
Commissioner on Human Rights conduct a study of family members of the executed
and include the study’s findings in the OHCHR’s annual report to the Secretary
General of the United Nations and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Although we have taken an initial look at the issue by interviewing a small group of
family members of the executed in the U.S., we believe the impact of the death penalty on families of the executed is an issue of sufficient concern to the international
human rights community that it merits a more comprehensive study worldwide.
Such a study is consistent with the OHCHR’s mandate to protect and promote human
rights for all and to lead the international human rights movement by acting as a
moral authority and voice for victims. We ask you now to take the lead in recognizing the victimization that families of the executed experience, undertaking further
investigation of the issue, and recommending specific ways to redress, through support and reparations, the harm that families of the executed have endured. I am
hopeful that MVFHR and the OHCHR can work together to bring recognition to
these previously hidden victims.

Renny Cushing
Executive Director

phone 617-491-9600

DC Office: 2611 Washington Avenue, Chevy Chase MD 20815

Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) is an international, non-governmental
organization of family members of victims of criminal murder, terrorist killings, state executions,
extrajudicial assassinations, and “disappearances” working to oppose the death penalty from a
human rights perspective.
Board of Directors: Bud Welch (President), Brian Roberts (Chair), Tamara Chikunova (Vice-Chair),
Vicki Schieber (Treasurer), Bill Babbitt, Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, Rev. Walter Everett, Bill Jenkins,
Toshi Kazama, Robert Meeropol, Bill Pelke, Sr. Helen Prejean, Bonnita Spikes
Staff: Renny Cushing (Executive Director), Susannah Sheffer, Kate Lowenstein
MVFHR is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 organization. Contributions to MVFHR are deductible on the donor's U.S.
federal income tax. Federal tax identification number 11-3725424
Murder Victims Families for Human Rights is a member of the World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty,
the World Society of Victimology, the U.S. Human Rights Network, the National Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty, and the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

We are grateful to the following foundations for their support of MVFHR’s No Silence, No Shame:
Organizing Families of the Executed project: Grassroots Exchange Fund, Lifespark, the Maverick Lloyd
Foundation, MCADP Fund, the Neighbors in Need Fund of the United Church of Christ Justice and
Witness Ministries, the Unitarian Universalist Fund for a Just Society, and U.S. Human Rights Network.
For more information about human rights, the death penalty, and victimization:
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
American Bar Association
American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International USA
Center for Constitutional Rights
Comunit di Sant'Egidio
Death Penalty Information Center
Equal Justice USA
FIDH International Federation for Human Rights
International Victimology Website
Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing
Justice Project
Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
National Organization for Victim Assistance
Penal Reform International
Southern Center for Human Rights
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
US Human Rights Network
World Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
World Society of Victimology

2161 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02140 USA

2161 Massachusetts Avenue • Cambridge MA 02140 USA • 617-491-9600

A report from Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights
with a foreword from Amnesty International USA