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Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims’ Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty

Cushing, Robert R
June 4, 2015

Source: (2002) Cambridge, MA: Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation. Downloaded 15 July 2004.

There is a need for policies to challenge the victim services community to develop a protocol that recognizes opposition to the death penalty as a valid response to the trauma of murder. When victims’ rights and services are linked and subordinate to prosecutors’ offices, they are often granted and enforced only at the prosecutor’s discretion. The family members’ willingness to cooperate with that office is critical to their being granted rights and services. When the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, victims’ family members that don’t want the death penalty imposed are automatically in conflict with the prosecution’s agenda. There is an inequity in the treatment of homicide survivors and in the application and enforcement of victims’ rights laws. A fundamental challenge to society is to recognize a distinct subgroup of victims; acknowledge that they have not been well served in the past and that harm has sometimes been done; and make a commitment to treating such victims equitably from now on. It is recommended that an amendment to Federal and State victims’ rights laws guarantee equality of all victims under the law and to ban discrimination based upon a victim’s position on the death penalty; victims’ services programs dedicated solely to serving the needs of all victims of crime. There should be recognition by Federal and State victims’ service agencies of murder victims’ family members that oppose the death penalty as a distinct subgroup of the crime victim population. A national protocol should be developed for serving victims’ families that oppose the death penalty. Such a protocol should identify and address the needs of these victims; set a standard of professional conduct for those that work with victims that includes equitable treatment of all victims, regardless of beliefs about the death penalty. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Referene Service,


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