Putting murderers to death doesn't help victims' families

November 30, 2011

I do not know Vivian Penda but I was touched and moved by her op-ed in which she shared her struggle following the murder of her son. In her powerful guest opinion she urged, "For the sake of victims' families, repeal the death penalty." (Nov. 17.) It breaks my heart that she did not receive more support from our public agencies following her profound and tragic loss.

Her words make it clearer than ever for me that it is time to re-focus our state's resources on approaches that reduce violence and provide much-needed support to crime victims. We can begin by ending the death penalty in Maryland, which wastes tax dollars and draws out for decades the legal process that murder victims' loved ones must endure. Putting murderers to death does not provide support for the survivors of their victims. Over and over again we hear from those families that even the execution of a convicted murderer does not bring closure, nor does it end their pain.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber too has urged "a different approach," announcing Thanksgiving week that he will no longer "be part of this compromised and inequitable system" and so will end all executions while he is governor. I commend him and other governors who have taken similar positions.

Our own governor, Martin O'Malley, has been a national leader on this issue, coming out forcefully, during his first term for abolishing capital punishment in Maryland. His historic stand surely created space for Governor Kitzhaber and other state leaders to act to end the death penalty.

I am looking for Governor O'Malley to hold strong to his views on the death penalty and to work with the General Assembly in 2012 to repeal it once and for all in Maryland. I know that they will have my support and the support of many other Marylanders in this important effort.

Rabbi Floyd L. Herman, Owings Mills

The writer is rabbi emeritus of the Har Sinai Congregation.

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