To the editor:
In August 2001 my sister Sue, was murdered in Port Saint Lucie, Fla. In May 2003, a jury found Daniel Perez guilty of this horrible crime.
Before the trial, I informed the district attorney, the judge and defense attorneys that I did not support the death penalty, but was denied the opportunity to make a statement to the jury, which sentenced Perez to death. It was only on appeal and after writing many letters, was Mr. Perez’s sentence changed to life without parole. I was relieved and grateful.
I’m writing this letter more than 10 years later and 3,000 miles from the crime that ended my sweet sister’s life in the hope that people will hear me now and open their hearts and minds to the idea that life without parole is the just punishment for murder. The death penalty process creates only more anger and pain for the families of murder victims.
It is normal to feel anger about a brutal crime and want to avenge a senseless loss. I realize that well-meaning people throughout this country support the death penalty, believing their support will satisfy and bring closure to people like me.
That is the great myth — that somehow the death penalty provides families with closure. Believe me, it does not.
The trial and subsequent appeals inherent in due process subject family members of murder victims to a prolonged horror of reliving or re-imagining the crime, and it subjects innocent family members of the accused to despair and agony. It is a dark cloud that grows only darker, and in the end it serves no one. Since Daniel Perez received his life sentence, I have been able to avoid the years of process required to execute him, move along a path of healing and realize peace in a way that the death penalty cannot provide.
In 2013 the Washington State Legislature may consider replacing the death penalty with life without parole. If that happens, I hope you will think of me, family members of other murder victims, and the families of the accused, and ask your representative to support life without parole as a safe and just alternative to the death penalty.