The Courier-Journal published the work of four columnists and a timeline of recent Kentucky history and the death penalty on Sunday in its Forum section. The columnists comprised a group of “unusual” suspects, not the kind of folks associated with opposition to the death penalty: a former executioner and dean at a university, a victim family member whose brother was murdered, a Republican, Southern Baptist state representative and a former staff member of the National Rifle Association.
Ben Griffith, a member of the board of directors of this Coalition, has spoken often about the murder of his brother, Chris, in 1986. In the column he wrote Ben reminds us of the outrage he felt upon learning of his brother’s death:
Given the steadfastness of the notion that the death penalty gives closure to homicide survivors, most people would understand the anger I felt when my brother Tim called me at my Frankfort home in the middle of the night with the news of his murder. Most people would understand how I would have loved to have seen Donald Reese die right then and there. And certainly for my first year of living with the knowledge of how Chris died, I had some feelings that justice may be served by another death.
This normal outrage did not, in the end, prevail and Ben tells us in this short column how religious convictions trumped the desire for revenge. He also reveals what most people probably don’t realize. Once his family made it clear they were not interested in seeing Chris’s killer executed, their relationship with the prosecutor changed dramatically. Ben writes:
My family was literally discarded and shunned by the prosecutor’s office when my parents announced opposition to the death sentence during Reese’s sentencing phase. It was a small victory for abolition when the judge gave Donald Reese life without parole for Chris’s murder.
But the killer received a death sentence for other crimes and Ben concludes:
However, for the other murders, a death penalty was issued and Reese was executed on August 13, 1997. His death made me feel victimized yet again.
To read the complete article written by Ben, please click here.