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Do executions bring justice? The relatives of murder victims disagree on the death penalty. (opinion)(Cover Story).

NO On June 1, 1988, my father, Robert Cushing, a retired schoolteacher, opened his front door and was greeted by a shotgun blast that ripped his chest apart. His murder left our family numb and devastated. We will feel the loss for the rest of our lives.

After his killers had been apprehended, an acquaintance said to me, "I hope they fry those people so your family can get some peace." He meant to comfort me, but the idea of more killing didn't comfort me then and doesn't now. As a family member of a murder victim, I oppose the death penalty.

Capital punishment doesn't bring back those who have died; it only creates more grieving families. It doesn't deter violence; states that have the death penalty have higher murder rates than states that don't. The death penalty is fallible and flawed. There are innocent people on death row, and far more people of color than white, far more poor than rich. We execute mentally ill people instead of treating them, and we spend millions of dollars on the death penalty instead of on programs that might truly reduce violence or truly help victims.

Whether it's done by an individual or by the state, premeditated killing is never the right thing to do. Further violence will not honor victims' lives or make the world a better place. The death penalty is not the answer.

--RENNY CUSHING Executive Director, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation

YES On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh knew that he could receive the death penalty for killing another human being. Yet he deliberately set off an explosion in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that took the lives of 168 people. One of them was my sister.

McVeigh chose his own destiny. I believe it was right that on June 11 of this year, he was executed for the crime of murder.

The death penalty is reserved for crimes with certain aggravating circumstances. Not all murders warrant the death penalty. Since 1977, there have been 500,000 murders in the United States, but only 700 executions. Before such a sentence can be imposed, all 12 jurors must agree.

Unlike the people in Oklahoma City, McVeigh had the opportunity to speak with friends and family before his death. He had a chance to say goodbye.

Certainly it's true that executing the killer doesn't bring back the victim. And as a deterrent to future crime, the death penalty works perfectly only on one person.

What the death penalty does do, however, is tell an individual and society that certain types of crime will not be tolerated. It says that certain crimes are so heinous that they merit the ultimate response.

In an unspeakably ugly way, McVeigh intruded himself into a kind of relationship with our family. The ending of that relationship with his death gave us the chance to move forward and begin again. I know now on an emotional level that McVeigh won't be released into society to harm my family again. In a small way, that helps.

--SUSAN WINCHESTER Oklahoma State Representative (R-Chickasha)
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Title Annotation:dialogue; Renny Cushing, Susan Winchester
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 3, 2001
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