Death Penalty

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Death Penalty


“In our understandable desire to be fair and to protect the rights of offenders in our criminal justice system, let us never ignore or minimize the rights of their victims.” The death penalty is a necessary tool that reaffirms the sanctity of human life while assuring that convicted killers will never again prey upon others. Through the death penalty many families of victims find solace and retribution by seeking to put an end to it all; the sleepless nights, the terrifying nightmares of what their son, daughter, wife, husband, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin or friend went through and the constant reminder of why their loved ones aren’t with them. In June 1997, a parade of witnesses at the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, described the explosion’s impact on their lives. Survivors of the blast expressed their belief that killing McVeigh would be justified, given their loss, and many expressed their fury. “The sooner McVeigh meets his maker, the sooner justice will be served,” said Darlene Welch, whose 4-year-old niece, Ashley, was killed in the blast. “He will get what he deserves in the afterlife, where he will meet Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer,” says Ernie Ross, who suffered serious injuries from the blast while working across the street. “He deserves the death penalty, there’s no doubt about that.” This would seem to be what Americans want. In poll after poll, more than 70% say they support the death penalty, a figure that has remained consistent for the past decade. But increasingly, another argument for the death penalty is being voiced, one far more basic. It centers not on the criminal’s debt to society but on the right of a victim’s loved ones to gain peace of mind through his death. The right, in other words, would be therapeutic vengeance. Death-penalty opponents have traditionally viewed this kind of personal retribution as barbaric. But isn’t bringing solace to a victim and their family a legitimate justification for the death penalty? And isn’t providing solace a powerful form of compensation? On the afternoon of October 1, 1997, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley told his grandmother, “I have to go do something. I’ll be back in a little while.” Then he left her house in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His grandmother would be the last one to see him alive. When Curley did not come home that night, his family, their neighbors and police organized a huge search. They also distributed flyers with the boy’s picture on it. The next day Salvatore Sicari, Curley’s neighbor and adult “friend,” arrived at the Curleys’ home with a handful of the flyers. He expressed his concern over the boy’s disappearance and offered his assistance. Sicari also began to speak to Cambridge police, offering bits of information. Sicari told police that he had last seen Curley on the morning of October 1, when Curley had apparently threatened him with his dog. Sicari said that he told Curley that he would kill the dog if the boy didn’t stop. After that encounter, Sicari said he met up with Charles Jaynes. Sicari told authorities that he had seen Curley riding in Jaynes’ Cadillac in the past. He also claimed that Jaynes had promised Curley a bicycle. He had warned Curley to stay away from Jaynes. Cambridge police contacted Jaynes on October 2. While he denied knowing Curley, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant and taken into custody. In Jaynes’ wallet, police found four receipts for items purchased with a credit card bearing his father’s name: Edward Jaynes. The items included a receipt from Bradlees for a Rubbermaid container, a receipt from Home Depot for cement and lime, a receipt for a bicycle and a receipt from an Osco Drug Store for cigars and caffeine pills. All of these purchases were made on the day of Curley’s disappearance. When questioned, Jaynes said that he knew Curley, but denied seeing him on the day the boy disappeared. Sicari was contacted again by Cambridge police and continued to provide details. In his statement, Sicari described the killing. While he drove Jaynes’ Cadillac, he explained, the 250-pound Jaynes sat on Curley in the back seat. As Curley struggled, Jaynes allegedly told him, “Don’t fight

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