On Wednesday, I had the honor of being a guest at the signing of the repeal of the death penalty bill recently passed to the governor from the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives. When Governor Malloy signed the bill, I was overjoyed. The tone of occasion was solemn and respectful, as it should have been. This was a momentous, life-changing time for the people of our state.
I am so proud to be a citizen of Connecticut. I’m proud that we have passed this law and by doing so, have made it clear that we value human life. I’m proud to join the sixteen other states who have similar laws, and I’m proud to join most of the countries of the world, in proclaiming that we value human life.
I’m very proud to have had a part in making it understood that all victims, and all victim family members, do not necessarily want the death penalty for the murderer of their loved-one. I believe that hearing our individual stories and our collective message made a difference in the outcome of this bill.
For years it seems there has been a general belief that all victim family members have wanted the death penalty for the person who took, often brutally, their loved one. I think some people who didn’t necessarily have a point of view, who maybe hadn’t given the death penalty much thought, may have thought that it didn’t affect them, and that we should probably have it because it makes the victim’s families feel better and maybe makes it easier for them to move on. This may be true for some families, but it is not true for the victim families that I know, some of whom were among the more than 180 individual Connecticut victim family members who signed a letter to our legislators telling them that we support repeal of the death penalty. We told them it had been our experience that the death penalty does not help us, and that it in fact hurts us and gets in the way of whatever healing we might ultimately achieve. We each told them our own experience, and exactly how the death penalty hurt us. I believe our getting this message to our law-makers was one of the factors that helped them pass this legislation.
Make no mistake, this is not the end. It is merely the beginning of a better, more civilized, more rational Connecticut; a state where we understand more and more the value of each of us. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of more meaningful and valuable help for victims. Maybe this can even be the beginning of a state where we have fewer and fewer victims because we truly live the strong statement we’ve made, that we value human life, all human life; because a state that values human life does not let its citizens deal with their mental and physical illness, their illiteracy, their poverty, or their safety, alone.
As I stood in the Governor’s office, with the Senators and Representatives, the members of the clergy, the organizers, and the other victim family members, I was proud to stand with all of them , and to count myself among them. I was especially honored to be a representative for all the other victim family members who have worked so long and so hard, and at such great personal cost to repeal the death penalty. They were in my heart.
My mother was also in my heart. I wore her Mother’s Ring that day, and I hope she was there with all the other loved ones who have gone and who didn’t want more death, but just the simple acknowledgment that we, as citizens of Connecticut, valued their lives because we choose to value all human life. On April 25, 2012, when Governor Malloy signed the bill into law, my heart was full of gratitude, respect, fellowship, happiness, and, for just a moment, a beautiful peace.