It is often assumed by some that the only response by murder victims' family members is to demand the death penalty for the perpetrator. However, increasingly the alternative sentence of life without parole is being sought by prosecutors and families who have lost loved ones to murder because it provides a less prolonged, traumatizing legal process in reaching finality and justice. In fact, in a recent poll, the majority of Californians prefer the much less costly sentence of life without parole over death as the ultimate sanction. And of course throughout the world, the majority of nations have long ago stopped executing their prisoners in favor of alternative punishments that are not only more humane, but also more fair and just.
To learn more about this growing move away from demands for the death penalty by district attorneys and the victim rights community, I encourage our readers to check out California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, or Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, which are advocacy organizations made up solely of individuals who have lost loved ones to murder and who advocate for alternatives to the death penalty.
Here is an excerpt from a recent SF Chronicle article about one of several cases in the Bay Area that illustrates alternative responses by murder victims' family members and the trend away from the use of judicial homicide as part of the state's pursuit of justice:
Life sentence in Oakland slaying of professor
Henry K. Lee, SF Chronicle, September 6, 2008
Troy Tyrone Thomas III was convicted in July of murdering John Alfred Dennis Jr., 59, a teacher at St. Mary's College in Moraga and City College of San Francisco. Prosecutors say Thomas killed Dennis with the intention of assuming his identity.
Thomas entered guilty pleas to all the charges against him, including murder with the special circumstances of burglary and financial gain, said Deputy District Attorney Mark Jackson. Prosecutors opted not to seek the death penalty…..
The sentencing came after the victim's nephew, Josh Dennis, began weeping while addressing the court.
"In some weird, twisted way," Dennis said, pausing to control his emotion, "in some way I forgive you for what you've done." He said that's what his uncle would have wanted.
"I'm not God, because what he can do is forgive and forget," Dennis said. "I can't forget."
The Rev. Jay Matthews of St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Oakland told the judge, "John was a wonderful, bright light and a wonderful mentor to so many people in this community. John's demise will leave a great void in our community."
Matthews told Thomas, "We forgive you as well."
In an interview, Jackson said, "Justice was served, and Mr. Thomas will spend the rest of his life in prison, where he cannot harm anyone else."
Thomas' attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard Foxall, said the guilty plea and sentence was "the right resolution."
For the complete story click HERE.
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