In my years of ministering to individuals and families, I have walked the long journey through grief with the survivors of violent crime, those who were victims and those who lost family members to horrific acts. Healing from such trauma is neither easy nor quick. It is even more difficult when, through no fault of the family, the crime is replayed over and over in the media and the courts as a death sentence for the perpetrator is litigated, appealed and re-appealed for decades.
Sadly, prosecutors may lead families to believe that this prolonged suffering is required to bring justice to their loved one. Are we really saying, as a state that imposes the death penalty, that families must relive the horrific experience of their loved one's murder over and over again for 30 years while the death penalty appeals process plays out if they want justice? This is simply cruel and does little more than prevent families from healing while continually dredging up their resentment and rage as they wait impotently for "justice to be served."
In addition, the disingenuous argument that the death penalty alone brings justice does a disservice the vast majority of victims' family members for whom this penalty is never seriously on the table. Of the 15,696 murders committed in this country in 2015, 49 death sentences were handed down. It is impossible to believe that these 49 cases are the only instances in which families received justice.