Thursday, October 15, 2015

Petit: Justice, Death Penalty & the Murders of My Wife & Children

Justice, The Death Penalty & the Murders of My Wife and Children
William Petit

Justice, The Death Penalty & the Murders of My Wife and Children
Dr. William Petit

During a home invasion in 2007, my wife Jennifer was strangled while my daughters Hayley 17 and Michaela 11 were tied to their beds, they and the house were doused with gasoline by the two murderers and then set afire.

For certain murders and other crimes there is no penalty that will serve justice other than the death penalty. It transcends national borders, races and cultures. It is the appropriate societal response to the brutal, willful act of murder (the illegal taking of another’s life).

The issue here is not revenge. Nor is it any of the other arguments that the anti-death penalty abolitionists use as tactics to take the focus away from the critical issue. Their main concern appears to be the protection of criminals and saving money.

The issue is, quite simply, retributive justice, not revenge but appropriate retribution. It appears clear to me that what is right and moral never appear to be part of their arguments.

When a family member is murdered it destroys a portion of our society. Those murdered can never grow and contribute to humankind. The realization of their potential can never be achieved. Those who knew them can never hold them, spend time with them, and see what they would add to their family's lives and society in general.

Interestingly, an argument made by many of the abolitionists is that life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is a "worse" punishment than death. If they are so magnanimous, why are they opting for a punishment that is worse, i.e., LWOP instead of the DP? Why? Because they are lying.

Many who have life in prison are able to read books, exercise, play softball, go to the commissary etc. LWOP provides inadequate retribution/punishment. In addition, the Governor can commute the sentence or the legislature can change the law or the legislature can decide that they no longer want to pay for those serving LWOP sentences-thus I am very doubtful that in the modern era LWOP will truly remain LWOP (even though I feel it is a side issue and misses the key point of retributive justice.).

The problem with many legislatures is just that – themselves. They never take the time to truly study the issue nor read the details of the studies done. They re-use the same incorrect statistics and lies that the abolitionists have used for years.

The essence of the DP for a heinous murder, be it the murder of a child, a murder during a rape or kidnapping or other circumstances is that it provides retributive justice for the victims and society. This is the main reason and the only reason that I feel is necessary to utilize this punishment in our society.

I believe it is also the ultimate deterrent-that murderer will never murder again. I also believe that more studies show it to truly be a deterrent than not. The death penalty is used in more countries than countries that do not have it. It has been part of sanctions espoused by many religions and societies for thousands of years. Somehow the abolitionists feel that in the past century they have somehow accrued more moral wisdom than those who protected societies for all those many years.

If there is no death penalty we will also begin to see a move afoot to lessen the sentences of those serving LWOP. Plea bargaining will begin with LWOP and necessarily other punishments will be lesser. This is not a far-fetched notion as it's now being discussed in other states for the sole purpose of "saving money".

The legislators want to take years to allow the killers to utilize our resources when these animals have broken a sacrosanct law of our society - the respect for innocent human life. 

Once you have broken this rule you have forfeited your right to live among us. There is only one way to lose that privilege. And that is to willfully and unlawfully take another person's life (MURDER).

The death penalty is lawful execution.

Many legislatures do their best to make it nearly impossible to implement the DP and then tell us "it doesn't work-we should abolish it". It doesn't work because many of them have stood in the way of meaningful reform for the past 20 years. Judiciary Committees and the 

Public defender's offices seem to have little interest in victims.

According to calculations from Dudley Sharp there have been approximately 400,000* innocents murdered by criminals under the government supervision in parole, probation and/or other early releases between 1973-2015* (calculations available upon request). Yet the abolitionists main worry is that there may be ONE person executed in error. They have looked for 110 years and have not yet been able to find a case where they can prove a truly innocent criminal was executed. They worry about the theoretical ONE yet care not one bit for the 400,000* persons murdered by those previously convicted and released or the nearly 28,000 innocents who were murdered by those we allowed to murder, again - repeat murderers.

Certainly, not all of those innocents could have been saved, but some portion of them might have been saved if the death penalty was used for the most depraved and heinous cases.

Do you see a trend?

The story tells the tale of who the Judiciary committees and the legislatures in general support. Sadly, it seems to be the criminals. There are many convicts on death row that should have been executed years ago. Judiciary committees and the legislatures in general, have had years to revamp the appeals system.  They continue to allow defendants to appeal repeatedly, even when it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are guilty. One 

Connecticut judge recently lamented that a particular convict was on his 33rd habeas appeal.

This denial of justice not only continues to victimize the victims' families, but is also a huge waste of taxpayers’ money. The state of Virginia has a just and fiscally responsible system. 

The first direct appeal of those sentenced to death should be an expedited appeal to the State Supreme Court. The State and Federal habeas corpus appeals should then next be filed simultaneously and within 30 days of the denial of the expedited direct appeal. Once the convicted murderer has had 4-5 chances (guilt versus innocence, sentencing phase, direct appeal, 2 habeas appeals), the case should be over unless new evidence is found.

Who suffers? Who loses in this charade of justice where there are unlimited and unreasonable appeals?? You guessed it-the victims. Where is the justice? Where is the legislatures’s sense of right and wrong? Clearly their sensibilities have been warped-they no longer truly believe in justice. These violent criminals have been tried by a jury of their peers and found guilty. In addition they have had multiple chances at appeal.

The defense wants it both ways. They claim to require up to five years to "prepare" for a death penalty case. No small irony here because the most common cause for appeal is "inadequate defense". This wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions. They have no concern for the victims nor for the thousands of dollars that they will waste. These are often heinous murderers who have forfeited their rights to continue to live among us. I suspect many murder victims and their families would like the legislature to provide a magical mechanism for them to delay the cruel and heinous murders of our loved ones-but these legislators seem far more interested in the murderers than the law-abiding citizens of the state.

All the polls I have seen show that a majority of citizens of the state and the nation for the past 20 years consistently favor the death penalty and yet these legislators feel that they are wiser than all the societies that have existed for tens of thousands of years that used the death penalty as the ultimate penalty. It always was and always will be a deterrent for one simple reason. The executed person can never kill again. 

In summary, all I can say is that it is a very sad day to be a citizen in the United States as we are represented by people who do not have the courage to stand up for what is right and just. 

I am angered by their misguided philosophies and misuse of data. Lack of a death penalty will lead to a weakening of the very fabric of our society and will deny the appropriate retributive justice due to the victims of violent crimes and their families. Do not believe it when these legislators say they repealed the death penalty for the victims' sake - or for society for that matter. They did it for themselves and their inability to make a difficult decision to stand up for what is right and just. The death penalty represents hatred of the evil represented by heinous murders and is an appropriate and just sanction.

Sincerely,   William A. Petit Jr. MD


NOTE: Dr. Petit left out that both his wife and 11 year old daughter, Michaela, were sexually assaulted, prior to their murders. He gave me permission to add this. Dudley Sharp

* updated by Sharp, with permission from Petit


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