As the killers who terrorised their families face execution, relatives disagree on whether that adds up to justice

Asia's Tech News Daily

© AFP via Getty Images

Sharon Risher and son Gary L Washington say their goodbyes to Ethel Lance during her burial at the Emanuel AME Church Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina, on 25 June, 2015

– AFP via Getty Images

By the time Dylann Roof went on trial, Reverend Sharon Risher was already starting to have her doubts about the death penalty.

In 2015, Roof, an avowed white supremacist, shot and killed nine people at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, after they had welcomed him into their Bible study session. The dead included Reverend Risher’s mother, Ethel Lance, and her cousins Susie and Tywanza Sanders, as well as a number of dear friends. Tywanza, at 26 the youngest victim, died trying to shield Susie, the oldest at 87, from Roof’s gun.

He had tried to reason with Roof, according to witnesses, telling him, “You don’t have to do this.”

“I have to do this because you are raping our women and taking over the world,” Roof replied.

But when Reverend Risher, a former hospital chaplain, heard that prosecutors were going to seek the death penalty against Roof, she was torn. She began considering a mercy that had never occurred to her family’s killer.

“In my heart, as my mother’s child, I wanted him to be dead like her,” she told The Independent. “Going back to my Christian faith, I knew that I didn’t want that. I realised that even though he had done this horrific thing, my faith tells me that God is a God of restoration and redemption.”

© Provided by The Independent Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church as FBI forensic experts work the crime scene, in Charleston, Soth Carolina ((AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File))

Still, she didn’t share what she was thinking about Roof’s fate just yet. Many in her tight knit community wanted to see Roof dead for what he had done. Others, like Reverend Risher’s sister Nadine Collier, had publicly expressed their forgiveness.

“I forgive you,” Ms Collier said in 2015 at Roof’s bond hearing, his first appearance in public since the massacre. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”

But Reverend Risher wasn’t ready to go there just yet.

“When I heard her say she forgave him, all I could do was scream and holler. That was like 48 hours after everything had happened. I was not on board with that,” she said. “I’m still in a fog trying to get my brain to even accept what had happened.”

Things began to crystallise during Roof’s trial. Knowing that the young man might be executed, Risher had decided to research more about the death penalty, and she was shocked to learn more about its history of racial bias and its enormous rate of error. She was in the courtroom the entire trial, and her mind was made up the day the jury decided on execution.

“One juror caught my eye and turned her head real quick, like she didn’t want to look at me,” she said. “Then they came back with the death penalty and I just kid of sat there, and that’s when I realised, even after all of this, I don’t want him to be put to death.”

© Provided by The Independent Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Cleveland County Courthouse in Shelby, North Carolina, on 18 June, 2015 (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

That may not matter. Roof was convicted on 33 counts of federal hate crimes and sentenced to death in 2016. This August, a federal appeals court unanimously upheld his sentence, despite arguments from his lawyers that Roof suffers from “delusion” and was wrongfully allowed to represent himself at the sentencing stage of his trial. President Joe Biden has said he personally opposes capital punishment, but his Justice Department is still pursuing the death penalty for Roof.

The death penalty is a fixture of the criminal legal system, and scholars and activists have increasingly shone a light on its arbitrariness, its inaccuracy, its roots in the ugliest parts of America racism. What gets mentioned less is the often enormous gulf between how family members and victims of the crimes at issue feel, and what that legal system delivers as punishment, as healing,

The Independent spoke with those connected to a host of different tragedies — the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing — and they have a range of opinions on the death penalty, and whether it delivers closure, let alone justice. But one thing is clear: none of them felt like the process was giving them closure.

© Provided by The Independent The Boston marathon bombing killed three people and left hundreds injured (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Elizabeth Norden’s son JP and Paul both lost legs in the Boston Bombing. Like Risher, she was there in person for nearly the entire trial, where one of the bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted on all 30 counts against him in 2015. Authorities called it “one of the most important terrorism prosecutions in our nation’s history.” (His brother and co-conspirator Tamerlan died in a shootout with police following the bombing.)

Norden told The Independent that a death sentence wouldn’t bring her closure — that’s not possible for her after such a tragedy — but she hopes it would have a deterrent effect on future crimes. (Evidence has not shown that the death penalty definitively drives down violent crime.)

“I’m not an eye for an eye. I’m not that type of person. I struggle with, how do you want to take somebody’s life?” she said. “But there’s not a shadow of a reasonable doubt what he and his brother did.”

She said she is understanding about why other Boston Marathon bombing families have come out against the death penalty, but for her, execution will mean one step towards healing, though it’s a process she feels will never be done.

“I’m 59. My only hope now is that I am alive to see through. How sad is that?” she said. “Will [the execution] change my life? Will there ever be closure? Absolutely not. For me, as a mother, I have suffered the deepest sadness for my sons … How do you ever really let go of something like that? Whether he comes up in the news every single day or not, I watch my sons put their legs on.”

She’s channelled some of that pain into advocacy. Norden now runs a charity called A Leg Forever, which helps people pay for prosthetic limbs, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and need to be replaced every few years. But anything short of a death sentence will not be enough to her.

“I don’t know how having him rot in prison is going to make you forget about it,” she said. “For me it doesn’t.”

© Provided by The Independent Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is waiting to hear his fate (Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The Supreme Court seems like it may give Norden her wish. During oral arguments for an appeal of Tsarnaev’s death sentence on Wednesday, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court seemed unmoved by arguments that the terrorist didn’t have a fair trial because of alleged problems with the jury and evidentiary process. Though what a death sentence means during the Biden era, with a president who opposes capital punishment, remains to be seen.

“I’m wondering what the government’s endgame is here,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked lawyers for the federal government. “If you win presumably that means that [Tsarnaev] is relegated to living under threat of a death sentence that the government doesn’t plan to carry out, so I’m just having trouble following the point.”

Until the White House resolves its own feelings on the death penalty, Tsarnaev and Norden will be in a kind of mutual limbo.

For Joanne Hutchison, a survivor of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing at the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, the execution of Timothy McVeigh was a huge relief.

Hutchison was about 50 feet from the bomb when it went off, and she was buried in the rubble after the blast. After the attack, she was glued to the TV and transcripts of the trial. She wanted to know what had happened, and what would happen to the man who killed 168 people, including 19 children.

Her husband got a job offer in Texas not long after the explosion, and she said she had to be “dragged kicking and screaming” away from Oklahoma City. In June of 2001, the federal government used capital punishment for the first time since 1963 and executed McVeigh. Hutchison went for a drive with the windows down and felt a weight off her shoulders.

“It was an extreme relief to me that he wasn’t where he could get out and do it again and do this to other people,” she said.

She knows that political attitudes around the death penalty are shifting, but she’s still steadfast in her support. Men who kill innocents and children don’t deserve to be alive, she believes, and it still stings for her that McVeigh’s accomplice, Terry Nichols, is alive and in prison, being sustained by the US taxpayer. It feels like an insult to everything she has gone through.

“It’s impossible for someone to know how it affects people who were injured, lost loved ones, even survived. It’s truly a trauma,” she said. “I don’t think any of us realised what a trauma this was. We were in shock. Even our spouses, our family members—they’ll never understand exactly what we went through. And we don’t want them to. We don’t want anybody to have to go through what we did.”

Hutchison has met with 9/11 families, and she says when you look into the eyes of someone who has been through such a unique horror, you can tell you understand each other at a level where words aren’t even necessary.

“You get it. You understand, just by looking at them,” she said.

The death penalty process, however, is a trauma unto itself for some. Jonathan Mann’s father John Mann was brutally murdered in 2017 in Ohio by a man named Thomas Knuff. Mann says the lengthy capital process, which often lasts for decades, has meant he has to keep reliving one of the worst moments of his life.

“I just have to relive the horror over and over of what happened to my dad because this hasn’t been put to bed,” he said.

More than tough justice, what Mann wanted after his father’s death was support. Gas money driving to and from the various trials and appeals has been a major cost, and he wasn’t eligible for the federal programmes that exist to support crime victims. He couldn’t afford to bury his father, but he didn’t qualify for funerary assistance because his father had used drugs. Mann didn’t qualify for counselling assistance, either.

© Provided by The Independent A view of the death chamber from the witness room at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (Getty Images)

“The system has failed us,” Mann said. “My experience is not atypical.”

Mann, who supported the death penalty before it became an unwanted presence in his own life, is now vice chair of Ohioans to Stop Executions, a criminal justice advocacy group.

Reverend Sharon Risher has turned towards activism, too. She regularly speaks about ending the death penalty and ending gun violence on behalf of groups like Death Penalty Action and Moms Demand Action.

There’s a certain historical irony to what she’s doing. The death penalty shares roots with lynching in America, and has always been disproportionately applied to Black people like her. The Charleston shooting happened on a street named for John C Calhoun, a South Carolina statesman who was one of slavery’s most vocal defenders. Dylann Roof is the first person in US history to be sentenced to death on federal hate crimes charges. So to work against his death sentence represents a wholly new historical dynamic. But to be a Black woman fighting to keep a racist punishment from killing a racist white man is worth it to her.

© Provided by The Independent In the wake of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida, the Rev Sharon Risher, daughter of Ethel Lance, and cousin to Susie Jackson and Tywanza Sanders, speaks at a press conference held by Democratic senators calling for action on gun violence on 16 June, 2016 (Getty Images)

“I understood that the death penalty was given more disproportionately to Black and brown people than it was to white people, I did my research, started to look at things,” she said. “I didn’t want the death penalty for anybody. He just happened to be in that group.”

That is, a human being.

If there’s one thing that unites all of these survivors, it’s that no matter what they believe about the death penalty, they feel no one should have to experience the pain they have in their own lives. Their methods for achieving that goal are different, but they have all, in some form, fought the best way they know how to make the world one that honours the people with that unique look in their eye that says they’ve been through something unimaginable.

The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

From news to politics, travel to sport, culture to climate – The Independent has a host of free newsletters to suit your interests. To find the stories you want to read, and more, in your inbox, click here.

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

BP to build a second hydrogen production facility on Teesside

© Provided by This Is Money MailOnline logo Oil supermajor BP has announced plans to develop another hydrogen production facility on Teesside. The company said ‘HyGreen Teesside’ would help bring ... Read more »

Johnson must unleash SAFC's £3.6k-p/w “leader”, he may be a catalyst for change - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast Sunderland, Black Cats, League One, Tom Flanagan After managing to secure all three points in their previous League One game against Cambridge United, Sunderland are ... Read more »

Firefighter could be fired for wiping butt on vaccination order

© Getty Images GettyImages-1065947166.jpg A Los Angeles firefighter could be fired after wiping his butt with a vaccine noncompliance letter. The unidentified firefighter received the letter after refusing to comply ... Read more »

"Might be convinced": Journo drops interesting WHUFC ownership claim involving Kretinsky & Gold

© GiveMeSport West Ham, London Stadium Journalist Paul Brown thinks West Ham co-owner David Gold could be convinced at some stage to sell his whole stake. Daniel Kretinsky recently bought ... Read more »

Coronavirus: 4,607 new cases confirmed in Ireland

© Eamonn Farrell via RollingNews.ie PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS have confirmed 4,607 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland today. As of 8am today, 579 patients are in hospital with Covid-19, of ... Read more »

New World is being swarmed by fishing bots

© Provided by GamePur If you know how to fish in New World, then you probably also know about the many fishing bots flooding the game right now. They’re squatting ... Read more »

Ant and Dec overjoyed as I'm A Celeb return date confirmed after three cancelled shows

Ant and Dec are overjoyed that I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! will return to ITV on Tuesday 30th November. The hit ITV show has been cancelled for ... Read more »

Apex's new ranked system makes life easy for boosters

© Provided by Dot Esports Boosting is an issue that will always plague competitive games. There will always be players who want to advance in rank or prestige in the ... Read more »

Caught between Macron and the far right, French conservatives pick 2022 candidate

© Joël Saget, AFP / Studio graphique, France Médias Monde France’s conservative Les Républicains choose their presidential nominee in an internal party vote December 1-4, hoping to avoid the squabbles ... Read more »

MV Agusta Superveloce Ago Wins Most Beautiful Bike Of EICMA 2021

© RideApart.com MV Agusta Superveloce Ago EICMA 2021 Ago comes out on top yet again. Since 2005, Italian media outlet Motociclismo has held the Most Beautiful Bike Of The Show ... Read more »

Tennis-Gojo shocks Sonego to give Croatia lead over Italy

© Reuters/MASSIMO PINCA Davis Cup Quarter-Final – Italy v Croatia TURIN (Reuters) – Crotia’s Borna Gojo produced another shock as he beat Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego to give his country the ... Read more »

Wolves could fix Lage's biggest worry by signing "extraordinary" 6ft5 colossus - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast Premier League, Wolves, Milenkovic Wolves head coach, Bruno Lage, has made no secret that the upcoming transfer window will be something he fully intends to ... Read more »

Charli XCX has hilarious wardrobe malfunction during awards show presentation

© TikTok/charlixcx pjimage – 2021-11-29T155150.862.jpg Charli XCX has shared a hilarious outtake from an award presenting gig where she had an unfortunate slip-up (quite literally) in the form of a ... Read more »

Biden pide no caer en el pánico y "una inyección de refuerzo" en las vacunas ante la irrupción de ómicron

© Proporcionado por El Independiente Joe Biden, en su discurso a la nación ante la irrupción de ómicron. El presidente de Estados Unidos, Joe Biden, ha animado a todos a ... Read more »

'The beginning of the end' - Many West Brom fans furious as 'ridiculous' news emerges

© Provided by This is Futbol Robert Snodgrass A collection of West Bromwich Albion fans have been left rather upset after hearing that Robert Snodgrass is surplus to requirements at ... Read more »

Grab the LAST Nintendo Switch deals still live this Cyber Monday

© Expert Reviews Grab the LAST Nintendo Switch deals still live this Cyber Monday Games Discounts on the much-loved Nintendo Switch console don’t come along often, but the recent release ... Read more »

Man United v Young Boys may switch to neutral venue due to Swiss Covid rules

© Zac Goodwin PA Manchester United could be forced to play their final Champions League group game away from Old Trafford. MANCHESTER UNITED’S CHAMPIONS League match against Young Boys next ... Read more »

Sevilla, Leeds United, Newcastle: Where is the best next stop for Ben Brereton Diaz?

© Provided by Football League World ben brereton diaz Ben Brereton Diaz is seemingly a man in demand by top clubs as we get closer to the January transfer window ... Read more »

PSC training venues ready by January

© STAR / File PSC training venues ready by January MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) has started refurbishing the facilities at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in ... Read more »

Answering 3 burning questions ahead of VCT Champions 2021

© Provided by Dot Esports The 2021 VALORANT season is all boiling down to this.  But before VCT Champions gets underway on Dec. 1, there are a few burning questions ... Read more »

How to read the Unown Alphabet in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

© Provided by GamePur Unown is an interesting Pokémon that you can encounter in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. While you only need to encounter one Unown for the ... Read more »

Halo Infinite design lead: Progression at ‘top of my list'

© Provided by Dot Esports It’s been two weeks since Halo Infinite’s multiplayer beta surprise dropped on a Monday, over three weeks before its original planned release date, and the ... Read more »

30 endangered South African white rhinos flown to Rwanda

© Provided by Al Jazeera The animals were transported in a chartered Boeing 747 and were placed in two grassy enclosures – each the size of a football stadium – ... Read more »

40+ of the very best Cyber Monday deals from Amazon

Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the products and deals we love. If you love them too and decide to purchase through the links below, ... Read more »

People Trapped In Britain's Highest Pub With An Oasis Tribute Act Are Finally Leaving

The Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales. (Photo: The Tan Hill Inn via PA Media) More than 60 people trapped in a snow-bound pub for three days – with ... Read more »

Kevin Lindke sentenced to time served in case involving Facebook posts

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Dan Damman presides over Kevin Lindke‘s sentencing hearing on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. A resident known for his online presence was sentenced to time served ... Read more »

Flooding in Washington state not as severe as earlier storm

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Localized flooding in Washington state from another in a series of rainstorms doesn't appear to be as severe as when extreme weather hit the region earlier ... Read more »

Royal Shakespeare Company brings back mandatory face coverings for audiences

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has re-introduced mandatory face coverings which must be worn in the theatre and during performances. The RSC announced that face coverings will be mandatory from ... Read more »

New wiretapping charges filed against Coal Township man

Nov. 29—SHAMOKIN — A property manager from Coal Township already facing felony wiretapping charges from an incident in June was charged Monday with an additional 18 felony charges related to ... Read more »

Killer who never said where he hid wife's body taken back to jail

A murderer who refused to reveal where he hid his wife’s body has been sent back to jail after breaching his licence conditions. Russell Causley, now in his late 70s, ... Read more »

Chelsea draw Auckland, Al Jazira or Al Hilal in Club World Cup

© Associated Press Chelsea became champions of Europe in May after beating Manchester City Chelsea have been drawn to face Auckland City, Al Jazira or Al Hilal in the semi-finals ... Read more »

Amazon says it will ship more packages than UPS and FedEx by 2022 at the latest

© Provided by Business Insider An Amazon driver carrying packages. Patrick T. FALLON / AFP Amazon expects to deliver more packages than UPS or FedEx in the US by early ... Read more »

BBC Richard Osman's House of Games: Jessie Cave's life after Harry Potter with famous boyfriend from one-night stand to his Strictly Come Dancing star mum

Lavender Brown is a name we all know from the beloved Harry Potter franchise, perhaps most notably for her brief relationship with Ron Weasley during the later films. And Jessie ... Read more »

Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal replaces Jack Dorsey as CEO

© Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images Confirming rumors first reported this morning by CNBC, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced his departure. The company confirmed that CTO Parag Agrawal ... Read more »

Strictly's Motsi 'thinking of quitting' as fans ask for Cynthia to replace her full time

Motsi Mabuse is considering quitting Strictly Come Dancing after this series due to “discontent” on the judging panel, a source has claimed. The 40 year old joined the panel of ... Read more »

Corrie's Max sets up Summer and Daniel in 'abuse' lie which leads to grooming accusation

Things are set to take a dark turn for Daniel Osbourne on Coronation Street next week when he finds himself being accused of grooming. ITV spoilers reveal that the drama ... Read more »

The White House is taking aim at 'the cartel of shipping companies' that control global trade amid supply chain chaos

© Thomas Pallini/Insider Touring the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Thomas Pallini/Insider The White House blames shipping companies for inflation and supply-chain issues. “Price-gouging by the ocean shipping ... Read more »

3 new documentaries planned to tell Sandwich Towne's Black history

© Provided by cbc.ca A new series of three short documentaries aim to tell the history of Sandwich Towne, focusing on the area’s prominent Black history. Three short documentaries are ... Read more »

What to Know About COVID Variant Omicron as WHO Warns It Could Be a 'Very High' Global Risk

© Provided by People Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty COVID-19 testing After health officials warned over the Thanksgiving holiday that a “worrying” new COVID-19 variant has been spotted in 16 ... Read more »

Serena Williams, 40, Shows Off Her Strong Legs In A Snakeskin Print Swimsuit On Vacay

© Axelle/Bauer-Griffin – Getty Images Serena Williams, 40, shows off her strong legs in a snakeskin print swimsuit in new Instagram photos. The tennis G.O.A.T eats a plant-based diet to ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic