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A Challenge to Kentucky from Murder Victims' Families

The letter Ben Griffith wrote to supporters of abolishing the death penalty. He and other victims' family members have issued a matching-fund challenge to Kentuckians who share their view. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
The letter Ben Griffith wrote to supporters of abolishing the death penalty. He and other victims' family members have issued a matching-fund challenge to Kentuckians who share their view. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
September 17, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Family members of six murder victims have issued a matching-fund challenge to Kentucky to support repealing the death penalty. Collectively, they have raised just over $1,600 to match donations to the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Frankfort resident Ben Griffith says some are surprised he's against capital punishment when they learn his brother was murdered in Missouri in 1986. He says his reasoning is simple.

"Responding to violence, the violence of murder, with another murder is not right," he says. "You know, there's something wrong with that and inside, it bothers us."

A letter sent to 2,300 supporters, signed by Griffith, describes victims' family members as "important voices in the movement to repeal the death penalty."

Reverend Pat Delahanty, who chairs the coalition opposed to execution, says those voices have played a key role in the seven states that have outlawed the death penalty in recent years.

"It doesn't work for them when it seeks to kill others, that's not what they're looking for," says Delahanty. "They're looking for guilty people to be held accountable. People like Ben Griffith find that life without parole is the penalty that works."

State lawmakers in Kentucky have repeatedly rejected making life without parole the maximum sentence, often citing the death penalty as a crime deterrent. Griffith believes that prolongs the agony for victims' families.

"What you have is decades of the family reliving, reliving, each time there's an appeal," he says. "When there is life without parole, the victim's family has about a couple years of appeals, and then it's settled, and the families get to an earlier point of resolution. It's healthier for us."

Griffith says after initially wanting his brother's killer put to death, he changed his mind – a view he held privately until around the time of the execution, 11 years after the crime.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY