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Victims' Letter

August 19, 2008

Dear Members of the Maryland General Assembly,

We are family members and loved ones of murder victims. We desperately miss the parents, children, siblings, and spouses we have lost. We live with the pain and heartbreak of their absence every day and would do anything to have them back. We have been touched by the criminal justice system in ways we never imagined and would never wish on anyone. Our experience compels us to speak out for change.

We are writing today to ask your support in passing legislation that would replace Maryland's death penalty with life without parole. Though we share different perspectives on the death penalty, every one of us agrees that Maryland's capital punishment system doesn't work for victims' families, and that our state is better off without it.

To be meaningful, justice should be swift and sure. Life without parole, which begins immediately, is both of these; the death penalty is neither. Capital punishment drags victims' loved ones through an agonizing and lengthy process, holding out the promise of one punishment in the beginning and often resulting in a life sentence in the end anyway. A life without parole sentence for killers right from the start would keep society safe, hold killers responsible for their brutal and depraved acts, and would start as soon as we left the courtroom instead of leaving us in limbo.

At the same time, a system of life without parole in place of the death penalty would save scarce funds. As Maryland taxpayers, we have spent millions of dollars and diverted endless hours of court and law enforcement time since capital punishment was reinstated in Maryland. What has it bought us? Years worth of appeals and overturned sentences that have clogged our courts and a system so broken that fixing it is probably impossible - all for what? Five executions that took decades to achieve.

Those resources could be spent in better ways if death-eligible killers were sentenced to life without parole. Maryland could put more police on our streets and provide them with the very best equipment available. Law enforcement programs that work might have prevented the tragedies we suffered at only a fraction of the cost. A legal system that wasn't so bogged down by five men on death row could prosecute and sentence countless other non-death crimes and take dangerous people off the streets before they commit murder. Dollars saved could mean more counseling and aid to children orphaned by these horrible murders, or other services we so desperately need as we attempt to get on with our lives.

Only a handful of arbitrarily selected murderers are sentenced to death. Is it worth the price?

It is vitally important that our state address the needs of surviving family and friends as we struggle to heal. We know that elected officials who promote the death penalty often do so with the best intentions of helping family members like us. We are writing to say that there are better ways to help us. The death penalty is a broken and costly system. Maryland doesn't need it, and victims' families like ours don't want it.


Please vote for repeal of the death penalty,

Kimberly Armstrong-Hughes -Baltimore -lost son, Eric R. Villines
Barbara Arnwine -Upper Marlboro - lost brother, Alan Glenn Arnwine
Ginger Beale - Baltimore - lost son, Harold Robinson, Jr
Alice Chambers - Annapolis -lost her mother
Sherrie Choporis - lost brother-in-law, James Choporis
Carmel Crilley - Huntingtown - lost husband, Christopher Crilley
Mariah Crilley - Huntingtown - lost father, Christopher Crilley
Marie Ellen Cushing - Baltimore - lost grandfather, Robert Cushing, Sr.
Denise deGuzman - Germantown - lost brother, Jerome Hoy
Lisa Delity - Bowie - lost brother, FBI Special Agent Michael Miller
Kathleen W. Farley - Bowie - lost brother, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Tiffany G. Farley - lost uncle, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Sarah A. Gardner - Hyattsville - lost sister, Nancy B. Gardner
Evelyn V. Gaston - Rockville - lost son, Michael L. Boyd, Sr.
Audrey Hall - Baltimore - lost grandmother, LaTisha Turner
Charles Hall - Baltimore - lost niece, LaTisha Turner
Madeline L. Harrington - Baltimore - lost mother, Emma Louise Coxson
Jean-Marie Johnson - Brookeville - lost uncle, Michael L. Boyd, Sr.
David W. McGee - lost uncle, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Maura McGee - Bowie - lost uncle, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Sally Ransom Knecht - Lutherville - lost husband, Rev. Dr. Lewis F. Ransom
Marian McSherry - Frederick - lost husband, William Clinton McSherry
Dale Miller - Dunkirk - lost father, FBI Special Agent Michael Miller
Mickey Miller - Dunkirk - lost father, FBI Special Agent Michael Miller
Wanda Miller - Dunkirk - lost husband, FBI Special Agent Michael Miller
James O'Brien - St. Michaels - lost daughter, Dierdre O'Brien
Margery Patten - Owings - lost son, Michael Patten
Sylvester J. Schieber - New Market - lost daughter, Shannon Schieber
Vicki Schieber - New Market - lost daugher, Shannon Schieber
Sean J. Schieber - Silver Spring - lost sister, Shannon Schieber
Norbert Schieber - New Market - lost niece, Shannon Schieber
Karen Schneider - Bethesda - lost father, Seymour Schneider
Jeanne K. Snyder - Sandy Spring - lost daugher, Barbara Snyder
Brenda JB Soder - Silver Spring - lost great uncle, Richard Bowser
Bonnita Spikes - Upper Marlboro - lost husband, Michael Spikes
Lisa A. Taylor - New Market - lost brother, Michael Boyd, Sr.
Helen Thomas Keith - Baltimore - lost grandfather, John Thomas, Sr.
Sharon Thompson - Middle River - lost her brother and nephew
Susan W. Tripodi - lost brother, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Antoinette Turner - Baltimore - lost step-daughter, Latisha Turner
Daniel Wells - lost brother, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Mary Wells Shea - lost brother, Msgr. Thomas Wells
Ricardo R. Wiggs - Clinton - lost wife, Sharon Wiggs
Christopher Wilson - Frederick - lost father, Owen D. Wilson
Mary G. Wilson - Frederick - lost father-in-law, Owen D. Wilson
Adrienne Witherspoon - Baltimore - lost common law husband and father to her children, Irvin B."Nephew" Lawson
Emma Worrell - Baltimore - lost son, Charles
George Worrell - Baltimore - lost brother, Charles
Rhonda Nicole Yakoub - New Carrollton - lost son, Idris Yahoub