Last week I wrote about a man on death row. He was scheduled to die last Wednesday, but was given a temporary reprieve until Thursday after several days of legal jockeying concerning the drugs involved in lethal injection. I found most of the information regarding his case on the New York Times website, but it wasn't until I looked at a site called LA Now, part of the LA Times, that I found anyone writing from the perspective of the family of the victim.
Back in 1980, Mr. Brown raped and strangled a 15 year old girl in Riverside, California. He has been on death row since his conviction in 1982, for nearly 30 years. What does that mean in terms of the family of the victim? For thirty years, they have been unable to move on from the trauma. For thirty years, they have remained painfully tied to the bureaucratic legislation associated with capital punishment.
What is the best remedy? Kill the perpetrator faster? Less legislative argument? Maybe, if we're disregarding the moral implications for now. At least it would save the victim's family from the pain and suffering of thirty + years with no sense of closure.
But isn't there another route? What about forgiveness? You may be balking at this statement. How, you ask, is the family of a young girl who was brutally raped and strangled supposed to forgive the rapist? Ok, admittedly, I didn't claim that this route was the easy one. In fact, it's much more difficult and it requires courage, but in the end it leads to much more beautiful results. Once they find a way to forgive, the family can move on from the horrific tragedy. They don't have to remain tied to it for an indeterminate number of years. They can stop feeling like victims, and reclaim their power to live again.
Now, I'm not saying that the crime should be excused. According to the Mayo Clinic, "forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act." Forgiveness allows both sides of a crime, perpetrator(s) and victim(s), to heal. It begins the process of repairing a break in society. Endless legislation does not.