Posted on Wednesday, May 03, 2006 at Abolish the Death Penlty blog.
One of the common misconceptions that we in the abolition movement try to fight is that family members of murder victims invariably favor a death sentence for those who killed their loved ones. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Moussaoui was locked up in jail more than 1,200 miles away when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that fateful day, many 9/11 family members simply opposed a death sentence on principle. Here are some of their comments:
Family members of those killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001 expressed relief at the jury’s decision not to sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death today. “More than anyone, we understand why the jury chose the sentence they did,” said Terry Rockefeller, whose sister Laura Rockefeller was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
“As a long-time opponent of the death penalty, a belief even this devastating personal tragedy has not altered, I am relieved by the jury’s decision not to sentence Zacarias Moussaoui to death.”
Rockefeller, a member of the Board of Directors of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, was among the dozen 9/11 family members to testify for the defense in the punishment phase of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The federal rules regarding victim statements significantly restricted what Terry and others could say on the stand, and the attorneys for the defense asked Terry and others not to speak to the press until after the jury returned their verdict.
This is the first time victim family members who oppose capital punishment have ever testified in a federal death penalty trial. Such testimony is becoming more common at the state level where increasing numbers of murder victim family members who oppose the death penalty are making their feelings known.
“Mr. Moussaoui's trial has been an expensive diversion in the struggle against terrorism. His alleged crime of conspiracy could have been quickly disposed if the option of execution were not possible,” said Patricia Perry, whose son John William Perry, was a member of the New York Police Department who died at the World Trade Center. “Beyond the verdict in this trial, I oppose using the death penalty to demonstrate to citizens that murder is so wrong that we will kill to prove it wrong. State killing teaches our children that we do not mean what we say and inures us as a society to the horror of killing.”
"My husband and I both opposed the death penalty in general. For me, now, this particular case is no exception,” said Andrea LeBlanc, whose husband Robert was a passenger on United Flight 175, the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center, hitting the South Tower.
“Violence takes many forms and killing another human being will never undo the harm that has been done. Killing Zacarius Moussaoui would not have helped us understand those things that lead to 9/11. Nor would it have helped create the kind of compassionate world I want to live in."
For Loretta Filipov, whose husband Al was on American Flight 11 from Boston, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, crashing into the North Tower, said, “Killing Zacarius Moussaoui will not bring my husband back. It will not change the life my family and I now have without my husband and their father. But what killing will do is to continue the cycle of violence, hate and revenge. This is not the face we want for our future, for our children and grandchildren.”
Family member Antonio Aversano, who testified for the defense and whose father Louis Aversano, Jr., was a World Trade Center victim, believes “that our best personal defense against terrorism is to not let the fear and hatred of terror consume our lives but to take whatever steps are necessary to reclaim our hearts, to honor each other and to live life well.”
“A number of us have tried to turn our anger and pain into solutions,” said Rockefeller. “For many who lost loved ones that Tuesday morning the answer is not more killing to attempt to solve the past, but rather steps to a future in which all killing is condemned and terrorists cannot find purchase.”