My Thoughts on Capital Punishment

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In May of 1999, my brother's girlfriend, Jamie Hart, was raped and murdered. Her naked and broken body was found by a jogger on Old Reliance Road, a little north of the cities of Bryan and College Station. Her death was investigated by the local police and the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, a sickeningly long portion of that investigation centered on my brother. My family hired an attorney on retainer and my brother moved home to North Texas. Not only had he lost Jamie, but his world was turned upside down.

A year later, in 2000, the man that killed Jamie raped and murdered another young woman, Carolyn Casey. Ynobe Matthews lived in the same apartments as Casey. He set a fire in her apartment to destroy the evidence of his crimes. Matthews had a history of assaulting women and during his murder trial of Carolyn Casey, he admitted to forcibly entering Jamie's car and raping her, though he said he didn't kill her, that she jumped from the moving car after the rape.

Ynobe Matthews gave up his appeals and was executed by the State of Texas. I don't speak for Jamie's family or Carolyn's, but for me, vengeance is not a reason to take a life.

Last night Troy Davis was executed in Georgia for a crime I don't think he committed, while here in Texas, Lawrence Brewer was executed for the vicious murder of James Byrd. One of Byrd's daughters said yesterday that the execution does not serve justice to her father. I think about Jamie and Carolyn often, though I don't talk about it except to longtime friends who remember and to my family.

As Jamie's case was investigated and in the years since, I have been grateful that my brother is a well-educated, middle-class man. I do not believe our justice system is infallible. We are human, we make mistakes and the death penalty is carried out unfairly on the poor and minorities.

I don't believe in capital punishment and I want better for my country.


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  1. Thanks for sharing your story
    All too often, capital punishment is pushed as a question of “victim's rights”, as if blood vengeance is something to be cheered. Messages like yours are a much-needed antidote.

  2. 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Oct 22
    I hope you can make it to the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty Oct 22 at the Capitol.

    We are expecting somewhere between 20-25 people who were on death row but then exonerated and released, so if you attend you will hear some firsthand accounts about how innocent people can end up on death row.  

  3. Murder victims never survive the ordeals obviously,so THEY are never given the chance to truly give an account of their last hellish minutes on earth.I get sick of hearing from people that have absolutely no idea of what victims truly endure! DEATH PENALTY ALL THE WAY!

  4. That was a very moving essay. One thing that struck me in the dateline episode is that the police were about to charge her brother, even tho there was little evidence and the dna didnt match. I hope he and his family can find peace.

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