In matters of crime and punishment, there is no shortage of regret and sorrow on the part of both victim and offender.
Why don’t more of us understand this? It could be because the few news stories that report on criminal trials and sentencing focus only on an anguished victim or two, whose emotions are still raw from the incident — and we frequently don’t ever hear from them again unless the convicted offender is nearing execution, in which case the wounds are reopened again as the search for an ever-elusive sense of closure continues.
And for the convicted criminal? We may read or hear of remarks they make at sentencing hearings — remarks that are frequently pushed aside by a judge as being insincere or not contrite enough before imposing a sentence. And that’s the end of that, unless execution is nearing, and we hear that the convict has maybe found some kind of peace, unless we suspect he’s putting us all on.
Crucifix is silhouetted against stained-glass window in chapel at New York prison. (CNS photo/Mike Crupi)
At a Nov. 6 conference on restorative justice co-sponsored by the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Death Penalty at The Catholic University of America, even the third-person recounting of some crime victims’ stories, told by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske, were heart-rending.
Take the case of the police officer’s wife who told her husband, before he left to report for the night shift, to stay safe. He turned around and told her, “God and I are like that,” showing her his crossed fingers. She heard sirens wailing in the distance at two in the morning, said a quick prayer, and went back to sleep. An hour later, she hear a knock on the door. She knew what it meant — the police had come to tell her that her husband had been grievously hurt on duty — but didn’t want to acknowledge it, pulling the covers over her head in hopes it had been part of a dream. It wasn’t.
She went to the hospital and saw her husband in the emergency room. “His heart was literally in somebody’s hands,” she had said, and even though the medical team was still working on him, “I knew he was dead.” She walked behind him, made the sign of the cross on the top of his head, and walked away. Still inside (Read More)