Murder Victim Families Speak Out About the Death Penalty

June 27, 2012

Bethany Webb's sister Laura was killed while working at the Meritage Salon less than one year ago in Seal Beach. A gunman opened fire and killed 8 people and critically wounded Ms. Webb's mother. Although prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, Ms. Webb and her family strongly prefer life without parole.

"It has been only eight months since that horrible day, and I have already attended seven hearings. My mother has had three surgeries. Knowing that this process could very well continue for the next 25 years is mind-numbing. The death penalty will not bring back Laura. It will not restore my family, and it definitely will not end decades of legal battles that are bound to make us suffer even more. While we will never stop remembering my sister and the joy she brought to us all, at least SAFE California would give us the opportunity to stop thinking about the man that took her from us, knowing that he will be behind bars for the rest of his life."
J. Rose Steward survived a brutal assault by a serial killer who was convicted of raping and murdering five women. Over the course of seven years, Ms. Steward testified against him three times, including two trials resulting in death sentences. He has been on death row for over 20 years.

But she doesn't want him executed. Instead, she'd like his sentence to be life in prison without parole.
"I would support any law, any measure, if I believed it would spare one person, family,  or community, the heartache of violence. I committed myself to seeing my attacker prosecuted, but after 8 years and three separate trials, he sits on San Quentin's death row, 28 years into a seemingly endless, expensive process. There are times when we have no choice but to save our own lives, or the lives of another. But we have a choice -- life in prison without the possibility of parole. Life without the possibility of parole is enough for me. It keeps us safe. It’s enough."

More than 400 murder victims endorsed the SAFE California Act as victims held a moving event in Los Angeles on Wednesday in honor of their loved ones. They applauded SAFE California for putting the focus and money into law enforcement for catching the thousands of murders and rapists who now go free in California, and preventing violence. Each crime victim shared his or her own experience but emphasized that they stand united as they ask voters to support SAFE California. A photo gallery can be viewed below.

Nova Reeves’s mother was murdered by a serial killer who is serving  sentence of life without parole for killing 49 women. The murder happened in 1990, but the crime was solved in 2003 with DNA evidence.

Aba Gayle, whose daughter Carolyn was murdered at the age of 19, speaks out against the death penalty even though her daughter's killer sits on death row at San Quentin.

Toni MacDonald’s son, Reserve Police Officer James MacDonald, and his partner, Officer Kevin Burrell, were killed in the line of duty in 1993. Their killer has been on death row for nearly 20 years.

Brent Tonick, whose brother was murdered, urged Californians to listen to these stories and understand the reasons why victims support life without the possibility of parole over the death penalty and why they are sharing their stories with California voters. “We must take this opportunity to show our support for bringing more justice, safety, and savings to California by voting YES on SAFE California this November.”

- Written by Jeanne Woodford, former Warden at San Quentin State Prison, current Executive Director at Death Penalty Focus, and official proponent of the SAFE California Campaign.