In a set of essays, family members of murder victims express their anguish and what led them to reject the death penalty.
In a set of essays, family members of murder victims express their anguish and what led them to reject the death penalty.

Nine family members of murder victims have told their stories in a book published by Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

In “Not in Our Name,” the writers share their painful stories. Common themes emerge: coping, grieving, and reconciling loss. The healing takes a long time, they say, and is aided by loving and compassionate responses.

“While each has endured the extreme pain of losing a loved one to murder, they all are staunchly opposed to what they say is more violence in the form of a state-sanctioned execution and a death penalty,” said Ron Steiner, leader of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and a member of Queen of Peace Parish in Salem.

Archbishop Alexander Sample has supported repeal of Oregon’s execution law.

One of the stories is by Becky O’Neil McBrayer, director of community programs at St. André Bessette Parish in Portland. 

Aba Gayle of Silverton wrote, "Now I know that having someone murdered by the government will not heal my pain."

“Not in My Name” has an introduction by St. Joseph Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking,” who has visited Oregon and will return in May.

The foreword of the book is by former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who writes about his own experience administering the death penalty. “I still think about my decisions in 1996 and 1997. I believe those decisions were wrong. I find comfort in the stories of other Oregonians in this book who have struggled to find a deeper moral truth."

The storytellers deal with profound sorrow while trying to honor their loved ones by working to move away from more violence and toward peace and reconciliation.

“The scales of justice are out of balance when it comes to the death penalty,” wrote Gus Lamm, a retired mental health counselor from Eugene.

“OADP understands that not all family members express similar feelings toward those who have killed their loved ones,” Steiner said. “Regardless of their stance on the death penalty, we need to support family members of murder victims. Generally, they do not ask for or expect sympathy. Rather they appreciate our acknowledgment that their loss can be felt by all of us and our efforts to provide resources that support them through the most difficult times of their lives.”

“Not in Our Name” will be handed out as long as supplies last at all OADP events. Copies can be obtained at oadp.org.

“Create reading groups, discussion groups, invite family members to speak at your church or at your book club, or host an event to discuss restorative justice and reconciliation using ‘Not in Our Name’ as a common text,” Steiner said.