Oct 24, 2010

Death Penalty Exhibit Raises Questions About Cheshire Home Invasion

The excerpt below taken from an article about a new Death Penalty exhibit in New London, speaks volumes about the emotional juxtaposition that many people, particularly within this state, have found themselves in concerning the Petit family murders.

The portion of the interview shown in italics below, is a perfect example of why I myself continue to ask people, who are against the death penalty or who unwittingly or otherwise lobby for lenience for violent criminal offenders , .What if this were your family who were victimized and murdered in this brutal, cruel and tortuous way?

A perfect example of this philosophical quandary can be found in within the comments section of a recent post of mine; I was having a bit of a tete a tete' with an anonymous commenter who took particular offense to my asking them the aforementioned question within some back and forth comments about the Hayes trial.

Well suffice to say that the question certainly got the readers attention; They took offense to my merely suggesting this hypothetical question - a legitimate question which truthfully was designed to hopefully illicit an empathetic reflex. And perhaps, through this simple, though monumental change in vantage point, pull them out of their comfortable armchair intellectualizing and contraryism, and balance this off with some genuine human empathy; put yourself in these victims shoes-literally!
Needless to say, it didn't have the effect I'd hoped for. After a counter comment that began with a litany of the equivalent of' ha ha and you're wrong about everything", came the real rub- something akin to: '" and don't you think its rather mean to ask me how I would feel if this were my family?!" they demanded, clearly disturbed and insulted by my daring to pose this question.

My answer was a resounding no. No, I don't think that it's "mean" at all. I feel now as I felt then, that this question, although uncomfortable, is not only pertinent and valid, but indeed it is mandatory, an integral part of the individual and en masse soul searching that should be required when considering such essential questions as what serves as justice for those who are proven guilty of our commmunity's most heinous and cruel murders.

I never answered them back after their last comment as I saw that it was clearly a futile pursuit with this particular reader, but I had I answered I would have explained that I asked the question in order to provoke a empathetic response from the reader; I wanted him/her to literally put themself in the shoes of the Petit family victims, and not for a nano second- Honestly and thouroughly contemplate it, imagine it, feel it, and then, then expouse your views. For only after doing this, can you truly come from a place that is valid.
This is what empathy is. It is not pity, it is not even compassion, but rather it is putting yourself in the sufferers place. And this is the only way that insight can happen.

Clearly from this article, the woman that runs this death penalty exhibit has done this,, she has put herself in Jennifer Hawke-Petit shoes, as well as sole survivor Bill Petit, and as you can read for yourselves below, despite having differnet views than I do she at least speaks from her heart as well as her head about some very mixed feelings she's had as a result of this journey.

New haven sunday Oct. 23 210 CT Now

Her opposition is clear,it is in the tone of the entire exhibit: And yet, as soon as she explains that, she concedes that the brutality for which Hayes was recently convicted and now faces death has challenged that belief.

"It violated everything that is dear to human life," she said of the 2007 crimes when I visited the center. "A wife, a mother, daughters, innocent young women."

We've been talking about that for months, haven't we? And by now, we've said this several times: The Cheshire home invasion and murders of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her daughters Hayley, 17 and Michaela, 11, has changed a lot of minds about the death penalty.

As a recent poll showed, even people who are otherwise opposed to state-sanctioned killing wouldn't mind seeing Hayes dead. More than a few have volunteered to see to it themselves.

"Crime happens every day. We know that," Mijoba said. "But this has been something that is so totally unnatural, so random that it makes us think, 'Oh my god,' it could have been any of us, it could have been our families.

"And when we think like that, we own a piece of it and we almost can't help but react to it the way we have."

Standing there, in the middle of a center surrounded by the perspective of history and time, Mijoba admits it's easy to hold tight to convictions, to intellectualize and philosophize about the morality of the death penalty.

Distance has a way of making such certainty easy.

But, Mijoba wondered: Could anyone really know how they would react until they were confronted with kind of agonizing loss Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor, has had to face?

It's been the undercurrent of this whole trial: Should a horror as unimaginable as the cold-hearted destruction of a family change your views on life and death itself?

As I've said repeatedly, I've long been against the death penalty as an unworkable solution. But when you sit in that New Haven courtroom day after day listening to one horrifying detail after another, it's nearly impossible not to question those beliefs.

"You can't help but think, what if it were my husband, my kids," Mijoba said. "What if someone walked into my home and destroyed life as I knew it. Would I be strong enough to hold onto my convictions?"

Death Penalty Exhibit Raises Questions About Cheshire Home Invasion

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