Families of Murder Victims Opposed to Capital Punishment

James Byrd Jr. was the African-American man chained to a car and dragged for miles until he was dismembered and dead by a white supremist and two other white men in 1998. Two were sentenced to death. One, John W. King, is about to exhaust his state appeals.

Yesterday, James Byrd's son Ross Byrd held a vigil at the state penitentiary in Huntsville protesting King's execution. He was accompanied by Martin Luther King, III. Ross Byrd initially favored the sentence but changed his mind. He now opposes all capital punishment.

This deplorable act of racism and torture was one of the most brutal crimes in recent memory. What changed Byrd's mind?

"When I heard King had exhausted his appeals, I began thinking, `How can this help me or solve my pain?' and I realized it couldn't," Byrd said.

The number of family victims who oppose the death penalty for their loved ones' murders has been steadily growing in recent years. Among the most vocal organizations advancing this welcome shift is Murder Victims' Families For Reconciliation (MVFR).

Founded in 1976 by Marie Deans, the guiding prinicple of the group has been:

"From experience, we know that revenge is not the answer. The answer lies in reducing violence, not causing more death. The answer lies in supporting those who grieve for their lost loved ones, not creating more grieving families. It is time we break the cycle of violence. To those who say society must take a life for a life, we say: "not in our name."

This is a non-profit organization without a religious agenda. Its members come from diverse racial, geographic, economic and religious backgrounds. Their bond has its roots in the loss of a family member due to a criminal act.

Please support them.

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