What about the victims of juvenile murderers?
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The recent 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders was one I have feared for the past 18 years.
It is hard, as a victim, to make people understand what happens to you and your family once the police have shown up at your door to inform you that a person you love has been murdered by another human being. It is a feeling I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy, one I hope you never have to experience for yourself.
My sister was 15 years old and pregnant when she left this earth. She and her unborn child were murdered by her 16-year-old boyfriend. He stabbed her repeatedly and left shoe imprints on her pregnant belly. Her killer is one of the murderers who will be eligible for "justice with heart," a phrase in the headline on your June 28 editorial after the ruling ("Justice with Heart: Top Court Strikes Down Cruel Sentences for Juveniles").
As Pennsylvania law dictates, he was sentenced to life without parole, because he committed and was convicted of a first-degree murder. He carried a knife to meet her, and then he killed her.
At the time of the sentence, we were assured that the final sentencing hearing, other than a few possible appeals, would be the last time we had to interact with the criminal justice system or the murderer. I've spent the last five years testifying and advocating that this sentence be upheld. I've done that for the memory of my sister and the hundreds of other victims I have met with similar situations.
When the Supreme Court ruled on this topic, and the media ran with the story, it was rare to see any mention of the victims. I suppose since my sister is dead, there's really nothing you can say or do for her, so it is easier to focus on the person who took her life.
The result of this ruling for victims in the states impacted, in case you are interested, will be devastating. I've been crying on and off for a week. Each case will have to be reviewed and the sentence evaluated. That means that every one of us victims, who have endured pain you cannot imagine, can rip open those wounds and relive the worst event of our lives.
While I realize that is just a minor consequence of the ruling and the celebration of freeing these poor kids, it would be far more humane for the media to at least acknowledge the dead and the people left behind who must live with this seemingly innocuous ruling.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am