Do we deserve to kill?
We hope that everyone made it through Hurricane Ian as safely as possible. The devastation across our State is tragic to see. And yet, as often happens in the wake of a natural disaster, it is equally hopeful to see communities coming together to rebuild. Floridians are resilient, and we will get through this recovery together.
As we at FADP think about resiliency and what it means for a community to heal, we can’t ignore how the use of the death penalty is harmful and so often does more destruction to a grieving community and murder victims’ families.
We wanted to share this important story of the impact of the death penalty on one Florida family. Robert Schentrup’s sister Carmen was one of the victims in the Parkland school shooting. It’s difficult to clearly express the pain of losing a loved one in such a violent manner, and yet Robert does exactly that in a new article published in the Washington Post.
We encourage you to read about Robert, and his uniquely talented sister Carmen, and how he’s used his grief, anger, and frustration as a catalyst for change. He found a path forward that would allow him to honor his sister in a meaningful way. He switched his college major to Psychology – “a path that led him to probe how the forces beyond our control can influence our behavior. He went to therapy. He got into politics. He volunteered at a nonprofit focused on ending gun violence, which turned into a full-time youth organizing job.”
He describes the phone call bringing news of his sister’s murder as one that “cleaved his life into the Before and After.” He would later learn that even though the person who killed her pled guilty and offered to accept more than 30 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole to spare the his family and the community a death penalty trial, the State was insisting on Nikolas Cruz’s execution.
In the book and the film it inspired, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson challenges our thinking about the death penalty. Reading this book was a turning point for Robert. He was horrified when confronted by the truth about the death penalty: that it is applied in racially biased manner and targets most vulnerable members of our society – particularly the mentally ill. And when they are executed, the collateral damage spreads to those who still love them as well as the prison guards who are required to put them to death.
We don’t need the death penalty to be safe. We don’t need it to heal. And, as Robert’s chosen path forward demonstrates – there are other ways to honor victims without killing the sick and the broken.
PS: Join our movement to protect people with serious mental illness from the death penalty.