Gentle readers, following is the media statement I contributed to our rather large press conference following the decision of the jury in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania, that the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooter should be sentenced to death. Among us survivors and family members we had a wide variety of opinions, and a wide scope of content to what we said. I did not deliver aloud the second paragraph of thanks, as others had already expressed the same. That sentiment is one on which we all agree. I will be writing more about this in coming days; as we were advised not to speak of the trial or the crime itself until after it was over, I am fairly brimming with words.
The only thing positive about the sentencing of a criminal is that the long slog is over.
We are very grateful to the U.S. judicial system which not only efficiently and expertly carried us through this process, but also helped us better understand what we had lived through, and our place in testifying. We also thank all the helpers and providers of generous caring, support, and tangible items – those who tended our security, our safe transport, our logistical needs and stability, and even kept us fed at lunchtimes: so many people, from that awful day through now.
It has been difficult being silent about the case for all these years, listening to pundits debating each other without all the facts.
Had we not had this trial, the deeds of this criminal would have been glossed over in the annals of history. We now know the full story.
The purpose of the death penalty is not so much punishing as cutting off the person from society. Eliminating the evil. Taking away the risk, the potential for infection, and the possibility of further harm to the citizens. Even if he sits alive on Death Row for decades, he is separated from others.
Had he been sentenced to life in prison, he would have lived comfortably in a room, all needs tended, a situation he has told examiners he enjoys. He would have been afforded an increasing ability to communicate and play with others, and a chance of working his way out of any high security situation even to being transferred to a less secure penitentiary.
Moreover, the earning of reduced confinement would have no relation to rehabilitation in any way. It is not predicated on his feeling remorse, or his working on erasing his evil thoughts which continue even after five years in Butler County prison.
We don’t send criminals to deserted islands to fend for themselves. We don’t lobotomize them. We don’t brainwash them out of their dastardly thoughts. The law says that we use the death penalty.
There are those who seek to use our judicial system as a way to effectively erase laws they don’t like by creating precedent. That is inappropriate, especially in a criminal case. The murderer knew what the law was before he planned and executed his attack. When he “liked” a post on Gab that said “Incinerate the Jews #DeathPenalty,” he gave his tacit approval.
My late friend and fellow survivor Joe Charny, in 2018 a vital and vibrant individual, declined in health and died waiting for the trial to start. He and I talked about this a lot: Justice is something we have to tend continually.
Can we not argue that justice goes so much further than merely the disposition of the criminal?
We have a lot of work to do going forward. This has been a step in that direction.