A Letter from the Director

Two shotgun blasts took my father’s life on a June night in 1988. He was murdered in front of my mother’s eyes, in the home where they had lived for 35 years and where they had raised their seven children.

For me and the others in my family – as for so many others around the world – the question of what to do in the aftermath of a murder is not an intellectual exercise. It’s a deeply personal question, arising out of our searing loss and grief. After my father was murdered, I didn't think right away about issues related to the death penalty. I was more concerned about what to do with the empty chair at the table and the emptiness in my heart. But something happened a couple of days after my father's killers were arrested. I went to the corner store and an old friend came up to me and said, "You know, Renny, I hope they fry the bastards, so you and your family can have some peace.”

I was taken aback. I understand that this friend was trying to give me comfort, but more killing wasn’t going to give me peace. My friend presumed that because my father was murdered, I would change my position on the death penalty. So many people assume that survivors of murder victims automatically support the death penalty, but I know that isn’t true. I know it not only from my own experience but also from the experience of the many victims’ family members I know and work with throughout the world.

On International Rights Day (December 10) 2004, a group of victims’ family members and supporters joined with me to found Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights. Together we signed a document pledging, in the name of victims, to end the death penalty around the world. Since then, MVFHR has changed hearts and minds; we’ve blazed new trails and opened new fronts in the fight to abolish the death penalty.

Renny Cushing,
Executive Director

Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights