Fighting Capital Punishment: Anti-death penalty advocates speak at St. John Neumann

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Bill Pelke, co-founder and president of Journey to Hope, an anti-capital punishment organization, holds a picture of his grandmother, who was murdered in 1985. Pelke and other speakers that have been affected by the death penalty spoke at St. John Neumann Catholic Church Monday, June 25. Photo by Alex McVeigh.

Reston — For most people, the death penalty is a concept that occasionally intersects their lives in the form of news reports about people from across the country. But for others, it is something that has taken someone away from them, or threatens to. St. John Neumann Catholic Church hosted a panel discussion of members of Journey to Hope, a group consisting of families of murder victims, as well as others who have been touched by the death penalty in America.

Charity Lee’s life has been marked by death, starting from a young age. In 1980, when she was 6, her father was shot to death in their Georgia home. Later her mother was arrested and charged for hiring someone to kill her father and faced the death penalty but was later acquitted.

“The state of Georgia was supposedly looking for justice for the victim, well, I was the victim. I lost my father,” Lee said. “And they wanted to take my mother from me too. If she’s guilty, fine, lock her up, but if you kill her, I’m an orphan.”

Lee said she spent the next two decades sorting out her feelings toward her mother, unsure of her guilt or innocence and is now convinced that her mother was guilty. Meanwhile, she had two children, a son Paris and daughter Ella. But tragedy was to strike her again, in an even more personal manner.

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