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28 Bill Rts J. 3 (1995)
A Parent Says No to Revenge

handle is hein.journals/blorij28 and id is 5 raw text is: NORMAN FELTON
A Parent Says No To Revenge

M y wife and I had three children, the
youngest, Aline, a law student, lived
in Detroit with her husband, a biolo-
gist, and their nine-month old baby, Jessica.
All three were murdered, stabbed to death,
and the horror of the night when detectives
called us will forever be stamped on our
I flew to Detroit. David's body had been
found slashed and frozen in an alley. Whoever
was responsible had taken his identification
and keys, gone to their apartment and stabbed
Aline and the baby. Identifying their bodies
proved horrifying.
Afterward, I found myself in the squad
room with the father of my son-in-law. There
were television cameras and it was bedlam. I
heard him say, I never believed in the death
penalty before, but this is a goddamned exam-
ple of why we should have it, for people like
these who killed my son, his wife and a baby.
I was on the other side of the room being
interviewed, but when I heard that I stopped
talking. I said to the reporter, Just a minute. I
can understand how the man feels, but I don't
feel that way.
It was like lightening. I was not speaking in
a loud voice, but the word came through that
he doesn't believe in it.
Reporters questioned me and were startled
by my responses. How could anyone, having
lost a family through terrible slayings, take
such a position? At the time, I was only able
to add, I have just never believed in it. My
wife and I have always thought it was abhor-
rent to kill another human being and certainly
not for revenge, which would be useless. We
ought to use all the resources we have to seek
out the cause of crimes like this.
I called my wife on the phone and told her
what I'd said, and she said on the phone
through tears, You said the right thing, and
I'm glad you did. Betsy [our daughter] would
have wanted it. Then, through tears she said,
Norman Felton was one of television's pioneer-
ing director and producers. He is the namesake of
an annual award given out by the Producer's Guild
for the year's outstanding TV producer.

If we changed our belief now, because it is
our daughter who is a victim, all we believed
becomes a mockery.
In the days which followed we attended
meetings of support groups such as Parents of
Murdered Children. While sharing pain and
frustration with other victims we discovered
that those who demanded retribution and exe-
cution did not appear to benefit and obtain
peace of mind.
After three years a breakthrough brought
answers to the Detroit killings. Three men, un-
der the influence of drugs, and seeking money
to buy more, were responsible. When during
their trial, testimony revealed terrible details
of rape and murder, we were confronted by
cameras and asked by newsmen, Do you still
oppose capital punishment? I do not remem-
ber my exact words, but I have been told they
came quite clearly, that if the men were found
How could anyone, hav-
ing lost a family through
terrible slayings, take such
a position?
guilty they had to be imprisoned and attempts
made to find out what caused them to become
drug addicts, and to probe conditions that re-
sulted in their involvement in violent crimes.
How could this be possible if they were exe-
I later learned that one of the men who
committed the murders had been taken from
his mother when he was only seven months
old and put into foster homes until at age 16
he was let go, having had no meaningful rela-
tionships. He could never hold jobs, being al-
ready addicted to drugs, and was let go from
the army for the same reason. No one seemed
to have offered him a helping hand. All three
men are now in prison, sentenced to life with-
out possibility of parole, at hard labor. Will
anything be learned? I'm not sure, but clearly
there can be a better chance than if they had
been executed.



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