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Victims' relatives speak at death penalty hearing

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

For some family members of murder victims, the death penalty represents closure.

For others, it hurts them even more.

Perspectives on both sides of the death penalty were shared by victims' relatives at Kentucky's Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary hearing Friday at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah.

The two sides of the crime victim perspective were presented by Katherine Nichols of the Kentuckiana Voice for Crime Victims, and Father Pat Delahanty and Ben Griffith of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Nichols found her brother, Jim Duckett, in his home in 2008. He had been tied up, tortured and killed. No arrest has been made.

Nichols said she and members of the Kentuckiana Voice for Crime Victims have trouble sleeping and are in constant fear that killers are on the loose. Nichols is a supporter of the death penalty because of the impact on victims and victims' families.

"I've been told by some of them, the impact of the murder of their loved ones, how horrendous it is. As adults, they look under their beds, in their closets ... this is every day of our lives," she said.

Griffith's brother, Chris Griffith, was murdered while inspecting a shooting range as a part of his job in Missouri in 1986. He was shot three times while running away from the gunman, Donald Reese, whom he did not know. Reese shot and killed three other people that day.

Griffith's parents asked that the death penalty not be imposed, and so Reese was sentenced to life without parole for Griffith's murder. However, Reese was executed on one of the other murder convictions. 

Ben Griffith said Reese's execution did not make him feel any better about his brother's death.

"In Reese's death I was victimized yet once again. Any assumption that all family members of murder victims want more killing is simply not true," he said.

Delahanty presented comments from individuals who have lost loved ones to murder who want the death penalty repealed. He shared the story of a victim's sister, Nancy Rowles, who stated that although her brother was murdered, she's "not going to be consoled if someone else feels the same pain."

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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