Lawmakers: Let Crime Victim Families Watch Executions In Person

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BENTON COUNTY (KFSM) - Two legislators from Benton County say they'll push for a law allowing families of crime victims to watch in person as the convict who murdered their loved one is executed.

Rep.-elect Rebecca Petty, R-Rogers, said her family wanted to view the execution of the man who raped and killed her 12-year-old daughter but were told they couldn't observe it in person.

"You get there and you don't know that you have to sit in a stuffy warden's office alone with your family, it was heartbreaking," Petty said.

They would have been allowed to watch on a closed-circuit television screen in the warden's prison office, but Petty said she wanted the option to be in a room near the death chamber viewing it in person.

"For my peace and my comfort as a crime victim, I want to see to her last bit of business on this planet," Petty said.

The convicted killer's execution was called off after he sought legally to halt it, however, and he now is one of 31 inmates on Arkansas' death row.

Petty said she pre-filed legislation on Dec. 17 called Andi's Law, named after her daughter, Andi Brewer, allowing crime-victim families to watch executions in person. The Legislature convenes in January 2015, but lawmakers can have bills drafted ahead of time.

Arkansas conduct of execution guidelines prohibit crime-victim families from watching prisoners being killed in person.

Those observing the execution in person can be a lawyer for the convict being executed, a spiritual adviser of the convict's or other people designated by the director of the Department of Correction.

The prison facility in Gould where executions take place has about 16 chairs in it, according to Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction.

The family of the convict being put to death is also prohibited from viewing the execution. If they show up, they are held at a roadblock about one mile from the prison in Gould, according to Tyler.

Petty said she doesn't know if she would choose to watch the execution of her daughter's killer in person, but she wanted the choice to be available to her and others in a similar position.

Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, said he will support Andi's Law in the Senate.

"If someone from the victim's family feels like they need to be there to represent the family they should have that right, in every other state that has executions the victims' families are put first, and Arkansas puts our victims' families last," Hester said.

In the 2013 legislative session, Hester filed SB52, a similar bill to Andi's Law. It was approved in the Senate but died in the House, according to legislature records.

Andi's Law already has five legislative cosponsors, and Petty said she suspects it will pass when she brings it to the House floor in January.

Hester said he expects the bill to pass in the Senate as well.

"I hope it's one of the first things we do, it sends a message that we stand behind victims and families and we stand behind Rep. Petty and I feel like we are going to get this done quickly,"  Hester said.

9 comments

  • Horace

    When they held beheadings and hangings in the square, it was wrong. Moral, civilized people get no pleasure being witness to something so grizzly and horrific. These lawmakers, I would say, are trying to bolster their “conservative” images. Sad, so sad.

    • jaded2424

      I agree.Why would you want to watch another person die. I know it’s a personal issue for those that have lost a loved one to some lunatic. I just don’t think watching the execution would help them heal. These two congress people are trying to earn political points with the far right.

  • kaitlin

    As if this makes any kind of difference at all. Typical feel-good political window-dressing. Don’t forget to have puppies and children at the press conference.

  • Ishmail Dentor

    I, personally, would insist on being at the execution of a fiend that had killed and raped my child. I would prefer that I be given the chance to decide HOW the fiend would be killed and also that I be the executioner. If that make you liberal whiners get your tingles in a tangle then so be it.

  • HVG

    You bleeding heart liberals are hypocrites. A bad joke at best. You literally think it’s okay for a mother to have a choice when it comes to abortion (essentially a beheading as mentioned in a previous comment) but then turn right around and whine about giving a tiny little needle stick to a brutal child murderer who admitted to the crime and let authorities to the horrible crime scene. You want your choice for you and your issue, but nobody else should be allowed to have one for their issue? You are disgusting clueless hypocrites. If you don’t wanna watch an execution, that is your choice. If others choose differently, you don’t have to like it, but it should still be their choice, not yours.

  • Amy

    It’s easy for those who have never experienced having their child brutally murdered judge what they think is right or wrong. After what they’ve been through, shame on you. The point is not whether victims families are right or wrong wanting to be there for the last step of justice. The point is they should have a choice and be treated with more respect and accommodation.

  • Damon

    Her daughter was brutally raped and murdered. She should have the right to view the execution. Thus is not a right or left issue. This is a family issue. Unless you have walked in her shoes you are speaking out of ignorance.

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