Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I’ll say this for columnist Al Martinez, an unabashed opponent of the death penalty. At leas Martinez gave a voice to the widow of a murdered L.A. police officer who, for 27 years, has waited for his killers to be executed.
By Al Martinez, Columnist
Los Angeles Daily News
November 28, 2010
When grief intersects with anger, sparks fly.
Such is the case in the circumstances of Sandra Verna Jackson, whose husband Paul Verna, an officer with the LAPD, was murdered in the line of duty 27 years ago, and whose two killers have languished on San Quentin's Death Row ever since.
Jackson wants the case to end and the sentence to be carried out, and she wants to be there.
She adds in an e-mail, "I would have no problem pulling the switch or giving them an injection."

Her words are in response to a column in which I characterized capital punishment as a stain on the culture and an affront to a civilized society. She brings it down to a more personal level.
Jackson's husband, who was 35 at the time, was shot to death during a routine traffic stop near the end of his shift. His killers were arrested and sentenced to death. Since then, they have avoided execution by a storm of appeals on both state and federal levels.
It is to this, the unfairness of the situation, that placed anger upon grief and caused her to contact me in the hope that I would understand the pain involved in her own circumstance.
She wrote: "Obviously you have never had your loved one murdered and left dying in the street and had to tell your young children that their beloved daddy wasn't coming home ever again..."
It is the deep kind of pain most of us have never had to face, an emotional spin that can take one down to the lowest level of his soul, where the sadness of such an abrupt parting never abates.
I have tried to understand the depth of that hurt many times as a Marine at war and a reporter in the streets, talking to those who, like Jackson, have lost a loved one, but the distance that divides the grieving survivor and the one seeking empathy is too wide to breach.
I have spoken to relatives of policemen killed in the line of duty, and I have spoken to the loved ones of men on Death Row. There is an odd and chilling compatibility to their associations, lives that merge at the corner of their mutual destinies. A few of those whose husbands have been murdered by the sons of the women I spoke with have even forgiven the killers.
That makes it no less tolerable for Jackson. I wrote in a column that keeping anyone on Death Row for years without setting a date for their execution constitutes in itself cruel and unusual punishment. Jackson wrote: "My husband's killers have never been given an execution date. Do you want to ask us what is cruel and inhumane? Did they give their victim the same consideration?"
The depth of her pain forbids the intrusion of repeating a cultural position. I reach out to her but it is impossible for another to touch such enduring grief. I can only tell her how sorry I am for Paul's death and the deaths of others who have given their lives for our safety. We mourn for them.

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