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It is time for cycle of violence to end in the State of Maryland

December 11, 2008|By MARTY PRICE

In July of this year, I was asked to give testimony before a Gov. Martin O'Malley-appointed 23-member commission regarding a study on capital punishment. I was honored by this request, but this is a topic I simply cannot discuss without resurfacing a deep emotional scar.

On July 27, 1988, I was 23, married with two young daughters, when tragedy struck. My father had shot and killed my stepmother and stepsister.

Twenty-four years ago, my mother remarried and a new blended-family was formed. However, violence has now found its way into this family, too.

Flash forward to Dec. 17, 2007. My step-father's grandson was a police officer; he was slain in the line of duty. Now having been on the side of the convicted and on the side of the victim I have experienced polarized views of death. These views have taught me violence can and does strike all walks of life.

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After months of listening to statistics, analysis of political groups arguing their opinions, religious groups and their beliefs. I realize the most important factor to my own findings is that a loss is a loss.

When someone has lost a loved one, whether it is to violence, an accident, an illness or by natural causes, there is an emptiness. This void, which does not give us a time frame for healing also brings with it something else - anger.

The anger can bring with it a "wet blanket" effect. For me, it was dealing with guilt, confusion and lack of trust. These emotions are normal human reactions when we become disoriented from the unexpected. After years of self-reflection and asking the tough questions of life, I have come to the understanding that it's how we choose to react to our newfound situation and corresponding emotions that decide the weight of the blanket.

The heaviness, laden in anger, drove me to hurt those who loved and cared for me. I pushed them away, not because I wanted to, but because it felt natural. What I didn't realize was that I was holding onto the pain. When I decided to let go and forgive the violent acts thrust on me and my family, I found the gift of humility.

Two of the most poignant stories about forgiveness are told by my friends, Sister Helen Prejean and Vicki Schieber. Sister Helen was the author and story character of what later became a book, feature film and opera, "Dead Man Walking." Her story tracks the experience and execution of an inmate on death row.

Vicki Schieber was the mother of a young woman who was finishing her doctorate and was raped and murdered. Both stories ultimately illustrate the power of forgiveness.

After wrestling with the issues of crime and punishment all my life, I have come to believe that there must be an end to the cycle of violence and the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment agrees. The commission recently voted to recommend to the governor and legislature to end the practice of the death penalty in favor of swift and severe punishment of life without the possibility of parole.

I urge the legislature to look carefully at the commission's report and enact the recommendations, so Maryland can focus instead on preventing violence and truly meeting the needs of crime victims and their families.

Marty Price is a Hagerstown-area resident who wrote this for The Herald-Mail.

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