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UULM-MD Co-Chair Betty McGarvie Crowley, Board Member Mark Patro, Sugarloaf Congregation of UUs Minister Reverend Megan Foley, son Jake Foley and Rockville UU Andrea Hall were present when Governor Martin O'Malley signed Death Penalty Repeal--Substitution of Life Without the Possibility of Parole, SB 276, on May 2, 2013
Testimony in Support of SB276/HB295
Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation from Savings to Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and House Judiciary Committee
February 14, 2013
I am the Reverend Megan Foley. I am the minister of the Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists in Germantown, Maryland, and I am representing the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Maryland today as well.
I am testifying today as the daughter of a murder victim. My father, Laurence Foley, was serving as a Foreign Service officer when he was shot and killed in front of his house in Amman, Jordan in 2002 by members of an al-Qaeda cell. His killers were sentenced to death and were subsequently executed.
I am one of the very few people you’ll hear from today who has actually experienced the execution of my loved one’s killers.
I often hear legislators who have not yet made up their minds about repeal say that they might like to reserve the right to execute killers if what those killers have done is particularly egregious. It’s as if the death penalty is a gift that the state of Maryland might be able to offer to the family members of victims to compensate them for their loss.
Please hear me when I tell you from personal experience – and I’m also speaking to the other family members of victims who might be in this room, who may also want to know – please hear me when I tell you that execution of killers does not bring any of the things it’s advertised to bring. Having my father’s killers executed did not bring me a sense of closure, or a sense of justice, or a sense of peace. I did not feel that things had been made fair. In fact, the execution of those men made me feel far worse.
You see, more than anything else, I hated the capricious violence that took my father’s life. I wanted – and I want now – I want the world to be a place where fathers are safe from the murderous schemes of others. To me, to kill his killers is more violence, a deeper descent into horror, another wrong step down a terrible path. The death penalty is not a gift that the state of Maryland gives to families of victims. It never can be. Killing does not heal. It does nothing but wound us all even more.
I’ve been reflecting on some words that Martin Luther King wrote:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
This is what I found to be true when my father’s killers were killed. I wanted to kill hate, to kill the lie. That’s what would have made me feel better. Killing the hater or the liar is not at all the same thing. That’s making the hate worse.
I wasn’t a minister yet when this happened to my family, but I became one soon after. As a minister, it’s my job to say things like this to people and encourage them to remember the mechanism by which we make the world a less likely place to lose a father or a husband or a child before his time.
As legislators, though, it’s in your hands that this work gets done. I hope and pray that you’ll do your part to make our world a safer place for all of us, because that’s your job. I believe if you repeal Maryland’s death penalty then we’ll be a step closer.
Thank you for your attention.
Support Death Penalty Repeal Legislation in 2013
SB276/HB295 Death Penalty Repeal and Appropriation from Savings to Aid Survivors of Homicide Victims
Unitarian Universalists believe first and foremost in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. For us, this means every human being has inherent worth, regardless of their beliefs or their behavior. Many UUs believe that we human beings shouldn’t put ourselves in the position of choosing who is worthy of life and who is not, because often we are wrong. Even when we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt, we can still be wrong – and the consequences of any error are too terrible to chance.
In May 2009, Governor O’Malley signed legislation giving Maryland the toughest standard of proof of guilt in death cases of any state. Capital prosecutions in Maryland are limited to cases with biological evidence or DNA evidence that links the defendant to the act of murder; a videotaped, voluntary interrogation and confession of the defendant to the murder; or a video recording that conclusively links the defendant to the murder.
The UULM-MD’s position is that killing other people is a morally corrupt thing to do. Whether the killing has the backing and the authority of the state, whether we think we are in the right, or whether the person we are killing seems particularly bad or unredeemable, killing other people is a morally corrupt act one that the state of Maryland should not engage in.
The UULM-MD worked with MD CASE (Maryland Citizens Against State Executions) to pass Governor O’Malley’s bill that would have repealed the death penalty outright. While we didn't get full repeal in 2009, the legislation signed into law was an important step forward in reducing the ability to implement the death penalty in Maryland. CASE has continued to work towards the goal of eliminating all executions in Maryland with the support of UULM-MD. Proposed legislation in 2010, 2011, and 2012 was rejected. Prospects for passage in 2013 are more encouraging for passage.
For more information and background:
Presentation at a Clergy Press Conference in support of repealing the death penalty in Maryland, February 16, 2013
by the Rev. Megan Foley, Minister, Sugarloaf Congregation of UUs, Germantown, Maryland.
I come to the work of repealing Maryland’s death penalty from two different paths.
From one path, I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, and Unitarian Universalists stand on the side of love. We stand on the side of love even when the person we’re standing beside is hard to love. We know that every person has a seed of God inside of them, even when we can’t see it, and we know that we are all foundationally connected to one another. From this perspective, it doesn’t make any sense for the government to be in the business of killing anyone, no matter what they have done. Unitarian Universalists believe that it’s time that Maryland stood on the side of love, too.
From the other path, I am also a family member of a murder victim. My father was serving his country as a Foreign Service officer when he was shot and killed in front of his house in Amman, Jordan, by al-Qaeda operatives. His killers were sentenced to death. Most of them have been executed.
I am probably one of the few people in this room who have experienced the execution of my loved one’s killers. Perhaps you have wondered if maybe what they always say is true, and that execution of murderers brings a sense of closure, of justice, of peace to the family of the one murdered. Let me assure you, execution does not bring any of those things. The horror I experienced upon my father’s death was compounded by the horror I felt when his killers were put to death. What was most terrible about my father’s murder was knowing that people I love can be suddenly and brutally destroyed. I was struck and horrified by a world that seemed suddenly to have gone awry. When I saw the faces of my father’s killers, I realized that they too were dearly loved by someone. Someone would be grieving their deaths. And the rage that killed my father would only increase.
Martin Luther King told us that the ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. As a minister and the daughter of a murder victim, I work to diminish evil, not multiply it. Maryland, I am sure, also wants to be in the business of diminishing evil and not multiplying it. May the years ahead of us bring a world where evil is weakened and love stands strong. Repealing Maryland’s death penalty will put us on that path. May it be so.