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In 2006, my son Gregory Giesing, was murdered in his home, and a hole was torn in my universe. It is absolutely impossible to describe what it feels like to lose a child, much less to lose a child to violence. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Now that I have been thrown into a world where murder and trials are no longer distant or abstract notions, I have paid close attention to the efforts in Connecticut to repeal the death penalty. My personal experience has provided me with many reasons why I think Connecticut will be better off without the death penalty.
For starters, I wouldn't wish the death penalty process on any grieving family. I'm incredibly grateful my family wasn't put through the ordeal that comes with the death penalty. Capital cases nearly always take longer to go to trial and then last longer. When the trial is over, with its separate guilt and sentencing phases, and a death verdict is handed down, the journey for the families of victims just begins.
In Connecticut, only one person has been executed in the last 50 years. When someone is sentenced to death, a myriad of constitutionally mandated safeguards go into effect and the actual execution is a distant blip on the horizon. So the family members wait vigilantly for the day when the offender's punishment will finally be carried out.
In our case, prison was the punishment and we were able to see that punishment carried out immediately. We know that the young man is suffering dearly for taking the life of my son and won't be a threat to anyone else. I can't imagine how my life would be stuck on pause if I were still waiting for the "real" punishment of an execution to take place.
I also don't trust the finality of the death penalty. In my son's case, I have lingering questions about what actually happened the night he was killed and if everyone responsible has been held accountable. I believe that the police and prosecutors in our case did the best that they could, but questions remain, as they so often do in homicide cases.
We simply cannot presume absolute certainty, which is what we must demand if lives are at stake. Obviously, no one should ever sentence someone to death without complete certainty, but that simply is not the case in this country. There have been 140 death row exonerations across the country, plus numerous wrongful convictions in Connecticut for serious crimes, such as rape and murder. Mistakes happen far too often to ever trust our government with the death penalty.
The reality is, there are things that could help victims' families move forward in the aftermath of violent crime. My grandchildren have seen their grandma sad far too often. It would be wonderful if money that has to now be spent on endless death penalty appeals was instead available to provide counseling for those traumatized by the murder of a loved one, mitigating the emotional devastation it can wreak on an entire family.
According to the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis, the state would save approximately $4 million annually in reduced defense and prosecution costs due to a repeal of the death penalty. It would make a lot more sense to use that money to help the thousands of siblings, parents, nieces and nephews left behind in the wake of murder.
I stand with my living sons, and in the memory of their lost brother. We are asking for an end to the death penalty in Connecticut. It simply doesn't do us any good.
Rae Giesing lives in Groton. Her son and her son's stepbrother were murdered in May 2006.