Thursday, October 7, 2010

National Day of Remembrance

I was asked to speak at the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, in Oregon City, on September 24th. I was honored to speak after Attorney General John Kroger. These were my remarks to the approximately 100 members and supporters of Parents of Murdered Children:

I am humbled to be here among the survivors of the very worst thing that can happen to a family - the senseless loss of life out of time out of place -- and I never cease to be amazed by the grace and the eloquence of a victim’s family.

POMC is not a political organization and the rights of victims are not a partisan issue.

One of the most important rights we fought for and won - first in 1986 with Measure 10, then in Measure 69 in 1999 - was the right for the survivors to speak at the sentencing of the person who caused the loved ones’ death.

That simple right, that basic decency, may seem normal and expected to some of the younger people here. But 30 years ago there was no such right. Some claimed it would deprive the defendant of some basic right. But the right to be heard, the need to speak for the dead is too important not to ensconce in our constitution, where it properly sits today.

Over the years I have come to know remarkable people after they are gone.
I’ve learned of them through the memories of their families and friends, through the photographs and letters their family collected.

I recognize that as a prosecutor I am working with people at the very worst moments of their lives. When the world seems to have broken all around them, when the rules have all seem to fallen apart, when they are adrift in a sea of complex legalisms that all too often seems indifferent to their loss.

Out of this darkness I have been heartened to find the strength, the dignity, the passion, and the truth that these families speak.

I often stay in touch with them and when I’m lucky I run into them out of happenstance or, less welcoming for them, at a parole hearing to try and keep the killer in prison.

I’ve been trying murder cases for 25 years. For almost 20 years I’ve tried one case over and over again because of a promise I made those two decades ago to that family.

That promise was to stay the course until justice was done.

That voyage made its fourth trip through a courtroom in Bend this summer and a measure of justice was achieved.

Once again the family summoned the courage, the strength and the dignity to speak of the LIVES of the two people who were murdered in 1987.

The presiding juror later told me that, during deliberations, the jurors had put up in their room the one relatively small photo of the victims that I had been allowed to enter into evidence. The photo was to remind the jurors of why they were there.

Many ancient cultures believed the souls of the departed lived on so long as they were named and remembered.

Today we honor and remember those who you loved and lived with us.

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