‘The death penalty isn’t the answer’

Robert Grant

Robert Curley’s 10-year-old son, Jeffrey, was kidnapped and murdered by two pedophiles, and through the midst of pain and anger, Curley has come to one conclusion: The death penalty is not the answer.

Joined by Ben Jones, executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty, Curley advocated for the abolition of the death penalty in his lecture “From Rage to Redemption: A Father’s Journey.” The event was sponsored by Quinnipiac’s Willingham Abolition Society in the School of Law’s Grand Courtroom on Monday.

In a sullen tone, Curley explained the rage he felt after his son’s death. It was far from easy for him, having previously been impartial on the issue, to oppose the death penalty after such a heinous crime.

“I had an internal struggle,” Curley said. “I kept asking myself why I was having second thoughts.”

Curley came to the conclusion that the death penalty was cruel and unusual because of the execution of U.S. Marine veteran Manny Babbitt, who was executed in 1999.

Babbitt was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Vietnam veteran alleged he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from combat and the murder was not premeditated.

“That just didn’t seem fair,” Curley said.

According to Jones, one of the arguments against the death penalty is innocent people get executed too often.

“No one wants to see an innocent person get executed,” Jones said.

In light of the current trial of Steven Hayes, convicted of the 2007 Cheshire home invasion which resulted in the murder of Jennifer Hawke Petit and her two daughters, questions from the audience were raised about the moral aspects of the death penalty.

“I understand Mr. Petit’s current pain and suffering, but the death penalty isn’t the answer,” Curley explained. “It becomes a thirst for revenge.”

Willingham Abolition Society Vice President Denise Graham said the group helps to promote discussion about legal and emotional issues.

“Curley brings a different perspective, especially in light of the Hayes case,” Graham said. “He helps to remind us that there are human beings involved.”

Graduate student Meghan Woods, neutral on the death penalty issue, said Curley’s story was “extremely powerful.”

“I can’t fathom what he’s been through,” she said. “It gives me a lot to think about.”

Photo credit: Amanda Shulman