The State’s Victim: Should the State Grant Rights and Privileges to the Families of Death Row Defendants?

“I just wanna say I think killin’ is wrong, no matter who does it, whether it’s me or y’all or your government.” — Matthew Poncelet, in Dead Man Walking

Before exoneration, Sandra’s brother, convicted of his wife’s capital murder, served eight excruciating years on death row. The state placed his children, who had now lost both their mother and father, into foster care. The imprisonment of their father caused the children shame and embarrassment. Sandra’s brother and parents spent their entire life-savings hiring attorneys, instead of relying on appointed counsel, who were still ineffective at adequately defending a capital murder case. The capital sentence still haunted Sandra’s brother and his children even after the court overturned the conviction. Now, his children were part of another family, and he was unable to find work after his exoneration. Although seriously affected by his eight years on death row, Sandra’s brother received no compensation from the state for the experience he and his family suffered.