Published in USA Today

By Tanya Coke

The day after the massacre of nine parishioners at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., a judge sentenced a man to life in prison for killing my sister.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said the Justice Department would seek the death penalty against Dylann Roof, the young self-avowed white supremacist accused in the June 17, 2015 killings. His lawyers say he is willing to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without parole, but the Justice Department says it’s seeking Roof’s execution because of his expressed hatred of African-Americans and his lack of remorse. That has prompted Roof’s legal defense team to challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty, calling it unreliable, excessive and undermined by lengthy delays.

To me, the death penalty also is something else — a sad reminder of how our justice system typically offers punishment instead of healing for the survivors of violent crime. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty in my sister’s case, but I would have opposed it had they done so.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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