It is difficult to referee a dispute involving the Petit family, because they can quite legitimately claim to have suffered pain and heartbreak that the rest of us could not possibly imagine. My sympathies, on that score, are very much with them, and I understand that, when they are driven to say and do things with which I do not agree, the right response is usually patience and understanding.
But to be horribly injured is not to be infallible. And the more the Petits inject themselves into the political process, the more the rest of us must struggle to put their comments into context.
As a matter of conscience, I object to their letter about Roraback.
First, I question whether it’s reasonable to say that a public figure and candidate for office, asked a question on a live radio show, cannot invoke the Petit name without first seeking their permission. That would be a reasonable position if, since the tragedy, they had been reclusive and reluctant to be dragged into public debate. They have been the opposite. They have been active at the State Capitol in a way that is, as far as I know, without precedent in the history of the death penalty debate. To suggest that one can publish, lobby and testify on an issue and that, subsequently, nobody can cite those views without permission seems like a rule made by the Red Queen.
Second, I listened again to Roraback’s remarks. It seems to me that he did nothing more than state exactly the Petit position as way of explaining why he did exactly what the Petits wanted people to do. He voted against repeal because no one could guarantee that repeal would not be used as a way of sparing Hayes, Komisarjevsky and the other death row inmates. People who oppose the death penalty were disppointed, and rightly so, in Roraback’s switch. People who hold to the Petit view have no reason to complain about what he did or what he said. Unless…
…Unless the Petits have simply put themselves at the disposal of the Wilson-Foley campaign. This letter is so saturated in the language of a political campaign that it’s hard not to wonder where the idea for it began.
Again, bear in mind that Roraback is being attacked in this letter for doing exactly what the Petits said they wanted lawmakers to do for exactly the reason the Petits said was the right reason. Which is odd.
I didn’t like the way Roraback let Wilson-Foley back him down on this issue, but here I’m going to pick up a striped shirt and a whistle and say he committed no foul in that interview. They whipped him into submission. Now they want to kick him for bowing to the very pressure they applied. Doesn’t really make sense except as a purely political act.
And, yes, I know I am on very thin ice.