As the number of executions surges, Christians remain divided on the death penalty's morality and purpose.

One might think Sue Norton would be among the most ardent supporters of the death penalty in light of the 1990 double murder of her parents. Yet today, as the man convicted of killing her parents sits on Oklahoma's death row, she is among those working hardest to have his death sentence commuted.

"If our world is going to change," she says, "we have to move past hate and learn to love with the unconditional love displayed by Jesus." Norton, a member of an American Baptist church in Arkansas City, Missouri, says the man who killed her parents has converted to Christianity through her witness. She regularly visits and writes to him in prison and talks to him weekly by telephone.

Norton is among the nearly 3,000 members of the Atlantic, Virginia-based Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation (mvfr), which opposes the death penalty and advocates programs and policies aimed at crime prevention. "Our society places an expectation on families to seek vengeance," says mvfr executive director Pat Bane. "One parent told me that people made her feel like she was betraying her son because she did not want to kill the person who murdered him. Our goal is to break the cycle of violence rather than escalate it."

CAPITAL COMEBACK: Though not an mvfr member, Aldona DeVetsco opposed the May 2 lethal injection of Keith Zettlemoyer, the first person to be executed in Pennsylvania since 1962. Zettlemoyer shot and killed Charles DeVetsco, Aldona's son, in 1980. She signed a petition appealing for a stay of execution, calling capital punishment "senseless vengeance."

Pennsylvania is the latest in the growing list of states to administer the ...

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