Murder victims honored Friday

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2003

Violent crime hurts our quality of life.

That’s the message that was sent at the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum Friday, National Murder Awareness Day.

The day of recognition was approved by the U.S. Senate after lobbying from Citizens Against Violence, a local support group. Friday’s commemoration was the first of its kind in Selma since the day’s creation in 2001.

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District Judge Nathaniel Walker &045;&045; one of many speakers at the ceremony Friday &045;&045; said that when he was a child the word &uot;murder&uot; was never heard. The level of violence he sees today, he added, saddens him.

Walker then related the story of a mother and daughter in Selma to drive his point home. The mother visited New York City on a regular basis. On one occasion, while back in Selma, the mother asked her daughter to give her a pistol.

The daughter, surprised, told her mother she didn’t carry a gun in New York City.

Probate Judge Johnny Jones agreed with Walker. As a child, Jones said people didn’t worry about locking their doors or fear for their children when they weren’t at home.

Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman said sometimes only victims could understand what another victim was going through.

That’s one of the reasons Citizens Against Violence was formed.

Barbara Brown, co-founder of Citizens Against Violence, said the organization wanted to be exclusive, but not because of superficial or elitist reasons.

Losing a child to violent crime is like losing a limb and becoming paralyzed, Brown said. You’re handicapped, but you learn to continue living even with the loss. Victims affected by violent crime need to be treated with dignity and respect, she said.

Brown pointed to the district attorney’s office as an avenue of assistance, and said victims should contact the office when they need legal aid or a shoulder to cry on.

Susan Keith, community justice coordinator, said the district attorney helps set a community standard concerning how people react to and treat victims left behind by violent crime.

The district attorney doesn’t just prosecute crime, he also stays aware of victims’ plights, Keith said.