My Brother Was Put to Death. It's Not the Answer

Robert Towery was executed in 2012; Christine Towery was there
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
I Watched My Brother Be Executed. It's Not the Answer
   (Getty Images / Rambleon)

Christine Towery's first memory is an awful one: of her baby brother bound, with duct tape on his mouth, on the floor of the family car. Towery was so terrified her mother would kill her if she moved to help him that she didn't. It was an abuse-filled childhood, and her brother Robert's troubled teenage years snowballed into juvenile detention, then prison, then a meth addiction. In 1991, while high, he murdered a 68-year-old man during a home robbery and was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection in 2012. Towery was there to watch and describes her shock at learning she wasn't permitted to give him a hug or tell him goodbye.

"I don't think anyone leaves that [execution viewing] room feeling like justice was served or anything was resolved," she tells Molly Olmstead for Slate. "It's just murder for murder." And in her view, "my brother, when he was sober, would never, ever have hurt anyone." Had he had a mentor, or help with his drug addiction early on, she believes his life would have taken a much different path. And that's not unique to her brother: In Towery's view, people in prison did bad things, but they're not necessarily bad people.

"But it's really hard to convince people," she says. "Our civilization is very detached from prisons. Once you go in, you're not a human, in the eyes of most people." She points out that public executions were done away with because they're just too horrible to witness. "But I feel like now, if somebody were to watch an execution live or even on television, they'll change their mind," she notes. "You can't watch that and not change your mind." (Read the full story, which has more on what she observed as her brother was killed.)

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