FARGO – Former Fargo resident Kathleen Wrigley said Thursday that she and her family were stunned when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed a lower court's finding that her brother's killer is "intellectually disabled" and cannot be executed as originally sentenced.
"It's excruciating, unfair. It's not right, it's not justice," Wrigley said Thursday from her home in Bismarck.
Her police officer brother, 21-year-old Danny Boyle, was gunned down by Edward Bracey during an attempted traffic stop on Feb. 4, 1991, as Bracey and a friend were on their way to rob a drug dealer.
Wrigley said while her mother, Nancy, is angry and sad, her father, Pat Boyle, a 35-year Philadelphia Police Department veteran in whose footsteps Danny had followed, is "crushed" by the high court ruling.
"My dad is not a victim, not a pity-party type of man," Wrigley said, "but this is breaking him."
Wrigley said even Bracey's own expert witnesses at trial said Bracey was not mentally disabled-and the jury's decision to put him to death was upheld numerous times by appellate courts and judges, even twice by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wrigley and her parents attended every one of those court hearings. At one point, they offered to have execution "taken off the table" so that Bracey could physically remain on death row. They were told that wasn't an option.
Their legal efforts have now been exhausted.
"It's the end of the road, for sure," she said. "There's not one more thing we can do as a victim's family."
The ruling means Bracey, now 52, is out of solitary confinement on Pennsylvania's death row and will live out the rest of his days in the general prison population. There, he has fewer restrictions and more amenities. Wrigley fears that as a cop-killer, Bracey may even be heralded as a hero by other inmates.
That, and the endless death penalty appeals, are what bother Wrigley the most.
Wrigley is the wife of Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, who prosecuted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. in 2006-07 for the kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin, resulting in North Dakota's only federal death penalty case. Just as Bracey did, Rodriguez has appealed his sentence by claiming he is mentally disabled.
Kathleen Wrigley said groups of attorneys who travel the country trying to get criminals off death row may think they're saving a life, but instead are "ripping (victim's) families apart, tearing at any kind of peace they can hope for" with their stall tactics, paid for by American taxpayers.
She said it's time for a national conversation about the death penalty, and that she and her father are willing to step up to plead for more balance in the process.
Wrigley and her parents have deep support from family, friends and law enforcement. Many victims' families do not, she said.
"I want to be a voice for them, I have to be," Wrigley said. "It'd be in vain if I didn't."