I am the brother of a man who murdered innocent men. His name was Gary Gilmore. After his conviction and sentencing, he campaigned to end his own life, and in January 1977 he was shot to death by a firing squad in Draper, Utah. It was the first execution in America in over a decade.

Many people know this part of the Gary Gilmore story. It was an international news item in 1976 and 1977, and it became the subject of a popular novel and television film. What is less well known, what has never been documented, is the origin of Gary’s violence – the history of my family. It isn’t a comforting story to tell, nor has it been an easy legacy to live with. Over the years, many people have judged me by my brother’s actions as if in coming from a family that yielded a murderer I must be formed by the same causes, the same sins, must by my brother’s actions be responsible for the violence that resulted, and bear the mark of a frightening and shameful heritage. It’s as if there is guilt in the fact of the bloodline itself. Maybe there is.

Letters to the Editor
Journals and Letters