Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

We can only do what we can do

September 19, 2010

A rainy, dreary day – a Sunday – and a good day for watching football. But if the grass dries out a bit, I’ll be out there grudgingly pushing a mower as my TV chair beckons. Purring in the background will be the washing machine.

Also on my mind, and adding to the dreariness, our state has a man awaiting execution on October 20. My thoughts are with him every day. Our last execution was May 20, 2009.

He and I began talking on a regular basis nearly five years ago. Those five years for him  have been spent in solitary confinement. While I’ve never been alone in a cell 24/7, I do believe visits at the cell door would be most welcome. I can only hope my visits were welcome to him. They seemed to be.

If his execution is stayed, I will resume seeing him as often as I am able. In the meantime, a combination of institutional policy and my availability has prevented my spending any time with him in his current environment and pre-execution status. It’s frustrating, but we can only do what we can do.

Whether or not I ever see him again is beyond my control. We shall see.

Which is more laughable?

February 6, 2010

Talk about a pendulum swing during this snowy Saturday!

The morning began with an opportunity for me to speak to a church group about the death penalty. This particular group meets once per month for an 8:00 pro-life Mass followed by a meeting. They had not covered the topic of capital punishment, at least not recently.

A few parents, who have sons on death row, were there on behalf of the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP). The general discussion went very well with thoughtful questions and a sincere interest to learn more. Literature with information and website URLs was made available. One site they were encouraged to visit is the Death Penalty Information Center.

So, later in the day I received an email notice of a posting in NCRonline referring to former President George W. Bush’s receiving a pro-life award from a group of Catholic business men. I don’t know which is more laughable, Bush being seen as pro-life, or Catholic business men believing Bush’s behavior to be pro-life.

The Catholic Church sure has gotten into a rut. Seldom is there a public face put on anything other than abortion or stem cell research. There is, or course,  an occasional article on Catholic social teachings and social justice issues in archdiocesan papers, but that is not what I would call public dissemination. I don’t even know many Catholics who read them.

More needs to be done. Voices need to be raised. Besides pedophilia and abortion, I wonder what the public image is for the Catholic Church of the 21st century. Thank goodness for the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). They can single-handedly give the Church a good name.

I can’t help but believe that if a symphony orchestra played one note all evening, people would be walking out throughout the entire performance … and some rather early too. It is of little surprise, then, that people are drifting away from the Catholic Church.

It’s time to grow up

December 10, 2009

As I read the last paragraph of an article in this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the single-drug method for execution in Ohio, I was reminded of a line in the Gethsemane song,  I only want to say, from the Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar:

Show me there’s a reason
For your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how
But not so hot on why

The writer of the article says at the end, “A milestone has passed. Now maybe the long death penalty debate on ‘how’ can return to ‘whether.'”

Those are my sentiments as well. For the past few years, as suit after suit was heard in the courts, the focus has been on the three-drug protocol for execution used in most states. Is it unconstitutional? Does it amount to cruel and unusual punishment? I figured, Why not? Anything that holds any part of the process up to the light is bound to pay off in the long run. I also believe that anything not founded on truth will eventually collapse under its own weight.

But now, I’m afraid, the Ohio result will open the flood gates. Attorneys general in several states will feel a need (for some unknown reason) to clear death row backlogs. It’s as though their constituents have any idea who is on death row or what their crimes may have been. The AGs must picture an angry crowd, with flickering torches, milling about the jailhouse door.

The facts of the matter are these: Walk up to anyone on any street in Missouri and ask, 1.) How many men are on death row?, 2.) Who is the next person likely to be executed?, 3.) Who was the last person executed (as recently as May 20)?, 4.) What did that person do? 5.) Where are death row prisoners housed?, 6.) Where do executions take place? After six shrugs, or six I dunnos, you’d certainly wonder what the point is.

But, our state (and our society in general) is big on revenge … even when people don’t know who is being executed or why. There is an irrational fear of, and a need to get rid of, people who pose no threat, are defenseless, couldn’t afford good legal representation. There is a persistent myth that an execution gives a victim’s family closure. All this in the face of the fact that the United States is the only developed western nation that executes its own citizens. Isn’t that nice?

Should capital offenders ever go free? No. I feel they have forfeited their right to live freely among us.

Is an alternative sentence of life without parole a piece of cake? No. Visit a maximum security prison sometime.

Is it more expensive to house a capital offender for the rest of his life than to execute him? No. It is a mere fraction of the execution costs to house an offender until he dies.

Is the death penalty a common sentence for murder? No. Less that 2% of murders result in a death sentence.

Getting back to the beginning, “whether” rather than “how,” I  hope that our country will mature out of our wild west temperament. It’s time to grow up and realize when we have adequately defended ourselves against dangerous criminals.

There is little justification for depriving another family of a loved one if losing a loved one is so hurtful. Vengeance doesn’t bring anyone back. The pangs of loneliness for and the sense of loss of a loved one who was a victim of murder won’t go away because another’s life was snuffed out.

But we’ll keep trying

May 11, 2009

This morning, I drove down to the prison holding the offender scheduled for execution next Wednesday, May 20. We met one-on-one in a small room, no handcuffs, no correctional officer standing at our shoulder.

For the past three Mondays, I have repeated the same trip. Today’s was my last. Our total of four hours together have been simply remarkable. If only everyone in the state could be there to see, hear, listen, understand. The death penalty wouldn’t be long for this world.

But that can’t be the case, and I’m afraid the myth of “closure” and our culture of revenge with no thought of nor attempt at forgiveness will prevail. Blind punishment regardless of obvious redemption … adding another death, another family’s loss, another loved one taken away …  that is the illogical impact  of  state-sanctioned killing.

But we’ll keep trying. I wrote to the Governor as another voice for clemency.

Politics are always involved

May 10, 2009

Tomorrow may be my last conversation with the Missouri offender who has an execution date this month. There is a chance, however, that his sentence will be commuted. How can I say that? Unless the whole clemency process is a charade, I don’t see how he … of all people … wouldn’t be commuted to life without parole.

But stranger things have happened, especially when politics are involved. And politics are always involved.

The company we keep

May 9, 2009

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a thoughtful editorial on the pending Missouri execution.

There are times when our country, along with the 36 states with the death penalty, is just plain embarrassing. We keep company with China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan as the world leaders in executing our own citizens. Simply wonderful! And we are the only developed nation in the western world having the death penalty. Is there a clue somewhere?