Posts Tagged ‘executions’

A senseless activity

February 13, 2011

During the early hours of Wednesday, February 9, 2011, just after mid-night, Martin Link was executed by the State of Missouri. Why? No reason other than he committed one of the few murders which result in a death sentence in Missouri – about 1 percent.

An individual taking revenge on a person who murdered a loved one is an illegal activity. The state taking revenge on that murderer is a senseless activity, completely absent any meaning. Killing someone who is defenseless and poses no threat to society defies explanation.

There are more than 40 men on death row in Missouri. (I invite you to name two.) These are men the state can’t wait to execute. But to what end? Who knows their names or what crime they are guilty of committing?

Mr. Link’s crime needed to be spelled out in several newspaper articles and TV reports over the weeks prior to his execution.  If he was such a menace to the life and welfare of any of our fellow citizens, you’d think his presence among us would have been top of mind everyday for the past 20 years.

To be sure, his crime was most distasteful, violent, and devoid of any public sympathy. I’ll let the reader Google his name for the details. During my 2-1/2 years of visiting him on a regular basis, I was unaware of his crime. Seldom am I aware of the crimes of any of the men I minister to in solitary confinement.

I intentionally choose to not research offenders’ crimes. No matter how hard I try, it is difficult to avoid being judgmental. Meeting them where they are and as they are is what I’m called to do as a volunteer chaplain in two of Missouri’s maximum security prisons.

Getting to know Marty Link was a privilege for me, and to have him as a companion on a small segment of my faith journey. My comments at his prayer service prior to his burial on Friday, February 11 are linked here.

Let us all pray for wisdom and maturity among our elected officials so that an end to capital punishment can be achieved in our states and nation. We are becoming more and more alone in the world in our inability to forgive and open the door to redemption. Denying access to repentance and a life of meaning, even in prison, doesn’t reflect what this country stands for.

A 21st Century Prophecy

February 8, 2011

(This morning I spent time with an offender who is in a holding cell awaiting execution just after midnight tonight. As I sit here this evening, I’m reminded of what I was doing nearly 10 years ago at the end of my first year as a volunteer chaplain at a maximum security prison.)

During the fall of 2001, two events converged: I was taking a course called “The Prophets,” and I was asked by an offender to be a pastoral witness at his execution.

So, I chose the topic of capital punishment and reflected upon what a modern-day prophet might have to say on the topic.

In my paper I included A 21st Century Prophecy which I wrote in the morning before I drove down to the prison on the eve of his execution.

“It’s a deal!”

February 1, 2011

First the freezing rain, then the freezing drizzle, and soon the snow accompanied by high winds will arrive. Anywhere from 7 to 20 inches are expected, a major storm for this part of the country.

My first trek to the driveway was to push around a few inches of ice crystals. The consistency was that of sugar. Better to keep up with it from time to time rather than wait for the storm to pass.

When I came in for a break and rest, I set the oven timer for two hours, an appropriate recovery interval before I would return for more shoveling.

A moment later there was a knock on the front door. “Would you like me to keep your driveway clean throughout the storm?” There, with smiling face, stood our neighbor’s son.

“What compensation are you looking for?” I asked.

“I will return three times for a total of 25 dollars.”

“It’s a deal!”

His family has, perhaps, the only snow blower in the immediate neighborhood. This is contrasted with the area we grew up in, Minnesota, where one is more than likely to be the only one without a snow blower in any given neighborhood.

The work is being supervised by is father, and I envision a budding business being set up for several winters coming.

But I still think I’ll purchase a snow blower. We’ll see.


In the meantime, I imagine there is an offender looking at the snow through his narrow window. He can’t see far, just as far as the adjacent wing in his housing unit.

I wonder what he is thinking as the snow swirls among the buildings. This coming weekend could be his last as he approaches his execution date on February 9.

And for the rest of us, a snow storm is coming.


There must be some hurry

October 20, 2010

Even though the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Roderick Nunley’s stay of execution yesterday, and the U.S. Supreme Court did likewise, Missouri’s Attorney General will continue to press for his execution. The state has until midnight tonight to complete the  execution on its planned date of October 20.

I wish, often, that our legal system was as interested in justice as it is in vengeance. Why, if there are legitimate legal issues surrounding Nunley’s case, would anyone want to press on toward taking his life? There must be some hurry I don’t understand.

A small attempt to be present

October 13, 2010

Missouri has an execution scheduled for 12:01 a.m. on October 20. I have known Roderick Nunley for nearly 5 years, and we have talked on a regular basis during my chaplain visits at his cell door.

On the evening of October 19, I will hold my own personal vigil as a small attempt to be present to the reality of what’s happening in that space and time.

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.