[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, CALIF., ARK., MISS.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 28 09:59:38 CST 2005
USA: 1,000th execution looms as lottery of death reaches shameful
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
AI Index: AMR 51/191/2005----28 November 2005
A prison guard takes a man out of a prison cell. The guard leads the man
through a hallway to an execution chamber and in the presence of
witnesses, the prisoner is poisoned to death.
The witnesses go home, many of them traumatized for life. The prison
authorities who directly participated in extinguishing a human life are
similarly traumatized. The journalists write stories about the man that
has just been put to death in front of them. Officials clear the room
until the next time.
In the USA, this scene is fairly routine. Since 1976, when the death
penalty was reinstated by the US Supreme Court, nearly 1,000 men and women
have been killed by the state in the name of justice.
As the 1,000th execution in the US approaches, Amnesty International,
along with a broad spectrum of human rights organizations, social justice
groups, and concerned individuals, is calling on US State and Federal
authorities to put an immediate end to all executions.
"The death penalty is by nature ineffective, arbitrary and does not deter
crime. On the contrary, it creates more victims and demeans society as a
whole," said Amnesty International.
A disproportionate number of those executed in the USA in the past 3
decades were economically disadvantaged, people of colour, and those who
had little or no access to competent counsel. Many suffered from mental
retardation or were child offenders - groups that are exempt from the
death penalty under international human rights standards. Others suffered
severe mental illness. Many were executed while serious questions remained
concerning their guilt -- to date 122 people have been released from death
rows across the country on grounds of wrongful conviction.
Furthermore, 80% of all executions haven been carried out in the South and
concentrated in only a handful of states. Nearly half of the 1,000
executions that have taken place in the US occurred in 2 states, Texas and
Virginia. New York, Illinois and New Jersey have a hold on executions and
numerous questions are being raised across the country regarding the
fairness and effectiveness of the capital punishment system. In recent
years the US Supreme Court has banned the execution of the mentally
retarded and child offenders.
This shows that is possible to end the use of the death penalty in the US
in the near future. What is now needed is for political leaders at both
the federal and state level to demonstrate courage, wisdom, and leadership
and end the death penalty once and for all."
"The victims of violent crime deserve respect, compassion and justice. The
death penalty offers none of these things. It is an illusory solution to
pressing social problems and merely amounts to a failure of political
vision," said Amnesty International.
"The resources spent on these executions could have been invested in
comprehensive rehabilitation, meaningful victims services, and other crime
prevention programmes or even used to reinforce existing law enforcement
121 countries have abolished the death penalty worldwide in law or
"The execution of 1,000 men and women by the state has resulted in
immeasurable human costs - for the victims of violent crime, for the
families of those who were executed, and for those who participated in
these state-sanctioned killings. It is time for the US to realize the
ultimate futility of the death penalty and follow the global trend towards
(source: Amnesty International)
Human Rights and Victim Justice
(Renny Cushing is the Executive Director and Susannah Sheffer is the staff
writer of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights Membership is open to
all victims' family members who oppose the death penalty in all cases.
MVFHR, 2161 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02140; 617/491-9600;
Is the death penalty such a clear violation of human rights that it
should be prohibited even if some nations want to practice it, or is the
death penalty simply a criminal sanction that countries should be allowed
to impose if they believe it is effective?
This was the heart of the debate among the representatives of 53 countries
attending the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in
Geneva, Switzerland this past April. Representatives from some of the
countries -- the United States among them -- argued that the death penalty
is not an issue the international community should take up, and that
individual countries should have the right to retain it.
In the end, the Commission passed a resolution condemning the death
penalty and urging countries to abolish it. The US was among the 17
countries voting against the resolution.
Clearly there is not yet a consensus, either worldwide, or, certainly,
within the US, that executions are violations of human rights. But,
increasingly, those in the death penalty abolition movement are coming to
believe that it is useful to frame the death penalty as a human rights
issue rather than as a criminal justice issue. If we argue that executions
violate human rights, then it is harder for those who support the death
penalty to claim that countries that want to retain it should be allowed
to do so. After all, human rights, by definition, are not for governments
to extend or deny; they transcend political boundaries and political
concerns. If the death penalty is a violation of human rights, then it has
no place in society no matter what form of government or criminal justice
system a nation has.
It seems simple enough to assert that executions violate Articles 3 and
5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights -- the right to life, and the
right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or
treatment. Yet this assertion by itself may not be enough to sway people
toward abolition. In addition to seeing the death penalty as a criminal
sanction that ought to be available, many people believe that imposing the
death penalty is a way of achieving justice for victims.
The "victims' rights" movement has raised awareness of the fact that
victims too are stakeholders in the criminal justice process, and victims'
rights laws -- which now exist in most states -- establish that victims
should be informed, present, and heard at critical stages during that
process, and should be treated with compassion, respect, and dignity. The
voices of those who have lost loved ones to homicide have a great deal of
power in the death penalty debate. The long-time death penalty
abolitionists who formed the organization Murder Victims' Families for
Human Rights in 2004 recognized this power and added to it the belief that
highlighting the link between victims' rights and human rights will help
move us toward abolition.
It's interesting to remember that the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, a document that sets forth the most basic principles regarding the
value of human life and the way human beings ought to treat one another,
was inspired by victims, demanded by victims. It grew out of the suffering
of millions of civilians murdered under the brutal regimes of the Second
World War, and its adoption on December 10, 1948 was a way to honor the
loss of these lives by asserting that such violations are neither moral
nor permissible under any nation or regime.
In more recent times, however, it has sometimes seemed as though the
victims' rights movement and the human rights -- or death penalty
abolition -- movements are speaking different languages. Historically, the
victims' movement has asserted that every human life has value and that
the taking of any one life by murder represents a theft whose impact will
be felt forever. Victims' rights are, therefore, a way of trying to
counterbalance that original violation with a reassertion of human
dignity. Historically, the death penalty abolition movement has recognized
that every human life has value and that the taking of any one life by the
state replicates the very violation it is supposedly designed to redress.
These are in fact both human rights claims, yet abolitionists and victims'
rights advocates often fail to recognize these commonalities or to
internalize each other's perspectives.
For MVFHR, both the death penalty and individual murder are violations of
fundamental human rights. We believe that those who are outraged when the
state kills should be equally outraged when an individual kills, and
should therefore make a real effort to understand the effects of murder
and to consider and incorporate the victim's perspective into their work.
We believe that those who are outraged by an individual murder should
likewise be outraged when the state takes another human life, and should
therefore make a real effort to understand and consider the effects of a
state system of execution.
Justice for victims -- whose human rights have been so completely violated
-- does not come from violating the human rights of others.
Justice, instead, must come in another way, and that way must include a
recognition of the worth and dignity of all and a willingness to work
toward a world that upholds, rather than denies, the value of human life.
Witness to Innocence Calls for an Immediate End to Executions -- Statement
on the 1000th Execution in the United States
This week, our country marks the 1000th time that an individual will be
put to death at the hands of the state. The United States will carry out
the 1000th execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the
1000th ritual killing done in the name of "justice."
During these past 3 decades, 122 people have been exonerated and released
from death row, innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. For
every 8 people executed during this period, one was exonerated. Our
government's failure rate in the administration of the death penalty has
been the most stunning example of a barbaric policy gone awry. The
convictions and death sentences of innocent people throughout the United
States have been a human rights violation of catastrophic proportions.
The members of Witness to Innocence know better than anyone the dangers
inherent in our broken death penalty system. We are individuals who were
sentenced to death and lost years of our lives on death row, waiting to be
killed by our government for something we did not do. We were sent to
death row and lived to tell about it, and today we spread our message to
communities throughout the United States. We are also family members of
the exonerated who, like our loved ones sentenced to death, had our lives
ripped apart by an unfair system more concerned with convicting a person
than convicting the right person.
Our experience makes it clear to us that our criminal justice system
cannot guarantee that an innocent person will not be sentenced to death or
executed. Despite our incredibly trying and traumatic ordeals, we remain
the fortunate ones. Of the more than 3,400 people sitting on death rows
across America today, how many are as innocent as we were? How many will
be killed by the state for crimes they did not commit? How many of the
1000 individuals already executed were guilty of nothing more than being
poor or people of color, exterminated despite their innocence so that
"justice" could be served?
The death penalty has, by any reasonable account, been an utter failure.
As individuals who have experienced its failure firsthand, we call on our
elected leaders to demonstrate prudence and courage and to make this
archaic punishment a remnant of our past. We call for an immediate end to
all executions in the United States.
(source: Witness to Innocence, a project of The Moratorium Campaign, is
spearheaded by exonerated ex-death row prisoners to bring to light the
crisis of wrongful convictions in death sentencing in the United States.
For more information, or to arrange a speaking event in your community,
contact Kurt Rosenberg at 215-243-0505 or write to mail to:
witnesstoinnocence at gmail.com
The death penalty is always final----System allows for deaths of the
In the past 32 years, 122 people have walked away from death row, cleared
of the horrible crimes they were convicted of committing. That number
includes 3 people in Missouri.
In the past 28 years, 997 inmates have been executed. That was the year a
10-year moratorium on executions ended. 3 more men are scheduled to die
this week. That will push the number to 1,000.
If our justice system were dispassionate and perfect, that number would be
a grim reminder that we live in a world where people do evil, horrendous
things. Actions have consequences and criminals must be punished.
However, our courts are far from spotless. We cannot confidently and
comfortably say that no innocent person has ever been executed.
If we are honest with ourselves, we are left not to wonder whether one
person has been killed for a crime he didn't commit. Rather, the question
is how many have wrongly died.
There's no way to know for certain. Many of the cases are long-forgotten.
However, legitimate concerns have been raised in at least two of those
One is the case of a Missouri man, Larry Griffin, put to death by the
state in 1995. The state used our tax dollars to execute Griffin for the
death of a 19-year-old drug dealer. In his court case, the prosecution
relied on the testimony of a career criminal. A police officer whose own
testimony corroborated the informant's tale has recently stated the man
Another case of a presumably innocent man being executed happened in
Texas. The state executed Ruben Cantu for killing one man and wounding
another in a robbery attempt. Ten years after Cantu's execution, the lone
witness in the case changed his story. He now insists Cantu was innocent.
Most jailhouse informants wouldn't care to set the record straight. How
many others are out there who have led to innocent people being convicted
Are there only 2? Are there dozens? How many innocent people should be
executed so that we can exact state-sponsored revenge on truly guilty
A system that allows for the execution of even one innocent person is a
Ironically, one pro-death penalty group is called Throw Away The Key. We
have the ability to do just that. Now, when a convicted killer is set for
execution it draws hordes of protesters as well as journalists to cover
the news of the appeals and the demonstrations. Without the death penalty,
there also would not be the accompanying circus. We could throw away the
And there wouldn't be any innocent people killed for crimes they didn't
commit. It is wrong for any innocent person to spend time in prison. That
mistake can be fixed. A dead man can't be brought back to life.
We should put a halt to this system to prevent such mistakes.
(source: The News-Leader)
Crips founder Williams deserves death sentence
As the Dec. 13 execution date for Stanley "Tookie" Williams approaches,
opponents of the death penalty have begun organizing high-profile protests
to save the life of the co-founder of the Crips street gang. Little
concern has been expressed for the four people Williams was convicted of
killing in 1979.
Williams, 51, continues to deny his guilt despite overwhelming evidence,
including testimony from his accomplices. His defenders say he has
redeemed himself by turning his life around in prison and being active in
anti-gang efforts. While his recent work is admirable, it doesn't come
close to balancing out the violent deaths of a 7-Eleven clerk and three
members of a family that ran a motel in Los Angeles.
Williams has had his conviction reconsidered in a lengthy appeals process,
and the results have never changed: He is still convicted of killing 4
people in two separate robberies with a shotgun that he had purchased.
There is a movement under way to create an image of Williams that is at
odds with the facts. For starters, he has not been a model citizen,
according to authorities who have kept records on him since the awful
Williams tried to escape prior to his trial in 1981. Then he threatened
the jury that convicted him. He was involved in a violent fight with
another inmate at San Quentin 2 months after his arrival. He threatened
correctional officers and twice threw chemical substances at his guards.
To this day, Williams refuses to be debriefed by prison authorities about
the actual activities of his gang. He says that would make him a "snitch."
Does that suggest Williams wants to make up for his gang activity? Sounds
like he's still a gang member.
In a written statement, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley
says Williams' recent turnaround must be weighed against the gang that he
helped create. The Crips are violent and predatory, and chapters are now
active across the nation and in several other countries.
While many reasonable and sincere people oppose the death penalty,
California voters have repeatedly supported its use. Tookie Williams was
fairly tried and convicted, and he should get the punishment that our
state's court system says he deserves - death by legal injection.
(source: Opinion, Modesto Bee)
Rehabilitate a Man, Sentence Him to Death
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has announced that he would consider
granting clemency to Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a murdering gang member
sentenced to death for his part in 4 killings committed during 2 separate
Of course, Tookie probably killed a lot more people than that. I say this
not just because it is a strong statistical probability, given Tookie's
youthful pattern of behavior (i.e. shooting folks), but because Tookie is
one of the 2 founding fathers of the "Crips" drug gang, which along with
the "Bloods" turned Los Angeles into a war zone during the Crack epidemic
of the 1980s.
Even today, decades after Tookie was taken away from his illegitimate
brainchild, his creation continues to murder, rob, rape, steal, extort,
assault and maim. And, as is true of any other gangster, Tookie is
responsible for the crimes of his underlings just as assuredly as he is
for his own. So why is anyone campaigning for clemency?
Well, because Tookie is good people now. You see, Bad Tookie, the one who
killed people and started a nationwide gang of drug-pushing thugs, no
longer exists. Now there is only Good Tookie. Good Tookie writes childrens
books and believes that killing people is just plain wrong. These
philosophical accomplishments have so impressed some that Tookie was once
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the credibility and stature of which
grows with every new round of nominations.
Good Tookie made his 1st appearance in prison and is the result of a
remarkable personal rehabilitation. This rehabilitation did not happen
overnight. At first Tookie couldnt care less about his sins and victims
(all of whom remain dead, I'm told), but as the appeals process became
increasingly exhausted, he increasingly saw the error of his ways. If only
California would apply its death penalty more swiftly, we might have known
Good Tookie sooner. But since a drug dealer on death row has a longer
average lifespan than one still on the street, the emergence of this
peace-loving butterfly understandably took some time.
Tookie, both Bad and Good, had his days in court, where not even the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals could find substantive fault with his
convictions, which is remarkable in itself. And now his execution finally
looms, set optimistically for December 13. But Tookie did win one
appeal--his appeal to the Court of Liberal America, centered in Hollywood,
There, Tookie's the poster child of - well, where to begin? He seems to be
the living symbol of redemption, prison education, poverty, black
victimhood, institutional racism, youth outreach, death penalty abolition,
and denim-clad prison philiospher-gurus. Hes had a movie made about him,
Redemption, starring Jamie Foxx. Danny Glover and Snoop Dog are firmly on
his side. Anti-American international human rights crusaders and their
domestic enablers see him as a Jesus figure, except they like him. The
Nobel committee was obviously impressed. And it is probably just a matter
of time before he is legally adopted by Angelina Jolie. All in all, the
transformation of Tookie is a fine example of the unheralded power of the
death penalty to rehabilitate.
Tookie is not alone however. Dozens of cold-blooded killers have become
writers, poets, lawyers, evangelical preachers, youth ministers, civil
rights crusaders, animal lovers and professionally contrite appellants
while awaiting execution.
Consider Karla Faye Tucker. She was the first woman executed in Texas
since the Civil War. I know she filled this important first for women
because the media invariably affixed that fact to her as though it were
part of a hyphenated surname: Karla Faye Tucker became the 1st woman
executed in Texas since the Civil War.
In addition to being a pioneer for post-bellum feminism, Karla Faye was a
"born-again" Christian. This was the only fact the media seemed to be more
enamored with than her place in the history of the criminal womens
movement. Evangelical Christianity would have disqualified her from
holding high office in their eyes, but they believed it made her a more
pitiable gurney jockey, so they ran with it. Her conversion occurred on
death row, of course.
Before her rehabilitation, she killed a man and a woman with an ice axe
while robbing them for drug money. She straddled the victims as she
repeatedly plunged the pick into their begging bodies, and afterwards she
bragged that their panicked death throes had caused her to orgasm as she
But then Karla Faye found Jesus somewhere in the appeals process and
decided that it had all been wrong. Indeed, she felt so bad about it, that
she married her prison minister. The same sociopath who had felt so very
good in such a very intimate way about killing people with her own hands
(and they remain dead, I'm told), was later helped to rediscover Jesus
Christ, conversational politeness, and girlish hair bows by that miracle
of the justice system: impending death.
One could fill a thick book with the stories of other such soulless human
hazards that have been turned into pleasant community-minded people by
some quiet time with their own scheduled mortality.
Can we ever afford to lose this, perhaps the greatest, force for
rehabilitation in our justice system?
If you believe in rehabilitation, how can you not believe in the death
penalty? Nothing seems to trigger complete rehabilitation more surely than
a death sentence. I am all for such rehabilitation. Let's rehabilitate all
child killers. Lets rehabilitate most murderers of adults. Let's
rehabilitate all the poor misguided souls at Guantanamo. Heck, let's
rehabilitate a few email spammers while were at it.
But let's rehabilitate them all a little faster than we have in the past.
Why deny the rehabilitated the joy of understanding the value of decent
human life one more day than is necessary?
Good Tookie has said he wants to serve as an example for Americas troubled
youth. On December 13, perhaps he finally will. And then maybe they can
work on their rehabilitations while such things still matter.
(source: Human Events; Mr. Mac Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in
Cambridge, MA., is a regular contributor to Human Events)
Nance Facing Execution Tonight in Arkansas Death Chamber
Condemned killer Eric Nance is to die by lethal injection tonight.
Lawyers for Nance are still seeking a halt to the execution. But Nance has
ordered his last meal and he is to spend today visiting with his spiritual
adviser and his attorney.
The 45-year-old Nance was sentenced to death for the 1993 slaying of
18-year-old Julie Heath of Malvern. Her throat had been cut with a
Nance has a motion pending in federal court seeking extra time to mount an
appeal. Nance's lawyers have asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
in St. Louis to overturn a lower court ruling that would have allowed time
to explore evidence in the case.
Tonight's execution is to be at 8 p.m.
(source: KATV News)
Death penalty sought in killings----Defense attorney says jury selection
will be key to outcome
Key courtroom figures
James Powell: District Attorney since 1996, has tried other capital murder
Wesley Evans: Canton lawyer is the court appointed defense attorney. Judge
Jannie Lewis: Circuit judge for Holmes, Humphreys and Yazoo counties, she
has presided over several other high-profile murder trials.
Canton lawyer Wesley Evans expects a battle defending Earnest Lee Hargon
against charges he killed three members of his family, including a
A conviction could mean a death sentence for the former cattle truck
Jury selection in the capital murder trial begins today.
Evans said the trial could be especially challenging because of the
emotional intensity that comes with 3 victims, a problem he hopes to head
off during jury selection and with the presentation of mitigating
Jury selection will be paramount to his defense - at least for a potential
sentencing phase - he said, as the prosecution angles to hold on to jurors
who favor the death penalty.
Jan. 3, 2004: Charles Hargon changes his will to leave his Madison County
farm to great-nephew Michael Hargon instead of his son, Earnest Lee
Hargon. He dies Jan. 16, 2004.
Feb. 14, 2004: Michael Hargon, his wife, Rebecca, and their 4-year-old
son, James, are found missing from their Vaughan home.
Feb. 27, 2004: Authorities take Earnest Lee Hargon into custody at his
home on Smith County Road 19 for questioning.
Feb. 29, 2004: Officials announce they have charged Earnest Lee Hargon
with methamphetamine possession. He had an AR-15 assault weapon in his
March 1, 2004: The bodies of Michael, Rebecca and James Hargon are found
buried in the woods off Mississippi 27 in Covington County. Earnest Lee
Hargon is charged with 3 counts of capital murder.
March 5, 2004: More than 300 people attend a funeral Mass for the Hargons
at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton.
Aug. 2, 2004: Earnest Lee Hargon pleads innocent in Yazoo County Circuit
Court after he is indicted on 3 counts of capital murder.
Today: Jury selection begins in Marshall County for Earnest Lee Hargon's
capital murder trial. Jurors will be transported to Yazoo County for the
"Any time you have a death of child, you are going to have a lot more
people predisposed to the death penalty, and that's something that we're
going to have to look out for," said Evans, who is court-appointed.
District Attorney James Powell has tried at least 4 capital murder cases
in Yazoo County since he took office in 1996, but none has resulted in the
death penalty. This time jurors will be selected in Marshall County, in an
effort to find a panel that hasn't been exposed to pre-trial publicity,
and transported to Yazoo.
Marshall County jurors rarely have heard a capital murder case where the
death sentence was sought. The last time a jury in the county handed down
the death penalty was in 1997. That was the 1st time since the 1930s that
a Marshall County jury had recommended a death sentence.
Inmates languish on death row and their cases sometimes have to be
re-examined to reconsider issues such as mental capability.
"And nobody looks at what these people did to get there," Powell said.
"It's like the victims and the crimes themselves are forgotten and it
becomes a personal and political issue.
"It's just hard to get a jury who will actually vote to impose it (the
death penalty) when it actually comes down to it."
Vaughan, a rural community north of Canton, became the focus of national
attention last year when Michael Hargon, 27, a construction worker,
Rebecca Hargon, 29, a physical therapy assistant, and their son, James
Patrick, went missing from their home on Valentine's Day. Shell casings,
drops of blood and their son's asthma medicine were left behind.
Their bodies were found in woods off Mississippi 37 in Covington County 3
weeks later. Authorities said Earnest Lee Hargon told them where the
bodies were buried.
Law enforcement officials think Michael Hargon was killed Feb. 14 last
year at home, and his wife and son were alive when they were taken away
with Michael's body in the same car.
The family feared the worst in the 17-day search leading up to the
discovery. They sobbed, stood vigil, passed out fliers and promised
rewards for the family's safe return. Law enforcement bloodhounds scoured
Evans said he wants jurors who are open to mitigating evidence and ones
"who are open-minded, people who won't just make up their mind as soon as
the guilt phase is over with."
Those mitigating issues will involve "childhood issues, other issues going
into adulthood," he said without elaborating.
Evans said the prosecution's strongest piece of evidence is a purported
statement Hargon made to investigators, which Yazoo County Circuit Judge
Jannie Lewis recently ruled would be allowed at trial. Earnest Lee Hargon
testified he gave a law enforcement officer a statement with the hope it
would prevent his wife from being prosecuted.
Evans said it was unusual how it was taken, in the parking lot of a Kmart
a few blocks from the Yazoo City district attorney's office.
"It's going to be a tough case, but it won't be as black and white as the
prosecution is leading people to believe," Evans said.
The prosecution has pointed to a will as a potential motive in the
slayings. Earnest Lee Hargon's adoptive father, the late Charles Hargon,
changed his will 13 days before his Jan. 16, 2004, death. Charles Hargon
excluded Earnest Lee Hargon and, instead, left his Madison County farm to
Michael Hargon, his great-nephew.
Powell expects jury selection to last about three days and hopes to have
his case wrapped up by Saturday. He said his case will be heavy on direct
evidence, such as eye witness testimony, confessions or DNA.
"I never have had an entire family killed before," Powell said.
Evans said his defense will probably last a day or so.
One family member said the Hargons still are overwhelmed by sadness and
incomprehension. The family has been hit with one tragedy after another
through the years.
Diana Hargon, Michael's mother, died this month after a battle with colon
cancer. In 1994, Dan Haywood Hargon, Diana Hargon's husband, was fatally
shot during a robbery. His brother, James Patrick, died in 1988 following
complications from surgery.
A cousin of Michael Hargon, Nina Higgins, said she has no explanation for
the string of tragedies in her family. Higgins, 67, of Beebe, Ark., said
she is not sure whether she'll be able to attend the trial.
Like others in her family, she is still devastated and torn. "It's mixed
emotions because even though he was not a blood relative, he was still
considered a member of the family," she said.
"It's really hard for me to say whether I would want him put to death or
Death penalty looms, stirring debate again
Once again Mississippi faces another execution: John Nixon, 77, on death
row over 3 decades. People are born and people die in two decades. People
grow up, go to school, get a degree, marry and begin raising a family in
So much can happen in 2 decades, so much forgotten. Yet some things can
never be forgotten. Memories can linger throughout a lifetime like open
wounds, never heal, never be resolved. People can be chained to their
memories more secure than in prison.
Some things can never be undone. The taking of a life can never be undone.
The pain never goes away
No human act can ever, in any way, restore a loved one who is killed. No
human act can ever replace a murdered loved one which is why the pain
never goes away. When one person is murdered many lives are changed
forever, and no human act can ever change that.
A face and a name 20 years old, John Nixon, 77, white hair, grizzled
beard. He was a hit man. Carried out a contract murder. Twenty years later
on death row, forgotten to all but the victim's family, and the system, he
reemerges to be put to death by the state. A death for a death. Justice.
But the pain never goes away. It never will.
Pro Life people talk about a culture of death and a culture of life. Boil
it down, God creates life, God takes life. People, butt out!
The Birmingham News says, "Abolish the Death Penalty." The paper cites
numerous problems with a system it says "is broken." It ran six editorials
last week arguing Alabama should do away with the death penalty for life
without parole. The perpetrator is removed forever from society, which
"Even if all the flaws disappeared, executions should be halted to promote
a culture of life," the paper says. "We believe all life is sacred. And in
embracing a culture of life, we cannot make distinctions between those we
deem 'innocents' and those flawed humans who populate death row."
The debate goes on. The pain never goes away.
Culture of death and culture of life. What does that really mean? What is
justice when the pain never goes away? Can this exquisite pain something
like grief, rage, urge for revenge, helpless abandonment, anger all stewed
in a witches gumbo, toxic, yet addictive ever be relieved?
A toxic witches brew
The living victims are cooking in that witches brew, that they never can
get away from. Their loved one will never come back. Nothing can ever
change that. No amount of executions can fill the void inside them. A
culture of death.
A culture of life says that from death comes life. Life means change,
movement, growth. When growth stops, when change stops, movement stops,
everything is inert, like a rock.
We hear of heroic people trapped in avalanches. They are rescued and tell
us how they survived. They endured the unthinkable, but they live. They
not only live, they witness to life over death.
The Christian tradition speaks about life after death. Is freezing an
experience and holding on with desperate tenacity like the gangrenous
limb, if left untreated spreads death throughout the body? Does a loved
one want their survivor live a lifetime of dying? I don't think so. I
think they want them to remember the good times until they are reunited
Society deserves protection from bad people who do bad things. Lifetime
incarceration until natural death can bring life through remorse and
penance until the person faces the Eternal Perfect Judge who administers
(source: Commentary, The Clarion-Ledger; The Rev. Jeremy Tobin is Newman
Chaplain at Jackson State University and Hinds Community College and a
member of the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Coalition)
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