Saturday, September 24, 2011

Death Row

Troy Davis was executed Thursday, 22 years after he was convicted of murdering a police officer in the state of Georgia. Because Davis was convicted even though no gun was found, there was no DNA evidence, and most of the people who testified against him later recanted, many worked to have his conviction overturned. His advocates included Pope Benedict, representatives from foreign countries, and even conservative politicians in the US. Despite all this he was put to death, still arguing his innocence.

Father Rob Wright, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Georgia wrote an opinion piece about this execution. In it he says:

Shame on Georgia. Today the state of Georgia, an overwhelmingly Christian state, will murder Troy Davis. Where does Jesus authorize this practice? Where is the outcry from the Christian politicians who visit our churches, mosques and temples each election season to remind us of their commitment to keeping God's word? Where is the prophetic voice of those religious leaders who have the ear of thousands each week?

Capital Punishment is state sanctioned lynching. Capital punishment is the exact opposite of civilization. Capital Punishment is the admission of our immature and barbarous tendencies as a society. While Capital Punishment may be the law in Georgia, it is not justice in Jesus' eyes. We can sincerely grieve with the family of the slain police officer, abhor violence against those who serve and protect us, and at the same time agree that an 'eye for an eye' leaves no one better off.

In the years since capital punishment was abolished in Canada the murder rate has decreased, a reminder that there isn't a correlation between the threat of the death penalty and murder. Sure, most of us hear that serial killer Clifford Olsen is dying of cancer and figure it couldn't be happening to a nicer guy. While our gut may tell us tha Olsen should have been executed years ago, I would agree with Father Wright that capital punishment is barbaric, an appeal to our darkest desires for violent revenge.

We choose to not have state sanctioned killings because we choose to be civilized even if the murderer wasn't. And there will always be people who were wrongfully convicted, as we have seen a number of times in Canada.

This is my opinion. What's yours?


johnny said...

I have often wished for the death penalty for the most notorious and heinous of killers, such as Olsen or Bernardo. I do so, because I get frustrated at the idea of the perpetrator being permitted to live, while the innocent victim is gone forever.

However, unlike a lot of the proponents of the death penalty, I do not believe it is a deterrent. I see it as a measure of justice.

Having said all that, I would be satisfied with murderers not receiving the death penalty, but having a true life sentence. A 20 year old who kills and is then free at a relatively young age disturbs me.

In addition, I believe those convicted of first degree murder should NOT have computers, tv's and stereos in their cells. Their food should be basic, and few if any luxuries should be given.

I think if these were the conditions of their life in jail, I would almost prefer that to the death penalty. Let them suffer 24 hours a day of sheer boredom in their cage.

Shane H. said...

When i was younger I was a hard core advocate of the death penalty. I think age is starting to mellow me. David you make an excellent argument, however i wish keeping these deviants wasn't so expensive to the rest of the law abiding society.

Deborah Laforet said...

Those are some strong and prophetic words by Fr. Wright. I do not agree with the death penalty. Hearing the word, lynch, by Fr. Wright, made me remember that most of the people in jail are people of colour.

There are so many questions around who are in jail, how they are treated, when they are released and how they are rehabilitated. It is an imperfect system. Hopefully, we will gain wisdom, for the sake of those in jail and the rest of society.