Tag Archives: death penalty

The People v. the State

In my musings on the death penalty, I have often used the expression: “the State of X will execute Y” at such a time. Tonight, I took a few moments to explore the People of Faith against the Death Penalty Website.

On their list of upcoming executions, they use the word “people” in place of the word “State.”

The word “State” works on some levels – the State establishes and enforces the laws. The State conducts the trial. The State maintains the prisons where those awaiting execution and held and then put to death.

But – in a democracy, laying aside for a moment the serious conversations that need to take place about the nature and reality of democracy in our country – in a democracy, the line between people and State blurs. As far as I can tell, PFDAP always uses the construction, “the people of State X.” I have pondered the words since. That plays effectively on that blurred line.

One of my prime objections to the death penalty is that when the State kills, it does so in the name of  its citizens. It does so in the name of the people it represents. It does so in my name.

Saying, as PFADP does, “Person X is scheduled to be killed by the people of State Y for and the crime is named and the person against whom the crime is committed is named,” reminds me of that reality. When the State kills, it kills in my name. It becomes tricky in the United States where individual States execute. If I live in State Y, what responsibility do I have for what happens in State Z? A good question. But we are bound together.

Much to ponder. More pondering lies ahead.

See you along the Trail.

 

 

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Execution in Florida

An execution took place in Florida today.

Debbie Kammerer was brutally beaten, raped and killed 32 years ago in St. Petersburg. Robert Waterhouse was convicted of the crime. He had previously been convicted of raping and strangling a 77-year-old woman in New York in 1966. I have not been able to find her name in any of the postings. He served eight years behind bars before being paroled for that conviction.

Today, the state of Florida executed Robert Waterhouse. He maintained his innocence in relation to the murder of Debbie Kammerer as recently as 1995. Through the years the courts disagreed.

Nothing can justify these crimes. I grieve for the unnamed victim and for Debbie Kammerer. I grieve for those who love them. I wonder at the system that allowed his parole.

Yet for all that, I cannot condone his execution. Violence feeds violence. There has to be another way.

See you along the Trail.

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Execution in Texas

Again I am late.

The state of Texas executed Rodrigo Hernandez on Thursday, January 26. The state convicted him of sexually assaulting and strangling Susan Verstegen in 1994, leaving her body in a San Antonio trash can.

DNA evidence tied Hernandez to the brutal crime. Evidence also linked him to a 1991 murder in Michigan. One report says he confessed to both murders before his execution.

I grieve for Susan Verstegen – for her mother and son – for all who grieve for her.

I wonder at a judicial system that failed to identify Hernandez as a killer and remove him from circulation  in an efficient manner. But life imprisonment would serve that purpose. His execution by the state leaves me wondering why we believe that killing people demonstrates that killing is wrong.

See you along the Trail.

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A reprieve in Texas

Again I am late.

The CBS affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth reports that Donald Newbury received a reprieve on Wednesday, January 25. Newbury was scheduled to die in Texas on die February 1 for his part in the fatal shooting of a Dallas-area police officer. Justice Antonin Scalia granted the reprieve.

Newbury was part of a gang that “engineered the biggest prison escape in Texas history, overpowering workers at a prison in Kenedy, about 60 miles south of San Antonio, in December 2000. They stole the workers’ clothes, broke into the prison armory to get guns and drove away in a prison truck. They robbed two Houston-area stores and then, on Christmas Eve, shot an Irving police officer when he interrupted their robbery of a sporting goods store.”

One of the group – the Texas Seven – Larry James Harper committed suicide when authorities captured the group. The state of Texas executed Michael Anthony Rodriguez in 2008. Newbury, who has expressed remorse at the killing, would have been the second executed.

On Christmas Eve, 2000, police officer Aubrey Hawkins responded to a call concerning a robbery. The group ambushed Officer Hawkins as he did his duty.

I grieve for Aubrey Hawkins and pray for all who mourn his death.

But executing those who killed him will not bring him back, will serve no purpose but revenge, and will further establish the culture of violence.

See you along the Trail.

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Stay in Ohio, commutation in Delaware

This post comes late.

In no way do I condone the crimes. The crimes appall me. But I am grateful that two executions scheduled for this week did not take place.

Stay in Ohio

The Columbus Dispatch reported on January 11:

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frost today blocked next week’s scheduled execution of convicted murderer Charles Lorraine because the state has not adhered to its own execution policies.

Lorraine, 45, was slated to be executed Jan. 18 for murdering 80-year-old, bedridden Doris Montgomery and her 77-year-old husband, Raymond, in 1986.

Ohio will appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

Given the age of the Montgomerys, their efforts to reach out to Lorraine, and the brutality of their murder, I have no sympathy for him. I grieve for the Montgomerys and those who love them. But I do not believe that his execution resolves anything; I believe it would diminish us all.

Commutation in Delaware 

On January 17, News.Delaware.Gov posted the following statement from Governor Jack Martell:

Pursuant to my authority under Article VII, Section 1 of the Delaware Constitution, I have decided to commute the sentence of Robert Gattis to life in prison without the possibility of parole, subject to the conditions set forth below.

I realize my decision may cause pain to the family and friends of Shirley Slay. For that, I deeply apologize.

In reaching this conclusion, I give great weight to the decision of the Board of Pardons. In the exercise of its constitutional duties, the Board thoroughly reviewed Mr. Gattis’s application for clemency and the State’s response. The Board studied the entire historical record of this case, carefully listened to the statements made by parties on both sides, and had the opportunity to look Mr. Gattis in the eyes and question him. Having done so, the Board took the unusual and perhaps historic step of recommending, by a 4-1 margin, that Mr. Gattis’s death sentence be commuted to life without parole. I take the Board’s considered decision seriously.

Governor Markell added some conditions to the commutation:

That is why I have conditioned Mr. Gattis’s commutation on the following: (1) Mr. Gattis shall forever drop all legal challenges to his conviction and sentence, as commuted; (2) Mr. Gattis shall forever waive any right to present a future commutation or pardon request and agree to live out his natural life in the custody of the Department of Correction; (3) Mr. Gattis will be housed in the Maximum Security Unit of the James T. Vaughn Correction Center for the remainder of his natural life, unless constitutionally required medical care is necessary; and (4) Mr. Gattis, after consultation with counsel, shall knowingly, willingly and voluntarily accept these conditions, as determined by the Superior Court.

In agreeing, Gattis gives up his rights to all appeals. According to Governor Markell, this means that “Ms. Slay’s loved ones can at least know that they will never have to go through the painful process again of trials, hearings or requests for release.” I wonder if this can serve as a model in future situations?

The execution of Robert Gattis was scheduled for January 20. He stands convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend. A number of factors, including sexual, physical, and psychological abuse that Gattis endured as a child, entered into this decision. I grieve for I sent my thanks to Governor Markell. You can do the same.

Next scheduled execution

Attention now returns to Georgia which has scheduled the execution of Nicholas Tate for January 31. Tate stands convicted of the 2001 killing of Chrissie Williams and her 3-year-old daughter Katelyn.

Tate has not challenged or appealed his conviction – essentially asking the State to help him commit suicide.

I grieve for Chrissie and Katelyn and those who love them. I shudder at the brutality which can violate and kill a child.

Yet, I do not believe that the State should kill – even those who commit such heinous acts – even those who, at least apparently, go to their death willingly. And so I ask Georgia to choose life.

See you along the Trail.

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With an aching heart and a reeling mind

I grieve for Raymond and Doris Montgomery. In 1986, they were murdered in their own home in Trumball County, Ohio. Reports state that Raymond Montgomery, age 77, was stabbed five times with a butcher knife; 80-year-old Doris Montgomery, who was bedridden, was stabbed nine times.

Charles Lorraine was convicted of the murders of Raymond and Doris Montgomery and sentenced to death. The Montgomerys had paid him to do odd jobs. That adds to the horror.

Ohio will execute Lorraine on January 18 unless Governor Kasich commutes his sentence.

The vulnerability of the Raymond and Doris Montgomery makes my heart ache. Their willingness to help their killer deepens that ache. The brutality and cruelty of the crime makes my mind reel.

The pain and grief borne by the family and friends of Raymond and Doris Montgomery surpasses my imagination. My aching heart goes out to them.

There appears little evidence of doubt.

And yet, I have signed a petition asking Governor Kasich to take the step of commuting this death sentence. Executions dehumanize our society. Repaying violence with violence gets us nowhere; killing to demonstrate that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. It cuts off any possibility for reform or restoration. My opposition is to the state killing. It does not depend – it cannot depend on the person subject to execution.

I pray for Doris and Raymond Montgomery. I pray for all who love them.

I pray for Governor Kasich and all who make decisions of life and death on behalf of the state – on behalf of us all – on my behalf.

See you along the Trail.

 

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The year’s first U.S. execution

Three days and three events leave me shaking my head in wonder.

On Friday, December 16, 2011, 49-year old Gary Roland Welch was taken to the hospital to receive treatment for cuts to his neck in an apparent suicide attempt.

On Sunday, December 18, 2011, he was returned to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary.

Yesterday, January 5, 2012, at 6:05, Welch received a lethal injection. Five minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

After treating his wounds, the state of Oklahoma executed Welch – the first in the United States for 2012.

Welch was convicted for the 1994 slaying of Robert Dean Hardcastle, 35, in a dispute over drugs in Miami, Oklahoma.

Reports indicate that Welch offered no apology and showed no remorse for the slaying. He maintained that the slaying was an act of self-defense. The Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General argued that forensic evidence and court testimony contradicted the claim of self-defense.

Robert Dean Hardcastle had twin sons who were two years old when their father was killed.

I grieve for those young men who knew their father for such a short time. I grieve for Robert Dean Hardcastle who had such a brief time to know his children. I grieve for all who loved Robert Dean Hardcastle.

But I also grieve for Gary Ronald Welch and all who loved him. Whatever he did, however he felt about his actions, he too was God’s child.

I grieve that the state has again taken a life. I grieve for what that says about us – about me.

There has to be a better way.

See you along the Trail.

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I signed. Will you?

The international movement to end the death penalty grows. I signed a petition this morning from the World Coalition against the Death Penalty.

Amnesty International notes that in 2010 (the last year for which they have published records):

23 countries carried out executions and 67 imposed death sentences in 2010. Methods of execution in 2010 included beheading, electrocution, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.

Amnesty’s report “Death Sentences and Executions 2010” notes:

REPORTED EXECUTIONS IN 2010
Bahrain (1), Bangladesh (9+), Belarus (2), Botswana (1), China (1000s), Egypt (4), Equatorial Guinea (4), Iran
(252+), Iraq (1+), Japan (2), Libya (18+), Malaysia (1+), North Korea (60+), the Palestinian Authority (5),
Saudi Arabia (27+), Singapore (+), Somalia (8+), Sudan (6+), Syria (17+), Taiwan (4), United States of
America (46), Viet Nam (+), Yemen (53+).

The petition from the World Coalition against the Death Penalty states:

139 nations have already abolished the death penalty. In December 2012, the United Nations’ General Assembly will vote on a resolution calling for a worldwide halt to its use.

We, the undersigned, in recognition of the five million people who signed the moratorium petition that was handed to the United Nations’ General Assembly in 2007, promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with Amnesty International and other organizations all over the world, renew the call for a worldwide moratorium on sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty worldwide in the belief that this penalty is inhumane:

* Whatever the method of execution, there is no humane way to kill
* Whatever the country, death row is inhumane
* Whatever the length, awaiting death dehumanizes people sentenced to death

We welcome the strong progress already made towards a global end to capital punishment and acknowledge that 139 nations have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

For the 4th vote of the United Nations General Assembly on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, to be held in December 2012, we, the undersigned, call on all countries to support the resolution and all those which retain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use, with a view to abolishing this inhumane practice altogether!

I signed. Will you?

See you along the Trail.

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Moratorium in Oregon

I join Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other groups around the country in applauding the decision of  Governor John Kitzhaber to halt the scheduled execution of Gary Haugen (scheduled for December 6 – the last execution scheduled for this year). Governor Kitzhaber also called  for a full examination of the Oregon death penalty. Reflecting on this decision, the OADP said:

Governor Kitzhaber has shown great leadership with this announcement.

The New York Times reports:

“It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach,” Governor Kitzhaber, a Democrat elected last fall, said in a news conference in Salem on Tuesday afternoon. “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”

One of the predecessor denominations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) first went on the record against capital punishment in 1959:

. . . the 171st General Assembly, “believing that capital punishment cannot be condoned by an interpretation of the Bible based upon the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ,” called on Christians to “seek the redemption of evil doers and not their death” and noted that “the use of the death penalty tends to brutalize the society that condones it.”

As Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty states:

 It is our contention that when all the facts are known, it is difficult to support a death penalty. It is a failed public policy, extremely expensive, taking valuable resources from other programs that do deter violent crime. In these modern times, when we have the ability to keep violent criminals safely away from the general public, an option like life without parole makes more sense.

I grieve for Mary Archer and all who love her. Haugen was convicted of raping and beating Mary Archer to death in 1981. I grieve for David Polin and all who love him. Haugen was convicted of killing David Polin, an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in 2003. No questions of his guilt are raised and Haugen has asked to waive his legal rights and be executed.

Still, as I have written before:

I believe the death penalty is wrong. It dehumanizes our society. Repaying violence with violence does not get us anywhere; killing to demonstrate that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. It cuts off any possibility for reform or restoration. My opposition is to the state killing. It does not depend – it cannot depend on the person subject to execution.

I have prayed for the families and friends of Mary Archer and David Polin. I pray for Gary Haugen.

I have written a thank-you letter to Governor Kitzhaber.

I pray for other leaders who are in a position to make decisions and set policy about life and death.

See you along the Trail.

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It still happens in my name

Idaho is scheduled to execute Paul Rhoades tomorrow. This would be the first execution in Idaho in 17 years. It would be the fourth execution in the United States this week – a bloody week in terms of state executions.

He was convicted of the murders of school teacher Susan Michelbacher and convenience store clerks Stacy Baldwin and Nolan Haddon. There appears no question of his guilt. His petition to commute his sentence from death to life imprisonment begins, “Three people are dead because of me.”

I grieve for Susan Michelbacher, Stacy Baldwin, and Nolan Haddon. I grieve for all who love them.

Still I say, “Not in my name.” Not in my name, shall the state (any one of the United States) kill. Not in my name shall we act to prevent any possibility of reform. Not in my name shall we exact vengeance, taking an eye for an eye and stumbling blindly into the future.

But I am a citizen of this country – and while I protest – and while I write to the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole – should the execution happen, it will still happen in my  name.

See you along the Trail.

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