Tag Archives: death penalty

Not knowing – knowing

A Texas court has stayed the execution of convicted murderer Henry “Hank” Skinner.

I do not know if he is guilty or innocent.

I know that he deserves every opportunity to prove his innocence – including DNA tests.

I do not know what that test will show.

I know that the murders of Twila Busby, Randy Busby, and Elwin Caler were horrific crimes, terrible violations.

I know that I grieve for them and all who love them.

I know that executing Hank Skinner will not bring them back, will not restore community; it will deny any possibility of rehabilitation for Skinner; it will be an act of violence that degrades our society.

See you along the Trail.

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Why won’t Texas perform a DNA test?

DNA tests have exonerated a number of individuals “convicted” of crimes in recent years.

In Texas, Hank Skinner has asked for a test of DNA evidence that he believes will prove his innocence. So far, his request has been denied.

Now time is running out. On Wednesday, Texas will execute Hank Skinner.

Skinner was convicted in 1995 of the murders of Twila Busby, and her two sons – Randy Busby and Elwin Caler.

Questions have been raised about Skinner’s guilt.

A larger question looms: Why won’t Texas perform the DNA testing?

Individuals can join former judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, along with current and former elected officials who have called Texas state officials  not to execute Skinner until that DNA testing can be performed.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty offers the opportunity to sign a petition.

I do not believe the state (any state) should execute individuals. I will continue to call for the abolition of the death penalty. But, I have signed the petition because I also believe that, if there are going to be executions, there should be as much certainty about their guilt as possible.

I pray for Hank Skinner and all who hold his fate.

I pray for Twila Busby, Randy Busby, and Elwin Caler and all who love them.

See you along the Trail.



Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Human Rights

Execution scheduled in Texas

I grieve for police officer Hector Garza, for Jessica Garcia, and for all who love them. They were killed more than a decade ago. Officer Garza was responding to a domestic dispute.

Frank Garcia, Jessica’s husband, was convicted of the murders. The State of Texas will execute Frank Garcia today unless a last-minute appeal proves successful. Reports say that Frank Garcia abused Jessica and she was attempting to leave him when the murders occurred. They also suggest that he was a gang member.

The appeal, according to published reports on the San Antonio Express Web page, raise the question of Garcia’s mental capacities.

Little or no doubt. A history of abuse. The murder of a wife. The murder of a police officer acting in the line of duty. Tragic, horrific realities.

Still I wonder. Beyond revenge, what will be served by Frank Garcia’s execution. Texas’ use of  the death penalty  did not deter him. Why do we think it would deter anyone else? It will not bring back Hector Garza. It will not bring back Jessica Garcia. It will remove any possibility, however slim, of Garcia’s rehabilitation. It will send the message that violence is the right response to violence. It will exact an eye for an eye and lead our society further down the road of brutality.

I pray for Frank Garcia. I pray for Jessica Garcia and Hector Garza and those who love them. I pray for our country.

See you along the Trail.

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That grieves me, too

I grieve for Elias Ocean Johnson whose young life ended far too soon – almost before it began – and far too brutally. I tremble as I seek to imagine what his last moments were like – what his few months were like.

I grieve for Dana Johnson, his mother and all who loved Elias.

I grieve for Christopher T. Johnson who reportedly testified to, and was convicted of, killing Elias. Alabama executed Johnson this evening.

I grieve for the prison personnel called upon to take Johnson’s life; I grieve for those who love them.

Johnson did not want anyone to block his execution and he filed no appeals. What he said he did appalls me and offends me. The cruel, violent act that took the life of baby Elias also violated and brutalized our society.

Yet, in my grief, I also believe that by taking Johnson’s life, the state – our society – has also been wounded and diminished. Our willingness to take a life for a life appears an act of vengeance – not of justice – not of restoration – not of seeking some new possibility out of an act of evil.

I do not know what should happen to those who kill our sisters and brothers, however old, however young. That grieves me, too. But I am sure that capital punishment is not the answer.

See you along the Trail.

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I wonder

Alabama will, in all likelihood, execute Christopher T. Johnson on October 20. Johnson has been convicted of a heinous crime – the murder of his son – a six-month old child. My heart breaks for Elias Ocean Johnson and those who love him. Johnson does not deny the crime – published reports indicate that he has admitted that he committed the crime.

Writers describe Johnson as a “volunteer.” He acted as his own attorney and has rejected appeals.

Yet even under these circumstances, I wonder:

What do we gain by Johnson’s execution?

How does it benefit Elias? Or protect other babies from abuse?

Does an execution – any execution – not demean and degrade the State and all of us? What does it say about us? What does it do to our soul?

Does imposing the death penalty – under these circumstances, under any circumstances – not brutalize our society? Is it not an act of vengeance – a denial of the possibility of repentance and renewal?

Does Johnson’s willingness to be executed absolve the state or change the reality of the death penalty?

I wonder . . . but I still oppose this and all executions.

See you along the Trail.

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Who wants to be humane, anyhow?

A Florida state representative wants to eliminate the use of lethal injections as the means of state-sponsored executions. He doesn’t want to do so because he is opposed to the death penalty. Quite the contrary.

His argument seems to be that lethal injections are too sensitive – too humane. He wants to replace lethal injections with the electric chair. And he proposes providing the option of a firing squad.

He only moves in that direction because his preferred method of execution does not appear feasible: “If it were up to me we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway bridge and be done with it,” Drake said in an article posted by the Florida Current.

“I am so tired of being humane to inhumane people,” he is quoted as saying.

By all means! Who wants to be humane, anyhow?

Of course, if we stop acting in a humane fashion, what does that make us?

See you along the Trail.

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Four on the death penalty

From the United Nations News Centre:

11 October 2011 – The United Nations human rights office today said it is deeply distressed by the recent execution in Saudi Arabia of 10 men, eight of whom were foreign migrant workers, and called on the country to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

From the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights:

“The death penalty is carried out in ways that violate international norms, such as the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as well as anti-discrimination standards,” said UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay in an opinion piece on the question of the death penalty.

From Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty (in Alabama):

Alabama has set October 20th 2011 as the execution date for Christopher T. Johnson. Christopher T. Johnson is what might be called a volunteer. At his trial he represented himself and asked the Court to impose the death penalty. The Court complied and in May Mr. Johnson filed a brief on his own behalf requesting that no further appeals should be filed for him.

Johnson has been convicted of killing his six-month old son – Elias Ocean Johnson. Reports are that he has admitted the crime. He has apparently refused to pursue any appeals and has filed court papers saying that he does not want anyone to file appeals on his behalf. My mind reels as I ponder his crime. And yet – his execution will not bring back Elias – his execution will diminish us as does any execution carried out by the state.

From the 190th General Assembly (1978), Presbyterian Church in the United States:

“Capital punishment is an expression of vengeance which contradicts the justice of God on the cross.”

See you along the Trail.


Filed under Capital Punishment, Death Penalty, Human Rights