We honor the memory of Andy Henriquez, 19 years old. He begged for medical attention in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. He died there due to neglect in 2013.
From time to time, I have had the honor to stand with the community working to close the jail complex on Rikers Island and replace the jails with smaller justice centers based in four of the New York City boroughs. People directly affected by the Rikers jails led this effort.
Today the New York City Council voted on a proposal. I joined the community for a rally in the time before the vote. Participants were invited to read brief statements honoring individuals who had died on Rikers.
I read the words about Andy Henriquez. He was arrested for participating in a heinous crime. He was held for three years without a trial. He was held in solitary confinement. He complained of pain and called for medical attention as did others held near him.
He needed to be held accountable for his role in that crime. But that would have involved a speedy trial. And it would not have involved dying alone in a cell. Whatever he did, whatever he did not do, as a child of God, he deserved better. So did Mohamed Jollah for whose brutal murder Andy Henriquez was arrested. So do all people.
May today’s New York City Council vote mark steps on the journey to a criminal justice system that emphasizes restoration and rebuilding community.
The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner on Monday, 2 March as currently scheduled. Tell Governor Nathan Deal to stop the execution.
The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner because:
- while she asked someone to kill her husband, she did not kill him;
- the person who killed Doug Gissendaner does not face a possible execution for his actions;
- she has repented of her role in her husband’s murder;
- she has been rehabilitated in secular terms; transformed by God in theological terms;
- she has demonstrated that transformation in her living;
- she has ministered to other inmates, serving as a “calming spirit”; and
- inmates report on her role in their lives, including several who she helped as they contemplated suicide.
For all these reasons, the state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Grissendaner.
But, even if none of these reasons existed, her execution should not take place.
The execution of Kelly Grissendaner, or of any other child of God, demeans the state. It lowers the state to the level of those who kill. At the same time, it places the state in the position of God, making life and death decision. And, to paraphrase Dean Smith, state executions, in a democracy, make murderers of us all.
The state of Georgia should not execute Kelly Gissendaner on Monday, 2 March as currently scheduled or at any other time. Tell Governor Nathan Deal to stop the execution.
See you along the Trail.
Image via Wikipedia
Viewed The Conspirator tonight. It looks at the trial of the those involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. It focuses particularly on Mary Surratt – the first woman executed by the federal government.
Was she innocent? Was she guilty? From this distance, that seems hard to tell.
What the film, and my associated Web-browsing, has me thinking is that she probably did not receive a fair trial. She was not tried by a jury of her peers. She was tried by a military tribunal, not a civilian court. Hmm – why does that sound familiar?
It is possible that Mary Surratt was guilty. But it may also have been the case that she was sentenced and executed in effort to force her son to return and stand trial. It may have been the case that the authorities wanted to put the assassination behind the nation and move on. It may have been the case that revenge blinded those involved. Justice – and not restorative justice but retributive justice at that – may have been pushed aside by any number of factors. It has me wondering.
And wondering about this case has me wondering more broadly: how often does vengeance or expediency or fear or hate or prejudice or systems that privilege some and disadvantage some or other factors put justice in the back seat?
See you along the Trail.