The Death Penalty: good .. bad .. ugly..
"Let's do it!"
They did it, and a few minutes later, Gary Gilmore died.
That happened Monday, January 17, 1977, just a few months after his conviction for murder. As I recall, it was the first execution after a moratorium, and it made news on that front as well as the fact that his had been a notorious trial.
The execution sticks in my mind particularly well, as the announcement was the first thing I heard when I turned the TV on that morning. I'd traveled to Minneapolis the evening before, and when I switched the TV on, that's the first story I heard on the Today Show.
I had a peculiar reaction, for a fan of the death penalty. I was saddened.
He was a heartless killer and notorious in his own right. Sure, he had a terrible childhood and all that, but he certainly fit the definition of someone on whom the ultimate penalty should be imposed.
But I was sad. And it surprised me, that I was.
Lying on the bed, watching the TV, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my natural man would have reacted more akin to "cha-CHING...", but that morning, I also realized that anyone's death is a sad matter. Plus, the supposition was that Mr. Gilmore was not saved, which is sad in heaven; and what's sad there should be sad here.
I think that was the morning when I might just have become more tuned in on seeing things as God sees them, than the way this sinful old flesh does.
Why bring this up now? Simple ... the Birmingham News, yesterday, carried a report of the execution, the previous evening, of a convicted murderer. Complete with picture. And that brought back the distant memory of Mr. Gary Gilmore, and my awaking to the sadness of his death that morning in Minneapolis.
The story, yesterday, told of the execution on Wednesday night of Jimmie Lee Dill. Seeing his picture there reminded me he was a man, a son and perhaps a brother. And since his crime was about 20 years ago, he was likely not the same man, in one or more ways, he was when he committed the crime all those years ago.
I got the same feeling yesterday, that I did in the Minneapolis Holiday Inn, over 30 years ago.
I know capital punishment is Biblical. It may not be much of a deterrent, but I've heard experts say that deterrence does not stem from the punishment itself, as much as from the certainty of punishment. But, as my Dad said in a letter to the editor .. which I happened to see a few months ago while scanning all his papers into my computer .. the application of capital punishment to a criminal at least deters that criminal from any further infractions.
Still, I am saddened. And perhaps I should be. Vengeance is the Lord's, not mine, and it would be hard to teach that if I were to take person satisfaction in it.