Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: The Death Penalty: <i> good .. bad .. ugly..</i>

Friday, April 17, 2009

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.


At 8:40 PM, April 17, 2009, Blogger Chris Ryan said...

As a non-supporter, I have to say that it was all those things you mentioned that turned me off from the death penalty.

The penalty has been administered too often, with innocence proven shortly thereafter. Too many have been sent to the afterlife before they are spiritually prepared. Life sentences cost the taxpayer less money. Life is too precious to end it. Certainly to precious for me to make that call when vengeance is the Lord's and not mine. Even if it is what they deserve, I can't ask that they get their just desserts while praising God for denying me mine.

But thank you for not taking joy in the death of a human being. I can respect someone who believes in the death penalty who doesn't rejoice when life is ended prematurely.

At 12:59 AM, April 18, 2009, Blogger foolery said...

I have been conflicted about the death penalty my whole voting life. My knee-jerk reaction would have to come down slightly in favor of it, but only slightly these days, for all of the reasons cited Chris Ryan's comment, and maybe more.

I remember that morning too, Bob, though for very different reasons. All I heard as an 11-year-old was that Gary Gilmore had been executed. My father knew a man named Gary Gilmore, and while I didn't know THAT G.G., I knew his father. Being a child I thought, of course, that they were one and the same, and I felt a sense of loss for no reason I can rationally explain. Just loss. I have never forgotten it.

At 1:28 AM, April 19, 2009, Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

I was once for the death penalty - now I'm against it.

The death penalty in the Bible was exercised by a theocratic Israel where it was expected that judges and witnesses would tell the truth or suffer for their wrongdoing.

The United States - any country in fact - is not analogous to ancient Israel and the safeguards in place to prevent corruption in God's covenant people is not present in modern nations.

The result is that far too many have been tried and executed who were innocent. Show trials for the sake of populism have replaced the anarchic lynching of suspected criminals. "To Kill a Mockingbird" is an example of this.

Far too often, convicted murderers have not had adequate legal representation, or have been subjected to falsified evidence.

The costs to the system are great too - putting a murderer in jail and throwing away the key is actually quite cost effective compared to executing him/her.

And what happens if new evidence surfaces that proves the man innocent? If he has already been executed, what recompense is there? Yet if he has spent years in jail then he can be adequately compensated for it.

And what happens when Judges, police and lawyers have lied or been incompetent to the point of letting an innocent man be executed? Surely they should be brought to trial and jailed or executed too for their crime? Doesn't happen though.


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