A biased opinion.

My father was murdered. In the South. That man was executed.

There you have the facts. But this isn’t about me. It’s about Troy Davis who was wrongly executed last night. And Lawrence Brewer who was rightly executed.

Okay maybe it is a bit about me because I am having a crisis of faith. I have always been pro-death penalty. It’s a biased opinion, colored by our family’s experience. I grew up knowing what was taken away from me and envious even of the murderer’s children; they got 18 more years with their father than I did. At least they got to know their dad through the glass of the prison visiting room while the taxpayers paid for him to get a college degree, earning him the nickname The Professor. My father worked. He was loving son, husband and father. I don’t know his nickname.He was 24 when he was brutally murdered. Not that all murders aren’t brutal.  I feel for Officer MacPhail’s family. (And I lost my mind when Alec Baldwin tweeted something negative about them.) I can tell you flat out that the families have no say in what happens and  I remember we felt very forgotten when it was all happening. The victim of the actual crime seems to be pushed to the side at times like these, all of the focus being put on the person to be executed left us crying out what about us? What about our loss? Our loved one was tortured and this man gets a sedative? Being on this side of an execution is a tricky business it’s horrible. Even when you know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the right guy is being punished.

I don’t believe Troy Davis was the right guy, but they do, and I understand why. I understand all too well.

I also know that it is no good just to hand out ‘justice’ unless it is proper justice. It must be the right guy, just executing someone for the sake of execution is another murder. I know many of you feel that the death penalty is always murder…and here is where my crisis of faith comes into play.

Lawrence Brewer was executed last night in the same prison and the same room as the man who murdered my father was executed in. I feel nothing but peace about this. What he did to James Byrd junior is inhuman. I don’t believe he deserved to take another gasp of air. I believe the death penalty is full and just in this case.

Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, literally put down like a dog. They didn’t have the proper drugs so they used veterinary drugs usually used to euthanize animals. No physical evidence. No DNA. Seven out of nine witnesses recanted and another man confessed. I do believe his lawyers sucked.  I don’t believe he deserved to die. I believe the death penalty is a travesty and an epic tragedy in this case.

For every Lawrence Brewer there are 200 more on death row. Guilty as sin and unrepentant. So then there must also be more Troy Davises. I am not quite ready to say no death penalty, but I am not sure how to prevent another clearly innocent man from dying.

Will this case bring an end to capital punishment in America? Will it bring a much needed review and revamping of our process?

I like to think that when Troy Davis got to heaven God wrapped his arms around him and said “I know. But you were the man for the job. The man who could bring to light how flawed this system is. You did well, my child. Now rest and be comforted.”

Because Troy Davis you did do your job well. My crisis of faith is in full swing. My heart bleeds for your family, and for the family of Officer MacPhail. There is no winner in a murder case. There can only be a scar that never fully heals but it always sensitive and sore.

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29 thoughts on “A biased opinion.

  1. I am sad for your family and your loss of your father. And I appreciate your unique perspective here.

    In fact, this part gave me chills: “I like to think that when Troy Davis got to heaven God wrapped his arms around him and said “I know. But you were the man for the job. The man who could bring to light how flawed this system is. You did well, my child. Now rest and be comforted.”

    I have always been against the death penalty. Even when I was Republican, pro-life, atheist. And while all of these have changed over the years (liberal, pro-choice, God-believing for the last decade), my stance has remained unchanged on the death penalty. I can’t wrap my head around its purpose from any angle (political, social, economic, religious, moral), but I don’t know it from a personal angle.

    I wonder where your journey will take you on this.

    • I know that it is my personal experience that keeps me in an emotional space regarding this. I am glad you don’t know it from a personal angle. I wish no one did. I really appreciated your post, it’s like I just can’t quite get to the place to where I can just say no death penalty ever.

  2. How beautifully written and thought out- I’m sure this was difficult for you to write. The fact that you are having a crisis of faith reveals the open and caring heart you have. So sorry for your loss.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss. I know how much it hurts to loose a parent and I was an adult. I can’t imagine how hard that was on you, especially considering the violent circumstances. I am not a big believer in the death penalty. Though I can complete understand why people are. For me it isn’t about it being murder, its about racism and miscarriages of justice. Your more likely to be given the death penalty if you are a black man convicted of killing a white; that is just wrong. And sadly the justice system is not perfect, but the death penalty is final.

  4. Eloquently written.

    I think the death penalty is one of the “big ones” for people. I am a right-winged liberal… How that even makes sense.. I have no idea… but the dealth penalty puts me on the more conservative side…. but it is conditional.

    For violent – repeat – offenders,… where physical evidence and a SOLID case exist… I am TOTALLY FOR IT… for those crimes that have been proven to not be able to “recover from”… Those that have mental issues when it comes to children/pedophilia, etc… that multiple studies, many decades long – have proven – that those issues and desires will not disappear… I am TOTALLY for the death penalty….

    For those cases built on circumstantial evidence… racism, etc… I am not and have many many issues with wrongfully carrying out the death penalty…. but our system is not perfect.. and it is flawed… and thus… mistakes are made… and innocent people pay with their lives and their families.. this is where I have to take pause and weep…

    Again… You nailed it.

    Eloquently written.

  5. Amazing. I’m touched you would open up to everyone and share a perspective very few have a personal connection with. And one that goes much deeper than what happened on death row, but the years beforehand.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  6. So very well said. I feel like Jenna, I am a liberal but I am also pro death penalty when it is in the case of James Brewer, who seriously deserved it and the guilt was 100% sure. WHen it is an open and shut case and there is no doubt about who pulled the trigger etc. But when there is some lingering doubt, a smidgen of not sure he did it then don’t put that person in the chair. Troy Davis should not have died last night.
    Your post was well written and poses the same feelings that alot of us have. Thank you

  7. You never cease to amaze me. What an amazing woman you are both for your strength for surviving this and for being courageous enough to share that you’re questioning it all. I’m so blessed to know you.

  8. Wow. I had no idea about your father. So sorry. And I feel exactly as you do. I’m so conflicted. L. Brewer – I totally support the death penalty with him. I do not want to share my oxgyen with such evil trash. But, Troy Davis…def. wrong b/c of the reasonable doubt. Thanks for sharing this. Hope I made sense, I have a crying kid in one arm 😉 xoxo

  9. Oh, my lovely… I am so sorry for what you and your family had to go through. What an emotional swing you must be on with these current events.
    I too see no way we can ABSOLUTELY prevent another innocent man from dying without getting rid of the death penalty. The system is flawed.
    Thank you for writing such a personal post.

  10. I don’t know – I think I have been in my niave bubble lately. When I read your father was murdered I realized it happened to fellow bloggers…not just on the news. Silly that I had not thought of that before. But really I think I have been over protected. Now I can’t sleep thinking of it. How do you not live in fear when something like that has happened to you? Most of your posts are filled with humour- I was so shocked to read this one. You’re probably more balanced than most people I read, how did you manage to keep that perspective? How do you not fear? I would love to hear your experienced wisdom in that regard.
    Thank you for sharing. I have never agreed with the death penalty but I get why this post has merit. I guess if I had it my way they would rot the rest of their lives away in a “proper” prison ( without so many privileges) having nothing to do but think about what they have done…but that never happens. Oh gosh- re-reading this I do sound sooo naive.
    I too am sorry for all the things you have gone through and I am amazed at how well you have done.

  11. when I see you- there is nothing in your eyes, your smile and your oh so sweet nature to underscore the pain your family has had to endure. Thank you for your bravery in writing this post- it has forced me to look at principles I held in a very new way.

  12. Cases like Troy Davis and Damien Echols don’t solve the morality or even equity debate of capital punishment, but they do shed light on the flaws within our justice system at large.

    In both cases, Troy Davis and Damien Echols, the State was highly concerned about their image, with disconnected bureacrats managing communications. In both cases, public opinion held fierce influence. But Troy Davis has been executed by the State of Georgia, despite, at this point, statistically overwhelming evidence that he deserved a new trial.

    I cannot help but note the comments coming in from around Georgia on other news stories. So many people feel that because Davis was a menace to society in other ways, because he was with “those people” and because he was party to a criminal world, that he has to “pay the price” and in some way take responsibility for the burden of assumed guilt.

    We try and convict ourselves daily beneath the veil of unconscious ego. We unmercifully execute the Ambassadors of our own shadow selves. Minky {moo} is different. Its personal. But executions are performed and advocated for by a public, frightened of our cultural shadow (which indeed has murderous tendencies), desperate for actions/measures that make us feel more secure.

    My father was murdered in 1993. Horribly. He died slowly, painfully, at the hands of a police officer who to this day has been protected from prosecution by the same system that executed Troy Davis. I’d love to see his killer burned alive, but at the end of the day, when my fire has calmed down, I know deep in my heart that murder for murder is not justice, it’s murder with a white veil.

  13. The fact that you can write about this shows how mature and brave you are. Thank you so much for having an opinion, and sharing it.
    Even being a conservative, I am against the death penalty for the simple reason of “sometimes they are wrong”. I shudder at the idea that an innocent life could be lost, and the guilty are freed. As someone else stated, the severity of the crime sometimes makes me feel a tad different, but I still don’t wish death on them, mostly because they have a family that will mourn as well.
    For people that are obviously guilty, they should have to do hard labor for the rest of their lives, and live in the crappiest places, and eat gross food, and not have any luxuries in life. To me, that would be more miserable that a quick death. That’s where my issue is: death is an easy out for a guilty person.
    Thanks again for such an eloquant post, and for shedding a light on the subject from a different perspective!
    Much love!

  14. Thank you for sharing this. I have believed in capitol punishment and would hate to see it end. But I agree with you on this case. IF there is even one chance that he is innocent, then they shouldn’t have executed him. The whole system let him down. I loved your thoughts on God wrapping his arms around him.

    I too have a faith crisis. But I’m still a good person.

  15. Wow, what an amazing story and perspective. I am so sorry for your loss. I think there are times, as in the case of what happened with your dad, where the death penalty is the only option. But it should be reserved for cases where there is incontrovertible evidence. That said, there’s always a case thrown in that makes me doubt everything I’ve ever known about law and order. My roommate is currently working with the Innocence Project and all I can say is…shudder. May none of us ever be wrongly accused!

  16. Beautifully written post. I am so sorry for the loss of your dad on such terms. I used to believe in the value of the death penalty, but I’ve loss faith. Thank you for offering your unique perspective on this.

  17. First of all, I am so sorry for your father. I never knew that about you and I can imagine how this case would affect you. Sending you giant hugs….
    I live in Canada. We don’t have capital punishment. I’m not sure if I am for or against it. I used to be. “Eye for an eye”…but now, I don’t know.
    Thank you for writing this.

  18. I grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, the place where Ted Bundy killed two sorority girls across the street from the Florida State School of Music where I attended nearly 20 years after he committed his crime. And about 5/6 years after we put him to death for that and countless other murders. I was never touched personally by murder, but I grew up with capital punishment being indoctrinated in me. It was what murderers deserved. Right?

    Then I learned how much it costs to keep a prisoner on death row – costs incurred because they have to have a certain appeals process so we don’t execute an innocent person. The costs are far more than it is to keep them in prison for life. That in and of itself isn’t a reason to abolish the death penalty, but then I started to hear stories of convicts sentenced to death who were later proven not guilty. Perhaps they aren’t stellar examples of good citizenship, but if they weren’t guilty of the crime for which they were convicted, it breaks my heart that they should be put to death for it.

    I get why people want to see criminals face the death penalty, particularly when they’ve lost a loved one. When there’s no doubt, as with Ted Bundy, it’s easy to justify capital punishment. But the older I get – and not having been affected by a tragedy such as the murder of your father – the more I fear even one innocent person being put to death, as likely happened with Troy Davis.

    I grew up in the south where capital punishment is largely accepted as a good thing. I began to question it before I left and have moved further and further away from that ideology the longer I live in Canada without capital punishment. I even worked for the Correctional Services Canada for a short period in which I learned so much about the rehabilitation philosophy of incarceration that is in practice here. It’s very different from the U.S. where the focus is primarily on punishment.

    I truly believe that some criminals don’t deserve to live after the crimes they’ve committed, but with such an imperfect justice system that leads to guilty verdicts for innocent people and not guilty for the true perpetrators, my conscience won’t let me support capital punishment anymore. It’s too final if someone isn’t guilty. And yet, life without parole isn’t final enough when guilt is 100% sure.

    I’m truly sorry that you lost your father so brutally. I can’t imagine how that must have/still does feel. That Troy Davis’ case has led you to challenge your views on this subject is very telling – it’s just not a black and white subject. It’s hard to definitively choose a side when you can so clearly see a benefit to both.

    • I really appreciate your taking the time to comment, and your perspective. I grew up in Colorado and I remember when Ted Bundy was put to death. Everybody turned off their lights off as if that would send extra electricity to the chair. It was a bizarre reaction especially in Boulder which is really liberal and anti-DP. But Ted Bundy really struck a chord with people.
      You’ve given me quite a bit to think about, thank you.

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