Christians Speak Out on Davis Execution

Stay of Execution Denied

Efforts to stay the execution of death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis continue today, including a last-minute offer by Davis to take a polygraph test to prove that he is innocent of the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark MacPhail. MacPhail was killed while attempting to aide a homeless man who was under assault.

Seven of the nine witnesses against Davis have recanted or changed their testimony, but the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Davis clemency Tuesday. The polygraph request was also denied, according to MSNBC. Davis is set to die by lethal injection tonight at 7 p.m. EST.

Christian Coalition Supports It

Jerry Luquire, President of The Georgia Christian Coalition, affirmed Davis’ scheduled execution in a statement to CBS affiliate WRBL3. Luqire said the parole board made “the only decision it could render if we are going to be governed by the rule of law” and “refused to substitute the emotions of those who disagree with the verdict with more than 20 years of legal decisions” upholding Davis’ guilt.

The Party of Death?

Perhaps it’s no surprise then that a headline at Addiction Info read: “The ‘Christian’ Republican Party of Death Kills Another.”

There the self-identified non-Christian, non-Republican Wendy Gittleson wrote, “More than 2/3 of Republicans identify as Protestant. Nearly a quarter identify Catholic, which means that less than 10% of Republicans don’t identify as Christian. You would think that people who call Jesus their savior would live up to the pro-life name they have given themselves.”

Pontius Pilot Redux

In a Jack & Jill Politics post that opened with the full text of John 8:1-7, Deborah Small said that although neither she nor any other member of the public knows the identities of the members of the parole board that refused Davis clemency, she assumes they consider themselves “good, upright Christians doing the Lord’s work.”

“I wonder if they ever consider what Jesus would think and do in their position? More importantly, what if they were making the same mistake Pontius Pilate made when he sentenced Jesus to death? History has not looked kindly on Pilate’s willingness to accept the unsupported claims of Jesus’ detractors that he committed capital crimes against Rome. History will not look kindly on the decision of this Board to execute a man who may in fact be innocent. He is certainly not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Small wrote.

Barbarism on Display

In a letter to the editor of Cascade Patch, Rev. Robert Wright, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta, wrote: “Capital Punishment is state sanctioned lynching. Capital punishment is the exact opposite of civilization. Capital Punishment is the admission of our immature and barbarous tendencies as a society. While Capital Punishment may be the law in Georgia, it is not justice in Jesus’ eyes. … With the murder of Troy Davis, Georgia has admitted that Jesus’ will and ways are of secondary concern. Shame on Georgia.”

Davis at Peace

Meanwhile, Davis is at peace, Trymaine Lee reported at The Huffington Post.

“We circled around him and we prayed,” Edward DuBose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P told Lee. “I looked in his eyes and I saw peace, I saw a man of faith.”

What do you think?

Are you praying for a last minute reprieve for Davis or are you at peace with a just process?

Death Row Inmates Want Pastoral Care

Should death row inmates have access to one-on-one pastoral visits? This the question a Kentucky judge is being asked to decide in a class action suit filed by death row inmates against the state prison system. The prisoners claim that pastors have been “illegally and arbitrarily restricted from visiting them” since early summer 2010, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

A couple states down in Alabama, a judge overturned the life sentence imposed by a jury in the murder trial of 26-year-old African American Iraq war veteran Courtney Lockhart, and instead sentenced him to death, even though the defense argued that Lockhart, like 12 other members of his platoon who have been arrested for murder or attempted murder, had suffered psychological damage during his 16-month combat tour in Iraq, the Huffington Post reported yesterday.

In his decision, Judge Jacob Walker wrote that Lockhart deserved death based on evidence of other crimes not presented by prosecutors during his trial, the article said, noting a troubling trend in the state.

Since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty after a four-year ban, Alabama judges have held the power to overturn the sentencing recommendations of juries in capital cases. Since then, state judges have overturned 107 jury decisions in capital cases, and in 92 percent of those cases, jury recommendations of life imprisonment were rejected in favor of death sentences, according to a new report by the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit law firm based in Montgomery.

Meanwhile, Rais Bhuiyan, a victim of post 9/11 racism, is arguing for the life of his would-be killer. While working at a Dallas, Texas, gas station in 2001, Bhuiyan was shot in the face at close range by Mark Ströman. The assault left Bhuiyan blind in one eye and in need of extensive plastic surgery. Ströman had murdered a Pakistani immigrant five days earlier and would go on to kill an Indian immigrant a few weeks later. Each of Ströman’s victims worked at Dallas-area convenience stores. Ströman, who claims he was avenging the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is scheduled to be executed July 20.

According to the Death Penalty News website, Bhuiyan found peace during his long and painful recovery by relying on his Muslim faith, which also led him to forgive Ströman. “I decided that his is a human life, like anyone else’s,” Bhuiyan said. “I decided I wanted to do something about this.”

Zechariah 7:9 instructs us to “administer true justice” and “show mercy and compassion to one another.”

What do you think?

Should death row inmates have access to one-on-one pastoral care?

Should they have the right to sue for it?

Is it just for a judge to overturn a jury verdict in favor of death, especially in light of evidence that the murderer was mentally damaged in service to his country?

Does a murderer’s humanity require that society show him the mercy he failed to show his victims?

Where do justice and mercy meet when it comes to the death penalty? What do you think?