Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


October 1, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: Deep-sixing the death penalty

CROSSVILLE — Capital punishment has had a varied history in our nation. It has been carried out in different ways down through the years: by rifle squad, noose hanging, gas chamber, electric chair and lethal injection.

Many myths surround the death penalty. One of these, that justice is even-handedly dispensed by the courts, is disproved by the fact that those sentenced to death are disproportionately the poor, people of color, the mentally ill, and those whose victims are white. The myth that the death penalty deters crime is disputed by studies indicating that capital punishment deters no more than other forms of punishment.

Many believe the myth that executions are cheaper than life imprisonment without parole. States are realizing that not only are death penalty trials costly, but that the appeals process that follows adds greatly to the cost, to say nothing of the cost to those who are on death row for ten to twenty years.

Justice, to be meaningful, should be swift and sure. The death penalty is neither, and under our current system drags on and on. Life without parole begins as soon as the victims’ families leave the courtroom and is served outside the spotlight of the news cameras.

The death penalty is an issue that divides our nation. Thirty-two states retain the death penalty while eighteen have abolished it. According to a December 20, 2012 article in USA Today, of those retaining the death penalty, 23 have not used it in ten years, while four states have been responsible for three-fourths of the executions in 2012. These states are Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Since 2011 three states—Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland—have abolished capital punishment. And California, with the largest number of death row inmates of all fifty states, has on its November ballot a ban on the death penalty. Tennessee has seventy-nine people presently on death row. It has put to death six prisoners since 1960.

Ten years ago, on October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty was inaugurated. Today in many states, groups are working towards the abolition of the death penalty, seeking alternatives to capital punishment. In Tennessee we have Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The exoneration of people wrongly convicted (often with DNA help), the availability of prison terms without parole, and the high cost of capital trials and the appeals process are factors contributing to a decline in the death penalty.

The state of Georgia, where I lived for eight years, has killed fifty-three men since 1983. Many of these men had been on death row for more years than they had been free. At the time of their executions, in the last minutes of their lives, they were given a few moments to speak. What do you suppose they said at such a moment? Here are a few of their last words:

Roosevelt Green, Jr., executed January 9, 1985: “I love the Lord and I hope you love him, too.” (The book “A Lesson Before Dying” tells Green’s story.)

John C. Young, executed March 20, 1985: “The poor...don’t have a chance because the courts don’t really recognize them. People look on them as between human and animals, but we’re all from the same creation... This is the way America will always be... Being born black in America was against me.”

Warren McCleskey, executed September 25, 1991: “I pray that one day this country, which is supposed to be civilized, will abolish barbaric acts such as this death penalty.”

Fred M. Gilreath Jr., executed November 15, 1991: “My God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven all who have done me wrong.”

William M. Mize, executed April 29, 2009: “I’m here because of a travesty of justice.”

Troy A. Davis, executed September 21, 2011: “...I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun... I ask my family and friends to continue this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”

(The above quotes appeared in Hospitality, the paper of the Open Door Community in Atlanta.)

• • •

This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.

Text Only
  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

  • GARY'S WORLD: The chance to speak your mind

    Are you tired of hearing people complain about the way things are run in Cumberland County? Or, do you like the way the county government is run and operated in our beautiful county?
    Are you happy with the way things are, or would you like some change?

    April 3, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Digging beneath the headlines

    Our media have been focusing on two important events that have taken place overseas during the last several weeks.

    April 1, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: SNAP, health and work

    A recent letter from Representative Diane Black to me states that she voted for the farm bill (with $8 million in Food Stamp (SNAP) benefit cuts) because she, like me, is a supporter of food stamp benefits for Tennessee families who qualify. That’s a lot of families, as most recipients are families with children and the elderly. Now, recall that there was already a major cut to the food stamp program back in the fall. But for some Republicans, that was not enough.

    April 1, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice