Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Death Penalty: What a Neat Idea!

"The death penalty is a poor person's issue. Always remember that: after all the rhetoric that goes on in the legislative assemblies, in the end, when the die is cast, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country." Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.

I find the Death Penalty perversly fascinating, especially when Christians support it. In just a minute, I'll provide links to some "born again" murderers, most still alive and at least one having been since executed.

First, a few links and pages that provide a wide overview on the Death Penalty.

Links to various death penalty sites are provided by Derechos Human Rights. The oft-vilified ACLU has an excellent site, as does Ethics Updates (some info here is also pro-death penalty). Amnesty International has a dedicated page to the DP, and so does Professor David Vanderhoof, who's site will keep you surfing for as long as you want! And finally, a web page of death penalty cases where they were overturned or evidence was found to resentence.

And second, links to and about "born again" believers either now on Death Row, or who should have been on Death Row (according to current standards)... I don't suggest, by the way, that being a Christian ought to qualify someone for special treatment. Rather, I list what follows because of a few things: (a) many of these folks didn't become believers until years after incarceration, leaving one wondering what their eternal destiny would have been had they been immediately put to death, and (b) how completely useless the death penalty is when it comes to prisoners who have successfully been rehabilated. (Not saying every one of these was or is, but many of them are!)

"Son of Sam," David Berkowitz, who killed allegedly after a dog told him to do so. He has been a Christian for over a decade and has an official web page.

Karla Fay Tucker (with another) murdered two individuals June 13, 1983 in Texas; the murders, done by her as a 23 year old drug user, were extremely gruesome and carried out with a pick axe. She was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to death. Sixteen years passed, in which Karla became a vibrant, mature Christian. George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, denied the flood of mail and phone messages, and contemptuously dismissed Karla's plea for commutation of her sentence to life in prison. In response to a Talk magazine reporter asking him about an interview of Tucker by Larry King he'd watched, Bush mocked Karla. "'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'" And of course he did.... kill her, that is.

Tex Watson, who proclaimed "I am the devil and I'm here to do the devil's business" as he began killing victims. Watson, part of the infamous Manson Family "Helter Skelter" murders, was given life when the Death Penalty temporarily was suspended. His site contains an entire book about his experiences and conversion to Christ, Will You Die for Me?.

Susan Atkins' web site is down and I can find no other mirrors or evidence she's got a new one. Susan -- known as "Sadi" in her own time with Manson -- is also imprisoned for life. Her testimony, Child of Satan, Child of God, can be obtained on amazon.com used (it is out of print). Only God knows whether or not Susan did or did not stab Sharon Tate (her own early statements were that she had, but in the book, she says she did not).

Francis Newton is on death row in Texas -- and this ironically anti-death penalty article from the normally pro-death penalty 700 Club (Pat Robertson) explores her case. In short, she is accused of mudering her family to collect an insurance payment, which she vehemently denies. See some interesting case notes regarding her here.

There are many more prisoners such as the above. For instance, Kevin Zimmerman killed an oil rig worker and while on death row became a Christian. After giving up his appeals, he was executed in Texas, January 2004. His moving final words, as well as the obviously inhumane process leading up to execution, is a proper way to end this.

"As I read the New Testament, I don't see anywhere in there that killing bad people is a very high calling for Christians. I see an awful lot about redemption and forgiveness." James W.L. Park, former execution officer, San Quentin, California

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