David Kaczynski is the Executive Director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He's started a new blog at the Albany Times Union, and I'll be adding to the left-column webroll. It's a must-read from a thoughtful leader of peace, community, and non-violence.
"Unveiling Violence," is his first post. Here's the beginning:
Michael Hooper was put to death on August 14, and so became the 100th person executed by Oklahoma since it reinstated its death penalty law in 1977. He was also the 1304th person executed in the US since the Supreme Court re-opened the door to the execution chamber in Gregg v. Georgia (1976).
Hooper was sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of his girlfriend Cynthia Lynn Johnson and her two children, five-year-old Tonya Kay, and three-year-old Timothy Glenn.
Somewhere on his journey through our nation’s byzantine capital punishment system, Hooper’s death sentence was overturned and subsequently reinstated. Near the end, Hooper declined to join a clemency petition filed by his court-appointed attorney, who argued that Hooper’s mental health issues and history of child abuse constituted compelling reasons to spare his client from execution.
In many ways, Hooper’s case sounds like a typical death row tale of woe: a horrific crime perpetrated by a deeply damaged individual. While on death row, Hooper found Jesus and expressed a belief that his sins had been forgiven and that he would go to heaven following his execution.
Religious faith often grows stronger in people faced with death, including many death row inmates. Religion offers a promise that atonement can be meaningful, that redemption is possible, and that death is not the final answer. I recall a Christian chaplain trying to comfort me at the start of my brother’s death penalty trial by pointing out that many people throughout history have been “saved” on their way to the gallows. Knowing my brother’s views on religion, however, I was not comforted – but perhaps that had more to do with my own lack of faith than with my brother’s.
In 1999, Pope John Paul II, during his visit to the diocese of Saint Louis, Mo., appealed to the people of the United States (Catholics in particular) to seek an end to the death penalty. After citing many familiar arguments against the death penalty, including references to the system’s flaws and underlying cruelty, the pontiff stressed an issue that advocates, both pro and con, seldom talk about. He argued that we should not oppose the death penalty primarily because of what it does to those who’ve been condemned, but rather because of what it does to us.
New York no longer has a death penalty and NYADP is now focused on reducing violence and promoting restorative justice.