Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


Executing a New Method for the Death Penalty

Plain Dealer photo of the execution room
This week, an Ohio prisoner was put to death using a new form of lethal injection. Cleveland's The Plain Dealer reports on it here Kenneth Biros becomes first inmate executed using single-drug method. Rather than using the three-drug cocktail more commonly in use, the 51-year old convicted murderer was put to death with five grams of thiopental sodium, used in smaller doses by veterinarians to euthanize animals. It took about 30 minutes for a half dozen attempts to find a suitable vein.

The new drug worked and within nine minutes, Briros was dead. His final statement made just before he was put to death was:
I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. And I want to thank my friends and family that helped me and supported me and believed in me," he said.

Now I'm being paroled to my father in Heaven and get to spend all of my holidays with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Peace be with you all. Amen.
While I appreciate Ohio's attempt to provide for a painless method of execution, I remain opposed to the death penalty no matter the method used. I was once a strong proponent of executions for a variety of reasons, including its serving as a deterrent to crime, giving closure to survivors, and reducing cost to the state to maintain a criminal for life without parole. I have come to oppose the death penalty for two main reasons: 1) Sometimes we are wrong, and 2) Vengeance belongs to God alone.

Opposition to the Death Penalty
The bare possibility that someone could be put to death wrongly is enough to give me pause altogether. I add the part about God and vengeance as I also feel that those who commit heinous crimes should be given what their victims were not granted, time to make peace with God. A life spent behind bars with the crimes on one's conscience would be tough on those with a conscience (admittedly not all). We can always hope for a conversion within prison, which would not alter the decision of the state in terms of the punishment, but could open the door to lasting peace not otherwise possible. With life without parole, the survivors can have a semblance of closure, crime is deterred to the degree it is by the death penalty and even the cost of maintaining a criminal in prison is less than the seemingly endless appeals for those on death row.

The Sopranos and Repentance
My favorite episode of The Sopranos is the episode "second opinion" in season three in which mafia boss Tony Soprano's wife, Carmella, sees a therapist who says she needs to separate herself from Tony's "blood money." The straight-talking therapist tells her that he needs to go to prison and spend some years reading Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment while he repents of his sins. I know this is an ideal and many convicted criminals would not spend the time in reflection and repentance, but would get in further trouble within the institution. But the state is not accountable for whether the inmate repents. The state is accountable for its role in executions. I feel that true justice waits on God and that earthly justice can be meted out without the death penalty.

The Test case
So let me take on the test case offered by those who favor the death penalty: What if we were considering what to do with someone whose heinous crime was against my wife and daughter instead of against a 22-year old woman living in Ohio as in this case? Wouldn't I want to do violence rather than counsel mercy? Of course I would. There remains enough redneck flowing through my veins (a proud distinction by the way) that I would want something much worse than a life behind bars. Of course, I would want vengeance. But the state should restrain this desire, not take part in it.

Full Disclosure
Full disclosure is also in order. My great grandfather was shot to death by his brother-in-law and my great grandmother testified at his murderer's trial for mercy, which the court granted. The family did not all agree and hired someone to kill the man who killed their relative. By the time the dust cleared, the sheriff was also dead and the state of South Carolina had put my great-great aunt and great-great uncle to death (in the electric chair pictured here) along with the man they hired. A great uncle was also sentenced to death and had that sentence commuted by the governor in a last minute appeal. That story is covered here: The Meeting Street Murders and also here: 1943: Sue Logue, George Logue and Clarence Bagwell and various other places on the Internet. I also have a step-brother-in-law and a parishioner both serving life without parole. So perhaps my views on the death penalty are influenced by these experiences as well as what I cite above.

What do you think?
I know this is a very controversial topic and many who share my faith will not share my strongly held views on the death penalty. But I prefer the state dispenses just sentences in prison and stops its role as executioner. What do you think?

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 12/11/2009 8:54 AM, Anonymous kenny said…

    Too complicated a subject to really discuss in depth in this little box but the short version will have to suffice for now.

    I admit the desire for vengeance would exist. But, capital punishment isn't about vengeance to me, it's about justice and fulfilling a debt that the criminal owes to society.

    Is it a deterrent? It sure keeps that person from doing it again? Punishment fitting the crime seems to work as a deterrent at every other level of criminal activity. Why wouldn't it work here?

    Is it cost-effective? Maybe, maybe not. It's almost irrelevant. In a sense, it's like a declaration of war albeit on a very small scale.

    Is it humane? Is it humane to lock someone in a cage for the rest of their lives? That seems like a pretty harsh and inhumane punishment to me. Sure, make the actual execution as painless as possible. Enjoying torturing someone to death is just wrong no matter what your justification. Remember, though, this guy had claimed the previous drug cocktail was inhumane and then turned around and sued claiming the single drug cocktail was inhumane.

    There are at least two sides to the debt that's owed by a criminal. God will take care of eternal justice but has placed fallible humans in the role of temporal judges. I'm pretty darned proud of this country and the almost endless safeguards and constant reviews we do to "get it right" when it comes to this issue. I do see that we're human and almost inevitably will make mistakes but that doesn't mean that we should give up.


Post a Comment

<< Home