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In the Bible Belt, Christmas Isn’t Coming to Death Row

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When it comes to the death penalty, guilt or innocence shouldn’t really matter to Christians.  

NASHVILLE — Until August, Tennessee had not put a prisoner to death in nearly a decade. Last Thursday, it performed its third execution in four months.
This was not a surprising turn of events. In each case, recourse to the courts had been exhausted. In each case Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, declined to intervene, though there were many reasons to justify intervening. Billy Ray Irick suffered from psychotic breaks that raised profound doubts about his ability to distinguish right from wrong. Edmund Zagorksi’s behavior in prison was so exemplary that even the warden pleaded for his life. David Earl Miller also suffered from mental illness and was a survivor of child abuse so horrific that he tried to kill himself when he was 6 years old.
Questions about the humanity of Tennessee’s lethal-injection protocol were so pervasive following the execution of Mr. Irick that both Mr. Zagorski and M…

Texas: Death penalty inappropriate for a convicted murderer who ate his own eye

One of the oldest concepts of punishment can be found in the Bible - an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Andre Thomas loved memorizing Bible verses when he was in Sunday school at Harmony Baptist Church, according to a Texas Monthly profile. But after he was arrested for murder, Thomas took the concept further - gouging out his own right eye while awaiting trial. After a jury sentenced him to death, Thomas pulled out his remaining eye and ate it.

Despite a long history of severe mental illness that includes those and other episodes of self-mutilation, Texas continues to seek to execute Thomas. It is another instance of the death penalty run amok - a cruel and increasingly unusual practice that should be put to an end.

On June 5, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in the case of Thomas, who suffers from "schizophrenia characterized by psychotic delusions and hyper-religious preoccupations." His lawyers claim he was "actively psychotic" at the time he murdered and mutilated his ex-wife, his own son and his former wife's daughter by another man, according to his attorneys and medical experts.

Incredibly, Thomas' 2 original defense attorneys never introduced evidence in his trial about Thomas' long history of mental illness, suicide attempts and visits to doctors seeking help immediately before the crime.

His appellate attorneys subsequently have raised important questions both about his competence, and about whether members of the all-white jury that sentenced him to die were biased against him on racial grounds. Thomas is African-American. His former wife was white and both children were biracial. Yet four jurors allowed to serve in his case expressed opposition to interracial marriage. One said it wasn't what God intended. Another said, "We should stay with our bloodline."

At this point, Thomas is not even seeking relief - he's just asking for a "Certificate of Appealability," a step required before the court would actually consider his case and whether to offer relief. The state is opposing that effort.

Texas should drop its appeal and agree that Thomas' sentence should be commuted to life. He should be allowed to spend the rest of his days in a jail cell where the demons of his mental illness and the pangs of his own conscience will alternately torment him [Does a person suffering from mental illness deserve to be "tormented?" A regrettable assertion in an otherwise commendable editorial. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to suggest that this inmate should spend the rest of his days in a psychiatric institution where his mental sufferings can be, if not cured, at least alleviated? - DPN]. The rest of us should contemplate what another Bible verse says about taking an eye for an eye - Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Editorial, June 4, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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