Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Update: The killing never stops

Yes, it's a broken record. But once again the State of Texas has seen fit to murder an inmate in a futile attempt to go back in time.

Ronnie Threadgill was the latest victim of the Texas killing machine and the 496th since capital punishment was reinstated by the US Supreme Court in 1976. But try as they might, officials with the state were unsuccessful in traveling back in time to April 15, 2001. Mr. Threadgill's victim, Dexter McDonald, is as dead today as he was that night.

According to Thane Rosenbaum the victim of the crime has been made morally whole. And, if they feel like Mr. Rosenbaum says they should feel, they elected to show it by not attending the state-sponsored murder of Mr. Threadgill. Just what does that have to say about the retributive "justice" theory that Mr. Rosenbaum espouses and projects on society as a whole?

The McDonald's lost a son that night. That is a wound that can never be healed. The pain and sorrow may fade and weaken over time - but they will never go away. Killing Mr. Threadgill won't make it go away any more than it will bring Mr. McDonald back to life.

Jeff Gamso wrote a very thought provoking piece the other day about mercy. His thesis is that true mercy is shown when it is bestowed on those who least deserve it. Now, getting away from this fallacy that anyone does or doesn't deserve mercy or whatever travails they've had to deal with, his sentiment is correct.
To whom is it most worthy to bestow grace, to be merciful? To the innocent? To the good? No, there's nothing to that. It should be done, of course, but it's easy. Grace is hard.  It asks a lot of us, of the giver.  It asks that she give freely and openly because she recognizes that, as we were taught as children, it is better to give than to receive.  
And so the best gift, the noblest, and the most honest, clemency in its truest form is for those who least deserve it. Clemency for Steven Smith would be an extraordinary gift precisely because his is such a tough case. And how much better we would be as a state if we were willing to bestow it on him. This is who we are, it would say, we are a decent people who look upon the frog and see the prince, upon the foul and see the fair, upon the ugly and see the beautiful.
It's easy to get behind the movement to block an execution of a man or woman whom we have come to learn is innocent. It's also easy to get behind the movement for an inmate who, due to mental retardation, is unable to comprehend what is happening to him. It's much harder to fight for an end to the death penalty when the inmate has an extensive felony record and was seen firing the shot that ultimately killed Mr. McDonald.

Mr. Threadgill was, by all accounts, a bad man. He had a very rough childhood. I don't know how to quantify it, but the circumstances surrounding his youth played a role in his criminal activity. He grew up with demons and never found a way to get rid of them.

But that's no reason to kill. Next week there will be two more men strapped down to the gurney in Huntsville. And there will continue to be men strapped down in the weeks and months ahead. Their deaths will accomplish nothing either.

It is time we show mercy to the worst among us. It is well past time to commute the death sentences of those on Death Row to life (or, as Jeff would say, death) in prison.

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