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Waiting for death

Reactions to some things said during a week of waiting to learn if there would be an execution on July 5.

by and

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To the governor of Arkansas, my brother in Christ: I was startled by the hateful comments you and your staff made about a condemned man who was not asking you for clemency. You ignored his respectful request that you open the execution process so that citizens can see the executions. If they are to be a deterrent, this is only common sense.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” By that, He didn’t mean for us to kill them. I respect your different interpretation and your sense of obligation to choose the dates for men to die, but I wonder why such acts by you are not accompanied by prayerful and regretful comments. Instead, this week you snarled like a cur and spewed forth venom like a serpent. You made it clear that you regard the death penalty as revenge rather than justice, and you expressed a desire that government discard the constitution and act like criminals in administering revenge. I know of three places in the Bible where God makes it very clear that revenge is His job, not ours. Remember, my brother: There is no Christian way to kill a person.

All family members of murder victims (including myself,) consider the murder to be savage, dear brother. Jane Daniel, who was killed by Don Davis, was a much beloved woman in the town where I live. What you know about her murder is only speculation by police and prosecutors. They were not present, and you were not present, and Don Davis never described to them what happened. It is bizarre for you to claim personal knowledge of things only God and Don Davis know.

If you did even a cursory review of the disposition of capital murder cases, my brother, you would see that it is not used as the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crime.

Plea bargains are arranged in most cases, making the death penalty an ax over the head of the accused rather than a penalty.

You will find that most perpetrators of the most heinous crimes are not on Death Row because they were offered plea bargains or could hire personal attorneys. They serve life without parole or less.

Arkansas simply uses no fair and uniform standards for seeking the death penalty.

You can’t possibly think that African-Americans are worse murderers than white murderers, especially when white people commit most of the murders. Yet our death row is 62.8 percent African-American.

You can’t possibly believe that the current use of the death penalty as euthanasia for severely mentally ill people is a mark of a civilized state.

You can’t possibly think it is fair that the IQ measure of mental retardation is different for giving a death penalty than the IQ measure used in our schools and our developmentally disabled programs.

You can’t possibly think that poor people commit worse murders than those with financial resources. But our Death Row indicates that poor people are the worst.

With the exonerations of 123 innocent people who lived on death rows for many years in this country, you can’t possibly believe in the infallibility of police, prosecutors, juries and judges. Do you know how many innocent men live on Arkansas’s Death Row? Do you know how many innocent people have already been executed in Arkansas?

There is, of course, a solid alternative to the death penalty, one that is justice, not revenge. It is life without parole. Many men currently on death row prefer death to life without parole.

Finally, I ask that in setting future execution dates, please be sensitive to state employees who work with death row inmates and those who will be involved in carrying out the executions, by setting a date not in close proximity to a major holiday.

• To Dina Tyler, spokeswoman for the Department of Correction: It is astonishing that you believe opening a curtain for witnesses to see a human strapped to a gurney with tubes running into his/her arms provides dignity to the condemned. Nothing about an execution provides dignity. Its only purpose is to end a life. Allowing the witnesses and the media to view and record visually and audibly the entire execution, including the entrance of the condemned inmate into the execution chamber, the strapping of him/her to the gurney, the insertion of needles and tubes into his/her body, provides better information to the public. If you do not want the people of Arkansas to be able to view this, say that you think it is important to keep it hidden; don’t claim you are protecting the dignity of the condemned.

• To Brenda Turner, chief of staff for Governor Huckabee: If I worked for a governor with presidential aspirations, and a Death Row inmate in his final days, who was not asking the governor for clemency, invited him to visit, I would strongly urge that governor to take advantage of such a rare opportunity, both for enhancing that governor’s gutsy and compassionate image and for his own knowledge.

Betsey Wright lives in Rogers. A former chief of staff to Gov. Bill Clinton, she’s an active death penalty opponent and regularly visits inmates on Death Row, including Don Davis, whose execution was stayed by a federal judge.

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