Monday, September 19, 2011

The Christian Executioner

“You gotta be for life. I mean, how do you get up every morning and look yourself in the mirror and not be for life?” Rick Perry, Feb 3, 2010, speaking as a guest on the TBN program Praise The Lord.

If I could, I would use Perry’s words against him, and ask him: “How do you get up every morning and look yourself in the mirror?”

Perry was speaking about abortion, but life is life--there aren’t degrees thereof. As Rick Perry continues to flaunt his faith while flouting the Word upon which that faith is based, I am going to wield that Word against him. I have already provided biblical proof that he is a hypocrite and a false prophet; now his hands may well be awash with innocent blood.

If Perry were Christian, as he constantly claims, he would pray the scriptures into his heart and rely on them for governing.

The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. 2 Samuel 23:3.

But Rick Perry is fearlessly unjust. Particularly gruesome is the alacrity with which he imposes capital punishment, and there exists the distinct likelihood that he’s put at least one innocent man to death.

Cameron Todd Willingham was involved in a horrific fire in his home in Corsicana, Texas on December 23, 1991. The blaze killed his three daughters, twins aged one and a two year old. Police and investigators became convinced Willingham had deliberately set the fire and he was eventually convicted of murder. The story is riveting, and I highly recommend reading about the details and the evidence in the excellent article Trial By Fire, by David Grann, which first appeared in The New Yorker, September 7, 2009.

Much like the advances in dna science and crime scene investigation, technology and understanding of arson forensics really took off in the 1990’s, and in the ensuing years quickly disproved and outdated many of the accepted arson investigation techniques and conclusions that were pivotal in convicting Willingham. That coupled with less than credible witnesses and the testimony of ‘experts’ who really were not, placed in this reader's mind anyway, very distinct reasonable doubt.

As I imagined myself in Perry’s shoes considering clemency for Willingham, and turning to Christ for guidance, this scripture came to mind: If ye had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ ye would not have condemned the innocent. Matthew 12:7

With a chill in my spine, I would have turned Willingham over to God, and let him live. With a chill in his heart, Perry turned himself into a god, and put Willingham to death.

There are countless stories of innocent victims executed throughout history. Since 1976 more than 130 people on death row have been exonerated. Inmates being freed after serving many years of long sentences--having had their convictions overturned by dna testing--are now an almost weekly event in this country. In 2000, after thirteen death row exonerations, then governor of Illinois, George Ryan, wisely suspended the death penalty. There are thousands of examples of innocent people who've been wrongly convicted of various crimes, and a Christian ruler would have taken this fact into consideration when weighing the Willingham case.

Another consideration is fiscal. According to the Trial By Fire article, ‘because of the expense of litigation and the appeals process, it costs, on average, $2.3 million to execute a prisoner in Texas—about three times the cost of incarcerating someone for forty years.’ As Perry gouges his state’s budget, by my calculations he has spent over half a billion dollars putting 235 inmates to death over his decade as governor. Do you think God is really pleased that poor children are going hungry and being deprived of education while this ‘pro-life’ hypocrite spends hundreds of millions usurping God's authority by executing men and women, some of whom might well have been innocent--allegedly?

Notwithstanding all these mitigating factors, Perry still chose to have the needleful of poison plunged into Willingham on February 17, 2004. A spokesman for Perry said: “The governor made his decision based on the facts of the case.” Yet that's not where Perry's complicity in this seemingly unjust death ends. It seems there was a coverup.

Just weeks before Willingham’s execution, highly respected scientist and fire investigator Gerald Hurst began to scrutinize the case. He quickly came to realize the conviction was rife with flaws. According to the Trial By Fire article, ‘A Texas prosecutor once told the Chicago Tribune, of Hurst, “If he says it was an arson fire, then it was. If he says it wasn’t, then it wasn’t.”’ Hurst said the Willingham fire wasn’t arson. After reading Hurst’s report on the case, Attorney Barry Scheck said: “The only reasonable conclusion is that the governor’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles ignored scientific evidence.”

In 2005 the state of Texas established a commission--Texas Forensic Science Commission--to investigate allegations of misconduct in the fields of forensics. With regard to the Willingham case, they reached out to fire scientist Craig Bayler and asked him to look into it and file an independent report. He came to the same conclusion as Gerald Hurst--that the Willingham fire was not a result of arson. Bayler was scheduled to present his findings to the commission on October 2, 2009. Two days before that, Governor Perry abruptly removed three members of the panel looking into the Willingham fire. Perry then appointed a longtime political ally, Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley to replace Sam Bassett as the head of the nine member Texas Forensic Science Commission. Bradley immediately employed a number of underhanded bureaucratic maneuvers to effectively scuttle the investigation by turning it into a political circus. Perry has acted more like someone with something to hide than a Christian yearning to uncover the truth, however ugly. To read more about Perry's role in squashing the commission's efforts, here is an excellent article. There is also a documentary about the Willingham case called: Incendiary: The Willingham Case.

Willingham maintained his innocence to his death. His final words were: “I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do. From God’s dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne.”

Every Christian actually familiar with the word of God knows that it is written in scripture: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD. Romans 12:19

Had Perry heeded that scripture, and erred on the side of life, and Willingham were guilty, he would have gotten what he deserved. But if Willingham was innocent, then Perry is guilty, and Willingham’s cries for vengeance will be acknowledged, and Perry will answer.

P.S. Governor Perry, Since the supreme court overruled the death order you signed for Cleve Foster, and he isn't being added to the reaper's harvest tonight, maybe Georgia Governor Nathan Deal could have you over tomorrow for the Troy Davis execution. There's a strong possibility Davis is innocent too.

2 comments:

  1. People like Perry only care about life before it's born. Once you're out and breathing, they don't give a damn.

    Perry is one of those Christians who doesn't seem to have grasped the fact that there's a New Testament in the bible. Ambrose Bierce described people like him admirably:

    Christian, n: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

    I dreamed I stood upon a hill and lo!
    The godly multitudes walked to and fro
    Beneath in Sabbath garments fitly clad,
    With pious mien, appropriately sad,
    While all the church bills made a solemn din –
    a fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
    Then I saw gazing thoughtfully below,
    With tranquil face, upon that holy show
    A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
    Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light
    “God keep you stranger,” I exclaimed =. “You are
    No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar;
    And yet I entertain the hope that you,
    Like these good people are a Christian too.”
    He raised his eyes and with a look so stern
    It made me with a thousand blushes burn
    Replied – his manner with disdain was spiced:
    “What! I, a Christian? No, indeed! I’m Christ.”

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  2. There is a problem when we conflate abortion with the death penalty: scripture actually says that both are all right. There was no problem with abortion in the O.T. and abortifacients were not anathema to the religion of the ancient desert warlord tribes. Only with the Pauline-Constantine institution of Christianity did these things become dogmatically forbidden to the result that thousands of old wise women ("witches," whose actual crime of "consorting with the devil" was helping women out) were burned, using as kindling all the "fagots" one could round up. The RCC today comes down hard on abortion but says hardly a word about legalized murder of the living. I think it's kind of hypocritical.

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