I woke up this morning thinking about Ronnie Lee Gardner, a man I didn't know existed until about a week ago. He was executed shortly after midnight for a murder he committed over 25 years ago in Utah.
For some reason, this news story has had an impact on me. It might be the documentary I heard this week on NPR about the life of an executioner. It talked to prison officials, guards, and clergy who have been involved in executions in Texas. It brought a very personal element to the practice of capitol punishment. It made me look at this issue from their perspective - talking to the condemned, walking with them, praying with them. It gave a glimpse into the life of the condemned in their last days as they face their own mortality.
This week I have spent time reflecting on my feelings about capitol punishment. Truly, I'm ambivalent. I believe in justice, accountability, and owning up to your choices. I also believe in mercy, that people who desire, can change. I believe in second chances.
But do those who have committed the most horrendous of crimes deserve mercy? Do those who take another life deserve anything other than swift justice? I believe that God should be the only one to take life. Sadly, some use their agency to make that decision for God. In those cases, it is just to say "An eye for an eye!" or should we leave that choice & judgement in the hands of God? I'm just not sure.
Gardner was executed by firing squad, which I think is kind of barbaric. I think lethal injection is the more humane way, but that could just be my personal aversion to guns. I suppose that I think the ending of a life should be a solemn (IE quiet) event. A loud gun shot contradicts that notion. Apparently he was given options for how he wanted to be executed, and he choose by firing squad.
Are you ever considered the psychological toll it must be for those marksmen? I hope our system offers them counseling or some other means to cope. What are your thoughts? Is this a cut and dry issue to you or are you, like me, ambivalent?
1 week ago