Dead Man Walking Capital Punishment Essay

Dead Man Walking Capital Punishment Essay-38
We won’t indulge in simple categories of “for” or “against.” Instead we’ll consult a rabbi on the context of the Bible’s command to take `an eye for an eye.’ We’ll ask how a deeper look at ideas such as forgiveness and justice might enlarge our public deliberation.Later in this hour, I’ll speak with Sister Helen Prejean, the author of the acclaimed book, in which she described her experiences as a spiritual adviser to several men on death row. The death penalty is often brought to public attention through horrific stories such as hers. TIPPETT: Where did that take you then, that new thought? MORRIS: That took me back to a distant memory and a distant feeling of what had given me the greatest sense of peace that I had ever known in my life.

We won’t indulge in simple categories of “for” or “against.” Instead we’ll consult a rabbi on the context of the Bible’s command to take `an eye for an eye.’ We’ll ask how a deeper look at ideas such as forgiveness and justice might enlarge our public deliberation.Later in this hour, I’ll speak with Sister Helen Prejean, the author of the acclaimed book, in which she described her experiences as a spiritual adviser to several men on death row. The death penalty is often brought to public attention through horrific stories such as hers. TIPPETT: Where did that take you then, that new thought? MORRIS: That took me back to a distant memory and a distant feeling of what had given me the greatest sense of peace that I had ever known in my life.

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Two decades after that experience, Debbie Morris wrote her own memoir entitled , but she did not rush to forgiveness. And it’s one thing to stand back and talk about it; it’s quite different when that date is actually set and you know that on this date, on December 28th, 1984, this person is going to cease to be alive. TIPPETT: And I believe that that day on which he died was a turning point for you, and I wonder if you would just take me through what you experienced on that day and that night on which Robert Willie died. MORRIS: It’s taken a while even for me to totally understand that. ’ You know, `Boy, that’s going to be a day to celebrate.’ And I just would sort of nod and say, `Yeah, I,’ you know, `I guess.’ And I kept wondering `What is wrong with me? Really, I guess, I let myself off the hook, and there was a sense of relief immediately that came with that. MORRIS: I think it means trading away the hate and being filled up with something better for me.

First, her story illuminates the impulse behind the existence of the death penalty, the very human desire of victims and their families to seek survival and healing in retribution. MORRIS: In the midst of the two days that I spent with these two men, you know, while we were in the middle of the abduction and the rapes, what I felt was just rage and helplessness, I think. TIPPETT: And what about the instincts of your family members? MORRIS: Oh, I mean, take what I was feeling and multiply it by, like, 100 or 1,000 for my dad. TIPPETT: So when Robert Willie was sentenced to death, did you believe at that point that that would help you find the peace that you were seeking? MORRIS: I was conflicted about it from the beginning. TIPPETT: Were you able ever to stop fearing him while he was still alive? All of a sudden something was going to happen, or at least we all thought that that’s probably what was going to happen. And then it doesn’t always look like immediate recovery, immediate healing. Yeah, I definitely think that it means that I have to relinquish the hate.

I hated these two men, and I hated them for a long time. My emotions said that I would prefer this man be dead. Just because you decide to forgive, it doesn’t mean it’s going to automatically happen. You have to do it in your head first, having faith that your heart’s going to follow. You know, you need to say, you know, `God, help me forgive this person. TIPPETT: And still, you know, what are we talking about? Are you changing the way you think about him or what he did to you? Does it mean that, you know, I would have lunch with him? I think I would have always feared Robert Lee Willie and he would not have been a safe person for me to ever see and go through that process with, for me to, you know, to openly, overtly, you know, go through the act of forgiveness with.

It took a long time for me to begin to consider something like forgiveness. He had escaped from the local jail in the past when he was incarcerated there, and I was fearful that he would escape from jail again. I don’t exactly remember when the hate and the revenge stopped. TIPPETT: Was that while Robert Willie was still alive you were able to stop hating him? I think that some forgiveness is not done with the other person.

The American public supports the principle of capital punishment, but there is a growing consensus among Jewish and Christian thinkers — across traditional liberal/conservative lines — that it should be abolished in this country or suspended while the system for imposing it is made more just.

Reflections on justice, forgiveness, and the nature of God shed new light on America’s death penalty debate.Don’t let me wake up and find him standing over me. TIPPETT: You know, I think when I read your book and hear you talking about it, your fear is so understandable and so compelling that it almost puts all those arguments for or against the morality of putting this man to death to one side. There’s not immediate total complete healing; that’s going to be a process. Even in the midst of that, she experienced him as a damaged and underdeveloped human being. Studies have documented that a high percentage of death row convicts suffer from untreated mental and emotional disabilities stemming often from childhood poverty, abuse and neglect.Years after her abduction, Debbie Morris began to reflect on such statistics differently.By contrast, in recent years there’s been a striking convergence of Christian, Jewish and other religious groups, both conservative and liberal.Many are calling for an end to the death penalty or a moratorium until its application can be made more just.And one day I realized that if Robert Lee Willie had been a student in my school — you know, he had had a history of having learning problems and such — he would have been in my classroom, and he would have walked through my classroom door every day, and I would have put my arm around him, and I would have hugged him. I am not to the point that I think that all executions, all capital punishment is necessarily wrong.I always try to look back to the Bible, you know, for my information, and I think that there are definitely places where it shows that capital punishment was condoned by God.However, we have really messed up that whole system, I think. You know, because of the different ways the laws are written in different states and all, it’s sort of if you don’t have the death penalty, then you’re not sure that somebody’s going to even be in prison for life.The way that we are doing capital punishment in this country today is wrong, it’s unfair, and we have made so many mistakes. TIPPETT: You know, as I’ve looked at this whole issue and the whole complex of issues around it, it feels to me like there are problems in the justice system and issues that have to do with the way that the media covers this kind of thing that may harass victims of crime and push them into a position of needing capital punishment. That fear accompanied with the emotional reaction of what has happened to somebody for it to even be a death penalty matter, there’s been a horrible crime and there is, you know, there’s a victim that we feel we need, you know, we need to do justice for, and so the emotional aspects of that, I think, take over a lot of times.CHRISTY HOLLOWELL: There’s always two sides to a story, and each, I guess, believes what they’re saying.But the fact of the matter is is that Ronnie killed my uncle.

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