by Marilynn Knott..
On January 29 we the people will execute Richard Eugene Glossip for allegedly paying Justin Sneed to kill Barry Van Treese in 1997. I say allegedly because it was essentially Glossip’s word against Sneed’s regarding the murder. The courts found that Mr. Sneed was the person who did the killing. He negotiated a life sentence by implicating Mr. Glossip. Mr. Glossip has always strongly asserted his innocence. The one who committed the murder was sentenced to life in prison; the one alleged to have paid for the murder got the death penalty. That is the way of our justice system. It is apparently legal, but it is not right and, therefore, it is not justice. When there is not enough information to find truth, all suffer. When innocent people are found guilty, the public remains unprotected.
As a matter of my faith convictions, I do not believe we humans have the right to render the final judgment of a death sentence on anyone whether they committed a murder or any other crime. Every person, I believe, will have to stand before God at some point and God has the job of ultimate judgment. Government does have the responsibility for protecting the public and that may result in people being removed from freedom of access to the public while they enter into reform programs. As a Christian, I am called to love all of God’s children and to work toward all of God’s children, including me and all those prisoners, becoming the persons God created us to be.
There are also many well documented reasons to question whether the death penalty actually does any good. Several studies in other states show that the death penalty costs more money than life in prison, other studies indicate the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to crime, and the death penalty is clearly unequally applied, impacting the poor, who cannot afford quality legal services, more than the wealthy.
Such arguments of reason and applied social science generally do not phase the thinking of proponents of the death penalty. Neither do religious arguments because we can all pull our favorite scriptures out to prove just about any side of an argument when our point of view has already been ingrained. I actually have wondered what stance Jesus would take regarding the death penalty having experienced capital punishment himself as a completely innocent man.
While I do not believe anyone should be executed, it bothers me greatly that we are planning to execute a man when there is ample reason to question whether he was involved in the crime at all. I do not know whether Mr. Sneed was truthful or not. I do know desperate people do desperate things to save their lives. I do know that I do not want to be counted among we the people who execute when there is any question of possible innocence.