To the Editor:
Richard Glossip is on Oklahoma Death Row for murder. He is facing an execution date that is quickly approaching. There are too many inconsistencies to move on, unimpeded toward the taking of his life. I have had an opportunity to hear much of the detail of this case and personally experienced the presence of Sister Helen Prejean, Glossip’s spiritual advisor. It is hard to imagine how this case has gotten this far with the many gaps in what one would call “solid evidence” to warrant the death penalty.
I have been involved in the abolition of the death penalty for many years. As a pastor for almost thirty years I began this interest when I was asked to hear about the use of capital punishment on minors and quickly got involved in having that abolished. There are surely and unashamedly theological principles involved in my opinion. It is simply the fact that humans can’t give life and so humans do not have the right to take life. I am aware of those horrendous situations of misguided, mental deranged and just furiously angry people who commit these acts, and would make it seem that capital punishment is warranted. The gift of life is still beyond our understanding.
I am not lost in the preaching that was so much a part of my life and the foundational theory of forgiveness that drives me. It is the power of life and the beauty of life that captivates me. Celebrating it at birth and at death is part of the journey of life, even when it is, in our estimation truncated by the decisions and actions of others.
Let me share what I said at a previous news conference held at the state Capitol on July 13, 2015, on this case:
Exodus 20:13 simply say: “Thou shalt not kill!” It seems to me we are more concerned with having the Ten Commandments on the Capitol property than we are in having them in our hearts. As a Pastor and Chaplain for over 30 years, I grieve with the families of those who have lost loved ones at the hands of those found guilty by the due process of the court, yet the commandment still stands. I am ashamed at the use of Capital punishment where mental health diagnosis is a distinct probability.
The commandment still stands. I am disturbed at the re-occurrence of courts arriving at guilty verdicts of murder with a death sentence attached being overturned due to mistakes and willful misleading conduct. The commandment still stands. I am horrified at botched attempts at carrying out the verdict, which are inhumane at their best. The commandment still stands. As a legislator I am guided by the law of the land but commanded by a higher law. The commandment still stands.
I want my state to be better than those who commit acts of injustice and respond with humane actions. My prayer is that no matter what happens in my life or to my wife, son, daughter or grandsons, I would stand before you and repeat the refrain: the commandment still stands. The Commandments were knocked over right outside, but I’m told they are back up again.
Let’s live what we preach and love with a purpose. The commandment still stands: Thou shalt not kill.
Rep. George E. Young, Sr.
Dr. George E. Young, Sr., is an Oklahoma state representative (D –Oklahoma) and a former minister at Holy Temple Baptist Church