To the Editor:
I am thankful for Gov. Fallin’s executive order that grants an indefinite stay for Richard Glossip. I disagree with her contention, however, that justice has been delayed. The purpose of the criminal justice system should be public safety; that goal is served when violent offenders are segregated from society. Justin Sneed and Richard Glossip have been incarcerated for the past 18 years; if they would still threaten public safety by being freed, then justice is being served.
For the state to use its coercive power to strap a defenseless prisoner to a chair and poison him until his heart stops is not justice, it is violence conducted by the state. It does not make society safer; it makes it more violent. It condones the use of violence to appease the base desire for retribution. It violates the core values of the Sermon on the Mount.
I hope that the stay will allow Glossip’s defense team to gather exonerating evidence to produce to a court. Glossip’s case is compelling to many people because there is a reasonable possibility that he is innocent of the crime for which he is convicted. There are other prisoners on death row. They have little or no hope of convincing an appeals court that they are innocent. I also oppose killing these men through violence conducted by the state.
God does not give up on people and neither should we. When Cain committed the first murder, God separated him from society instead of executing him. Cain went on to found the first city. King David and St. Paul committed murders, but God did not judge them by the worst moments of their lives. God believed that they were still capable of doing good for other people. The saints believe that there is a little bit of Christ in every person. When the state executes a prisoner, it is crucifying Christ all over again.
I encourage Governor Fallin and the leadership of the legislature to introduce and pass a bill next session to abolish the death penalty in Oklahoma and to stay all executions until this bill is enacted. It will help bring real justice to Oklahoma.
Don Heath is co-pastor at Edmond Trinity Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).