Redeeming contact

This is a quick post to direct you over to Ruth Graham’s interesting piece in The New York Times about a man on death row who is trying to get permission (through a lawsuit) for his pastor to lay hands on him before he is killed.

Sister Helen Prejean is quoted in the article as an advocate for the inalienable dignity even of criminals saying, “You uphold the dignity of the human being, that everyone is worth more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”

One thing that I find striking about this story is the spectrum of human contact.

The prisoner, John Henry Ramirez, stabbed a man named Pablo Castro 29 times. In a robbery that yielded $1.25, Ramirez slit Castro’s throat and stabbed his head, neck, and shoulders.

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How human he was

Although it was half a lifetime ago for me, I remember watching the film Dead Man Walking in a high school religious studies class. I also remember that this single film affected me deeply and challenged whatever limited thoughts I had had on the death penalty at that point.

Now that I am currently in Texas, I took the occasion to read this fascinating transcript of a conversation between Debbie Morris, Helen Prejean, and Rabbi Elie Spitz on Krista Tippett’s program On Being.

As the moment of the man’s execution approached, Morris said:

Debbie Morris was abducted and raped by a man who was eventually killed by capital punishment. In the interview, she discusses her ambivalence about his execution and describes her reason for wanting her perpetrator dead as having been motivated more by fear of him than out of a desire for revenge.

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