For reasons unknown to me, God places the oddest people into my life. I suspect it’s to teach me something or have me grow in a specific direction from meeting them.
Two years ago I was asked by the Knight’s of Columbus to play for their annual mass on Memorial day, to honor our servicemen and women who gave their lives in the line of duty. The mass is always well attended, and was being held at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton GA. The grounds are beautiful, and overlooks the Atlanta skyline in the distance. As I was preparing to lead music for the Mass being celebrated by Archbishop Gregory, a woman came up to me wearing a white t-shirt inscribed with “I Am Troy Davis” in gigantic black lettering. She introduces herself to me, and informs me that she’s a violinist and would like to sit in with me and play the mass. [Sidebar - most musicians would NOT be open to this kind of improvisational moment.] I confirm with her that she is is capable of playing the material and she produces her violin promptly out of the trunk of her car. I guess she travels everywhere with it, lucky me. When she came back over the area where I had setup, I asked her about the detail of the t-shirt she was wearing. She goes on to explain that there’s a guy named Troy Davis locked up in prison facing execution for a murder he allegedly didn’t commit, so I’m looking at her and thinking he must have the best PR guy in the United States. Mass went beautifully, and concluded with blackhawk helicopters flying at low altitude and high speed. Pretty awesome sending forth, and yes, Troy Davis’ advocate played well…
Fast forward to now…a fellow songwriter posts on her facebook wall a link from the NAACP “Save Troy Davis”. I flash back to the violinist. Next thing I do is pop Troy Davis into Google and start reading through some of the facts in this case. It appears that Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of an off duty police officer by the name of Mark MacPhail back in 1989. He was convicted of the murder, with no physical evidence linking him to the crime. Since the time of his trial, 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony. Troy Davis is still facing execution in Georgia by lethal injection. The state of Georgia is still planning to follow through and kill Troy Davis. I believe Davis is working on his 3rd set of appeals. This is alarming to me…
I, in turn, posted the NAACP link onto my Facebook wall. A good friend of mine, who happens to be a detective with the local county sheriff, saw my post on Facebook and began a dialogue with me regarding the case. He shared with me that many times in a death penalty case, eyewitnesses will later recant their testimony out of feeling guilty for the accused facing a death sentence. Instead of continuing the dialogue on Facebook, I wanted to bring the conversation here so we could unpack our thoughts with more detail. The death penalty is one of those areas that people get really emotionally charged about, and everyone has a strong opinion. Here’s mine…
- To establish a foundation on the lens I see the world through…First and foremost, every person (and creature, but for this dialogue we’ll stick with person so the explanation and theology remains consistent) was created by God, and we were created in His image. Every person, including the drug dealers, the prostitutes, murderer’s, and even grateful dead fans…all qualify as persons created in God’s image.
- God, and God alone, has the authority and power to take a person’s earthly life, from conception through natural death.
- Killing Troy Davis, or any other criminal in the justice system of the United States is not necessary. Killing them through lethal injection or the electric chair is inhumane and feeds our culture of death. It does not bring “justice” to the family and loved one’s left behind. We are not more secure as people by the death of a criminal already contained in a maximum security prison.
- There are many examples of criminals who have been wrongly executed. How does the state apologize for this? Is the state held accountable for murder? How about the prosecutor, or the District Attorney, or the judge? Should they receive the same punishment as the one that was wrongfully executed?
- There’s a finality of taking a life, either by accident or in a deliberate act. There’s no undoing it.
One might argue that the victim had their life taken violently away, and that is true and a tragedy. Another killing won’t restore peace to the one’s left behind. It’s just another sinful and violent act, performed and justified by the state. Another stepping stone in the desensitization of God’s people.
Open to hearing your thought’s. What do you think?