KCADP thanks Officer Tourinho for submitting this statement expressing his opposition to the use of the death penalty. We invite others to submit statements. We reserve the right to edit all submissions.
Disclosure: I have done mission work overseas. I have been a high school teacher. I am a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. I hold a M.Div. and am currently a Police Officer with the Louisville Metro Police Department.
As a Christian, I fail to understand how a nation that prides itself on being a bastion for human rights and justice, and even claims to be a Christian nation by many, is enamored by violence and death. How do we reconcile and mitigate the duality of saying through our laws that killing is wrong, yet use that same law to kill in the name of justice? Besides, in all honesty, I find that some crimes are so heinous that the “humane” executions are such an easy way to an end. A lifetime imprisoned is much more just than the alternative if the severity of the crime dictates permanent removal from society.
What should be our response when numerous erroneously convicted persons are finally released from prison after exculpatory evidence, such as DNA evidence, comes to light? Should we breathe a sigh of relief that we, as a “just” society, did not execute the prisoner in error? I cannot fathom the notion of being at peace with executing a prisoner erroneously. Any justification is immoral and the loss of even one single, innocent life ought to be unacceptable in a truly just and humane society.
How about the economic cost? It is no secret that death row has cost this country an unfathomable amount of money. For what? Retribution? Revenge? Those notions are immoral! For a sense of closure and peace, perhaps? But, anyone claiming to find peace through the death of another does not understand peace. During these uncertain economic times, this exorbitant expense is immoral.
At the risk of preaching, in John 8, the Bible tells a story of Jesus impeding the stoning and death of a woman. The story is powerful because Jesus knew two things:
- she was not the only guilty party, although the Pharisees seemed to ignore the male participant in the adulterous affair; and
- that death was final for the woman, thus offering her no opportunity for repenting.
Jesus was mostly concerned with the part of her which is eternal: her soul. The death penalty is also final, and flies in the face of Biblical principle by removing from God’s hands the final say about one’s life and placing it in the hands of us fallible human Pharisees.
There is something I find troubling as well about the death penalty and upon whom it is imposed. It seems that a homicide must occur in order for the death penalty to be exacted. But I ask, are other crimes, especially financial ones that involve people’s entire life savings, for example, not damaging beyond repair? Yet, somehow, the system finds that these types of non-violent crimes, although they completely ruin people’s lives, are not deserving of the death penalty.
Although many may consider it an unfair comparison, I assure you that, as a Police Officer, I have seen first hand how un-repair-able and devastating some non-violent crimes can be to families and citizens, and how they live out their existence just as damaged as someone who has lost a loved one due to a violent crime. Neither victim will have the peace they desire by executing the criminal. As a matter of fact, because of the extraordinarily lengthy process of necessary appeals, that lingering is often more damaging than helpful.
I have always been a lover of justice, almost as if it was “breathed” into me by Heaven. But it wasn’t until I became a Police Officer that I fully understood justice. Today, as I exercise my duty and diligence, I realize that justice is not only the arresting or prosecuting, but mostly the compassion, the admonishment, even the freeing of the undeserving through the powerful showing of grace.
Although some need to be taken to jail as a wake-up call, no one ought to lose their life as a society-at-large retribution.
As a Police Officer, I see all human life as a sacred gift, because protecting life is my greatest responsibility. I only wish others would view the sacredness of life as I do, as God does, as a truly just society would, when they refuse to succumb to the evil of taking a person’s life, no matter how “deserving” we might believe they are. In the end, and especially as a Christian, we all deserve it.
Photo: courtesy of Officer Tourinho; and Purecelestialfire.blogspot.com, a modern-day re-enactment of the story of the woman caught in adultery in York, England