Teresa Lewis was recently executed in Virginia: the first woman in nearly 100 years to be executed in this state. Both the Virginia Governor and the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to stay her execution – even though she was found to be borderline “retarded”. She was subsequently killed for her role in killing: death for death. Ms. Lewis hired the triggermen that murdered her then husband and stepson. The pain, suffering, and immorality wrought by one act was duplicated via another act of immorality. Neither added to the shalom of the families and communities.
In less than a month after the execution of Teresa Lewis, Sam McCroskey was sentenced to life in prison for bludgeoning to death four people. Why was Ms. Lewis executed when Mr. McCroskey was given life in prison? In fact, why were the triggermen hired by Ms. Lewis given life in prison rather than execution? Hmmm… Take a look at the Richmond Times Dispatch article, Many Factors Figure in Death Penalty Cases, then read on.
Killing is killing and immoral acts are immoral acts – regardless of whether the acts are done with or without legal sanction and precedence. And, as the article states, justice and morality are not measured equitably. Rather, justice is often imposed with great unilateral and punitive force upon the far less than powerful by the extraordinarily powerful.
It is troubling to see that, in America, justice is increasingly perceived of and acted out as “punishing” immoral acts: doing something to others that one would not want done to one’s self. Justice is manifested in American society as “an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth” justice. Yet, even those who are empowered (i.e. legislators, judges, juries, prosecuting and defense attorneys, and executioners) to assert dominating, unilateral power over others are themselves often laden with, unrepentant for, and suffer with their own unjust and immoral acts: not to mention the suffering of their victims. For a good discussion of punitive and restorative justice, Sylvia Clute writes about the differences between punitive and “unitive” justice in her blog Genuine Justice.
It is likely that the intense pain and suffering inflicted on a victim’s family members is just as poignant and debilitating as the pain and suffering inflicted on family members of the victimizer. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Imagine the suffering and immorality wrought by our having a hand in killing by execution (even swiftly) an innocent person and doing so legally in the name of “punishment” and “vengeful” justice against a “perceived” criminal: DNA testing has already confirmed that we are guilty of convicting and killing innocent victims.
Perhaps, as we seek the shalom of our cities and communities, our best energies, resources, and morality would most benefit individuals, families, and communities if they (we) directed ourselves toward healing our great divides and not doing to others that which we would not want done to ourselves. Seek the shalom of the city to which I have sent you; for in its shalom you will find your shalom (Jeremiah 29:7).