What do United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China Afghanistan and the United States have in Common?
We all executed criminals in 2011.
At 6:27 on August 8th, the State of Texas murdered Marvin Wilson.
In North America, only the United States uses in Death Penalty, and in Europe all but Belarus deem it ethically unacceptable and unjust.
Marvin Wilson got a 61 on his most recent IQ test. On earlier occasions he scored in the 70's. He was smart enough to deal drugs, some argue. He was smart enough to live a life of crime, to mate with a woman -- to take a human life. Do those actions really require intelligence? I don't know.
I do know that a man with the intelligence of a child cannot adequately comprehend the law as it applies to him as a prisoner. Certainly the jails and prisons of the United States are filled with men we might deem unintelligent. No doubt many of them are ignorant of their rights. But in the case of a man whose life "the state" prepares to end, shouldn't the standard be higher? Is not the ethical burden upon the state of Texas, in Marvin Wilson's case, to be certain that he understands the nature of his crime and punishment, when the punishment is death?
There's a reason a physician does not preside over a lethal injection; the Hippocratic Oath is held sacred. There's a reason our legal system goes to great lengths to aim to provide genuine defenses and fair trials to those accused of violent crimes; to our great credit, we in the United States tend to hold the law of the land in high regard. We do not take lightly the fear of murdering a man as punishment for a crime/crimes he did not commit. There's a reason we ("the state") wind up, in some cases, with the blood of innocent men, executed in error, on our hands; we are human - we are destined, in all we do to be dogged by a margin of (human) error.
The overwhelming majority of people murdered by "the state" for crimes they -- in most (but not all) cases, do commit -- are black men for a reason; institutional racism -- in education, medicine, housing and employment -- plays a role.
There's a reason so many of us strenuously oppose Capital Punishment on quasi-religious grounds; the Death Penalty is so very universally seen by people of faith as a violation of God's law for a reason.
I take pride in the current teaching of my own (Roman Catholic) church relative to Capital Punishment. Our pope is clear in his opposition to the use of the Death Penalty; he opposes it except under rare and extraordinary circumstances in which protecting human life requires the use of it.
I find it difficult to understand how so many of my fellow Roman Catholics who comply with Catholic teaching on all else find it easy to pick and choose on the matter of the Death Penalty. It is certainly not for me to judge them in this. Our faith demands that they follow their consciences in this matter. But I puzzle over the selectivity involved in this particular picking and choosing. y feeling -- as a Catholic Christian -- is that the Death Penalty flies in the face of Catholic teaching and Christ's teaching.
Capital Punishment is no longer necessary, in the modern-day United States, to ensure that those convicted of murder will not kill again. For the most part, it is only those found to have been imprisoned erroneously who wind up escaping life sentences.
Even those who imagine that a nation that elects to execute convicts might possibly consider itself "civilized" ought to question Texas's decision to has to execute the developmentally disabled Marvin Wilson.
Would even the most fervent proponent of the Death Penalty not find the prospect of putting a child to death as punishment for violent crime unethical?
Should not the same reasoning apply in the case of a man with a child's intellectual capability?
A man with an IQ of 60 or 70 can make many contributions to the society in which he lives. A man with an IQ of 61 can be a wondrous gift to this world.
And he can be a violent menace.
But should such a man (with a mind like a child's) turn to violent crime, as Wilson did, he would would be unlikely to understand the magnitude of his crime. Once apprehended, such a man would be unlikely to have any substantive understanding of his legal rights. Such a man might seem to deserve the kind of punishment Criminal Justice systems in North Korea, China, Afghanistan deem just, and here in "the States," such a penalty might be seen as very "American" by some.
Is there any way, really, to square such an execution with the thinking promulgated by the Jesus of the Gospels?
If such a man as Marvin Wilson was a he's a beast, he was a beast with the light of God in him.
Tonight I prayed for Marvin Wilson's victims, his family --his mother -- and for the repose of Wilson's soul.
And I prayed in the name of Christ, who was himself a victim of the Death Penalty, for the state of Texas and for a nation that still lets this happen.
Follow Michele Somerville on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NYpoet