Randy Steidl is one of 20 men who've been exonerated and released from Illinois' death row in recent years. Last Tuesday, he and I sat just a few feet apart when the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 3539 — repealing the state's irretrievably broken death penalty system.
The Senate vote on Tuesday was a result of a lot of hard work and advocacy by Illinois ACLU members and the general public--every email, every visit with a legislator, every phone call contributed to this legislative victory.
The above is from Ed Yohnka's "Act Now! Push Death Penalty Repeal in Illinois Past the Finish Line" (ACLU Blog of Rights). This is an issue we work on in one of my Church groups. I don't think I've ever written about the death penalty, however.
My religion and I conflict on many things (I am pro-choice, I am pro-marriage equality, etc, etc) but one thing we agree on is that the death penalty is immoral. I really do not believe that we have the right to execute anyone.
I can give you many ethical and/or moral reasons for my stand. However, equally true is who I am.
Who am I? I'm the person who, before the leaving the house, has to go into the kitchen and check to make sure all the stove dials are turned off. If I do not check -- or if I forget I checked (I usually say, "Trina, you checked!" as I leave the kitchen) -- I have to turn around and come back home. (I have never left them on; however, my oldest sister did burn her kitchen once by accident due to not knowing she'd left a burner on -- since then I've had to check before leaving.)
What does that have to do with anything?
I can make mistakes. And I know I make mistakes all the time.
I don't think I'm anything special or that different from most people. And I'm just not comfortable deciding to put someone to death for a crime. What if we don't have all the evidence? What if we convict wrongly?
I'm someone who turns the car around before I make it down the block unless I know I checked to make sure all the burners were turned off.
We make mistakes. And, if you're paying attention the last few years, you've heard the stories: DNA has proven that many people -- including prisoners on death row -- were actually innocent despite their convictions. How do you get that back? How do you make up for that?
You can't. And I'm talking about if the person's alive. Imagine if the person's dead. Imagine if you were a juror who convicted based on the best evidence possible. And ten years later, DNA tests proved you wrong but the man was put to death by the state or died in prison from illness or violence. How would you get over that?
I wouldn't. That's me.