The Last Post for a While

One last post before I go.

Jimmy Ray Slaughter was executed Tuesday. There was no hue and cry from conservative Christians. Dawn Eden was silent. As was The New Pantaguel , Media Culpa, Mere Comment , Peggy Noonan , and almost every other commentator now trying to save Teri Schiavo's life.

Slaughter's death went unnoticed, despite the fact that, as Greg Horton points out, the detective who led the investigation against Slaughter thinks his innocent, Slaughter had an alibi, and DNA evidence that might have exonerated Slaughter was not allowed at appeal, and "all DNA and lab evidence used against him used testing methods that have subsequently been discredited."

"Dennis Dill, a retired Edmond police office and initial lead investigator on the case, also concedes Slaughter may be innocent. He reportedly stated if the state were to carry out the execution, they will be killing an innocent man. 'If they do this, they might just as well take him out and lynch him,' Dill stated. He contends he was taken off the case because he didn’t feel the investigation was being conducted properly and that police had wrongly focused on Slaughter to the exclusion of other suspects."

Horton put it, it was as if the state of Oklahoma wanted to just kill 'em and make 'em go away."

If there is a lesson from Terri Schiavo's death, it's this. The justice system does not protect the innocent.

For example, it's not suprising that the Supreme Court did not intervene in Terri's case—after all, one the prime conservatives on the court, Justice Scalia, said at a conference on the death penalty, "for the believing Christian, death is no big deal." Here's the rest of his quote: " Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next? The Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: “Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God.” And when Cranmer asks whether he is sure of that, More replies, “He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to Him.” For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!"

Scalia's point was that, in the big scheme of things, there's no tragedy for someone who was put to death unjustly. It's not an opinion that would prompt a justice to intervene to save the life of someone who is innocent.

Terri Schiavo's case, while tragic, is also a cop out for conservatives. She's easy to love and to champion--she's white, a woman, defenseless. A black man, or a white man, on death row, is not easy to love. Their lives are a mess, and they aren't innocent--they've sinned, been arrested, often been violent. Still, they often haven't been guilty of the crimes they were sentenced to death for, at least here in Illinios. During the years Illinois had the death penalty, more people were exonerated and set free from death row than were actually executed. (See the Tribune report for the sordid details.)

And those on death row were "the lucky ones," Scalia said during that same death penalty conference. Those sentence to life in prison often have no one to plead their case, no resources for appeal. Some are guilty--but those that aren't are trapped in a system that shuts the door behind them and locks the key.

One sad fact of the Illinois death penalty scandal. No conservative Christian voice was raised to "set the captives free." Outgoing Governor George Ryan was criticized by conservatives in his party when he cleared out Illinois's death row--convinced that the sytem was broken, and that there was not enough certainty for the death penalty to go forwards.

When Terry Shiavo is dead, thousands of inmates will remain on death row in the US. Some of them are likely innocent. And the conservative, "save Terri" movement will pass them by on the other side.


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