Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crist: 'Justice requires it'

Paul Flemming
News Journal capital bureau

TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Charlie Crist is solemn, yet certain, as the hour approaches for the first execution from a death warrant he signed.

Child rapist and murderer Mark Dean Schwab is set to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Schwab would be the 65th prisoner executed in Florida since the death penalty resumed more than three decades ago, the first in the state in 18 months after a moratorium following a lethal injection that went awry, and the first execution of Crist's administration.

"It's very difficult. I feel the weight of that duty," Crist said in a telephone interview this afternoon. "Yet I understand that justice requires it."

Schwab's attorneys have filed a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to delay the execution. Crist said he expects the court to reject it.

"It's properly the most solemn thing the administration undertakes. We approach six o'clock with great seriousness" and understanding of what it represents to the family of victims and the justice it delivers to them, Crist said.

Crist witnessed an execution in 1998, while he was a state senator then known as Chain-Gang Charlie for his strict law-and-order policies. Leo Jones, convicted of the 1981 sniper shooting of Jacksonville police officer Thomas Szafranski, was executed March 24, 1998, in Florida's electric chair.

"My purpose was that I had spoken in favor of the death penalty and I wanted to see what it was. I thought it was the appropriate thing, as a state senator at the time, to do."

In 2000, Florida established lethal injection as the state's first choice for carrying out the death sentence after a series of mishaps with the electric chair, including condemned prisoners bursting into flames.

"One of the things I took away from it -- I drove over from Tallahassee, I knew I was going the next day, it was hard to sleep that night before -- but it was administered professionally," Crist said of Jones's execution.

Lethal injection, too, has had difficulties. Schwab's execution would be Florida's first since the botched lethal injection of Angel Diaz in December 2006. The needles that deliver the lethal three-drug cocktail missed Diaz's veins and sent the poison instead into his muscles. Diaz took about 34 minutes to die, more than twice as long as executions earlier that year.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush declared a moratorium on executions and named a commission to study Florida's methods. That group, and the courts, last year approved new protocols that increase personnel and training for lethal injection and include safeguards that aim to assure the condemned prisoner is fully unconscious.

Crist said he has confidence in the new procedures.

"The department has worked very hard with others to develop appropriate protocols. I have faith and confidence," Crist said.

Florida's Roman Catholic bishops last week called on Crist to stop Schwab's execution, as they do before all executions.

"I've prayed about it," Crist said. "I'm sympathetic to their point of view, of course. I respect it. I have a different point of view. This is how I feel."

Crist has not called the family of Junny Rios-Martinez, the 11-year-old Cocoa boy that Schwab abducted, raped and murdered. Crist said he asked his staff if the family had asked to hear from him. They had not, Crist said, and so he has not reached out.

Crist will be in his Capitol office this evening, on a dedicated phone line to the death chamber at Florida State Prison where Schwab will be executed. Crist and his staff will monitor the execution from there and certify the death warrant he first signed last year before a U.S. Supreme Court state delayed Schwab's sentence in November.


1 comment:

dudleysharp said...

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000, from no. 2 at http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx

"At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment."

"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). "

"When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate's power comes to him from above-that is to say, from God (Jn 19:1 l).Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Lk 23:41). "

"Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty."

"Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners."

"The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment. "

"Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death."

"The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the Consistent Ethic of Life here at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the classical position that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment."

"Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed, in Evangelium Vitae, that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral (EV 57). But he wisely included in that statement the word innocent. He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. "

This recent, clear review by
Andrew Tallman

"If Jesus elsewhere opposes capital punishment, then He is not only contradicting the Father but even His own words. "

"Typically, (the anti death penalty) view is that the harsh and mean God the Father of the Old Testament established execution, but the loving and kind God the Son of the New Testament abolished it."

"I’m pretty sure such people don’t realize they’re denying the Trinity when they say this."

"The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the eternal unity of all three persons of the Godhead, but such a fundamental disagreement between the Son and the Father would rupture this unity. In fact, if Jesus had contradicted any of the Father’s principles, let alone such a well-established one, that very disagreement would have immediately disproved His claims to be the divine Son."

"This was exactly the heresy the Pharisees were hoping to trap Him into when they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Even His enemies knew that He absolutely had to affirm capital punishment in order to prove Himself not a false prophet. "

"How truly strange, then, that those who claim to love Him assert that He did exactly what His enemies failed to trick Him into doing! Far from opposing capital punishment, Jesus actually advocated it, as His unity with the Father required."

"Matthew 5:17-18“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

"Just a few verses later, He extends the prohibition against murder to hatred and condemns haters to “the hell of fire” in verse 22, which is very strange talk for someone who opposes capital punishment. It’s very hard to dismiss these verses because they occur smack in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, which is so often mistakenly offered as the repudiation of Old Testament justice."

"Later, Jesus scolds the Pharisees and scribes for teaching leniency toward rebellious children by quoting the Old Testament, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’” (Matthew 15:4)"

"Subsequently, when the Romans come to arrest Jesus, Peter rather ineptly tries to defend Him by killing Malchus, but only succeeds in slicing off his ear. Jesus rebukes him with the warning, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Far from advocating pacifism, as this passage is often misused to do, Jesus here teaches Peter that using the sword (for murder) will only get the sword used against him (for execution)."

"Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” This authority to put Jesus to death would be odd if it didn’t entail the general power to execute criminals."

"Finally, when He is dying of crucifixion, Jesus accepts the repentance of the thief on the cross, who says to his reviling companion, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds….” (Luke 23:40-41)"

"Had Jesus disagreed with this statement, responding to it with the promise of eternal salvation was a rather obtuse way to express the correction."

"Beyond all this evidence that Jesus affirms the consistent Biblical principle of capital punishment, there is yet one more vital concept to grasp. Christians believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of us all."

"Although His sinlessness merited eternal life, He endured the death we deserved to extend that gift to us. As Prof. Michael Pakaluk so perfectly expressed the point, “If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins….” If we didn’t deserve the death penalty ourselves, then why would Christ need to suffer it on our behalf in order to satisfy the justice of God? Denying the death penalty directly assaults the justice of the Father, Who required His own Son to pay precisely that price in our stead."

"What about the rest of the New Testament?"

"Since both Jesus’s teaching and His death affirm the capital punishment, it should come as no surprise that the rest of the New Testament reinforces this view."

"When confronting Governor Festus, Paul says in Acts 25:11, “If I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of these things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. He both affirms capital statutes and accepts them as binding on him if he has broken one."

"Later, in the New Testament’s most famous passage on the nature of government, Paul explains, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)"

"Finally, the same Bible which begins in Genesis 9:6 with the establishment of capital punishment, then carries the theme consistently throughout the text, and ends by reiterating it in Revelation 13:10, “If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”

"Literally from beginning to end, the Bible teaches that capital punishment is authorized and required by God"