Choosing Justice With Life
Although the U.S. still condones executions, it too has steadily been moving away from the death penalty. Supreme Court decisions in 2002 and 2005 declared the use of the death penalty unconstitutional in the case of the mentally retarded and minors. Furthermore, as more people recognize the financial burden of capital punishment and evidence of false convictions, there is also a movement against the death penalty at the state level: a moratorium on executions was declared in Illinois in 2000, New Jersey and New York voted to abolish the death penalty in 2007, and just this year, Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill repealing the death penalty in New Mexico.
My friend Mark still sits on death row today - fourteen years after being sentenced to death. Christian faith in the sacredness of every human being and Jesus' message of forgiveness demands that our society and I find a better way to repair the damage of violence than by killing Mark or holding him in indefinite legal limbo. Practical, alternative models exist that would allow us to choose justice with life; all that is lacking is our moral will.
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Sarah Moses teaches in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Mississippi and is a doctoral candidate in theological ethics at Boston College. She is a member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church (Oxford, MS) and is active in the ecumenical lay organization The Community of Sant'Egidio.