Scott Eizember, AJ Cantrell & Patsy Cantrell: Oklahoma & An Impending Execution
For over a decade, I’ve worked as a spiritual advisor on various death rows throughout the country. Over the years, I’ve learned some lessons. In the first death row conversation I ever had, I asked about their crime. Such a question seems forward now. In most relationships, one would wait until at least the second conversation before asking someone to divulge their deepest darkest secrets. Then again, most of these situations are not secrets. They are widely known tragedies. Nevertheless, my first visit didn’t go well because I came across as judgmental. I guess I was. Truth be known, no matter the location, nobody wants a judgmental spiritual advisor. So, I decided that I would never look at the case of someone on death row before I visited with them again. I’d let them open the door to their case. Thus was the situation with Scott Eizember…he opened the door to what he wanted me to know…and I let him lead me further into his case. The result was complicated.
Multiple days ago, Scott Eizember talked with me about his case in greater detail. After our conversation, I spent a considerable amount of time researching the case. Without diving too deep into the narrative (one can find the general narrative here https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-10th-circuit/1713181.html ), these are my conclusions.
The deaths of AJ and Patsy Cantrell were a tragedy. Scott Eizember should have never broken into the Cantrell’s house (full stop…this is the precipitating cause of the entire situation). AJ Cantrell should have never shot at an unarmed man (tragically, he accidently killed his wife). These moments precipitated the murder of AJ Cantrell (who repeatedly tried to come at Eizember after firing the initial shot), a wild spree of violence in the days that followed (that thankfully didn’t kill anyone else) and the most extended manhunt in the history of Oklahoma. Scott Eizember is not a sympathetic figure. Far from it, the media has made him out to be a monster. Surely, the world is more complicated than that.
The death penalty is said to be reserved for the worst of the worst. But is Scott Eizember the worst of the worst? The deaths of AJ and Patsy Cantrell were the result of a series of events that spiraled out of control. It’s important to remember that these deaths were not the result of an extended period of premeditation, Eizember did not physically kill Patsy Cantrell and that AJ Cantrell fired a shot at an unarmed man. While these factors do not forgive Eizember’s actions…nor do they erase that he was largely responsible for the deaths…they do speak to the severity of the crime. The question remains… Is Scott Eizember the worst of the worst? Well, the murders of AJ and Patsy Cantrell were not the result of extended premeditation, the whims of a serial killer or the consequences of mass murder. While I don’t think you can call the deaths an accident…I do think it’s fair to call them unforeseen. Such a word…unforeseen…does not seem to indicate the worst of the worst. This is a break-in with multiple moving unforeseen parts that turned horrific.
Is such a situation worth killing a man over? The people of Oklahoma will need to answer such a question by January 12, 2023. If the standard is the worst of the worst…then the answer is clearly NO.