In response to the upcoming federal execution of Orlando Hall today (19th November), and two more federal executions scheduled to take place in December, two US bishops’ committee chairmen called on the Government to end this practice.
“We ask President (Donald) Trump and Attorney General (William) Barr, as an act of witness to the dignity of all human life: stop these executions,” said the statement from Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
“Sadly, we must call on the administration yet again to stop an execution,” the archbishops said, noting the country is “now on pace for 10 federal executions in 2020, more than double the previous record of four in 1938.”
The archbishops’ statement said the death penalty is “not necessary to protect society. It is not necessary to hold people accountable for grave crimes. The decision not to execute someone, even someone who has done something terrible, is not ‘soft on crime’; rather, it is strong on the dignity of life.”
They also quoted Fratelli Tutti, the recent encyclical by Pope Francis, which says: “The firm rejection of the death penalty shows to what extent it is possible to recognise the inalienable dignity of every human being and accept that he or she has a place in the universe.”
Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St Joseph of Medaille and longtime anti-death penalty activist, has spoken against Hall’s execution on Twitter, describing him as a Black man who was “convicted and sentenced to death by an all-white jury after prosecutors enlisted a lawyer with a known track record of excluding Black citizens from juries.”
Hall, who is 49, was convicted of kidnapping and killing a Texas teenager in 1994.
Sr Helen tweeted on Wednesday the Department of Justice is “trying to rush through as many federal executions as possible during the ‘lame-duck’ period between now and January 20, 2021,” saying that lawyers with the Justice Department “have informed federal judges that more execution dates will be announced soon.”
“This shameful killing spree must end,” she added.
Lisa Montgomery, 52, is scheduled for execution on 8th December. In 2007, she was convicted of strangling a Missouri woman who was eight months pregnant and taking her unborn baby, who survived. Montgomery is the first woman to face the federal death penalty in decades. She has asked for a delay in her execution because her attorneys have Covid-19.
Sr Helen has said the “system failed Lisa Montgomery. The ultimate failure would be to execute this woman who is severely mentally ill and suffered through decades of torture at the hands of those who were supposed to love and protect her.”
Brandon Bernard, 40, is scheduled to be executed on 10th December for the 1999 kidnapping and killing of a husband and wife in Texas when he was 18. Sr Helen has similarly spoken out for him, saying he is “unjustly on federal death row.”
Photo: In this file photo, the sun sets behind one of the guard towers at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. The death chamber at the correctional facility is where the federal death penalty is carried out. (CNS photo/Andy Clark, Reuters)