The National Catholic Review
Nov 20 1982 - 12:00am | Mary Meehan
From November 20, 1982

Over 1,000 state prisoners are on death row in America today. A Justice Department official recently said that many of them are exhausting their appeals and that we may soon "witness executions at a rate approaching the more than three per week that prevailed during the 1930's."

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, there is an effort to restore the death penalty as a punishment for certain Federal crimes. A bill to accomplish this was approved by the Judiciary Committee in a 13-to-6 vote last year when conservatives lined up for the death penalty and liberals declaimed in vain against it. Yet one need not be a certified liberal in order to oppose the death penalty. Richard Viguerie, premier fundraiser of the New Right, is a firm opponent of capital punishment.

Some of the arguments against the death penalty are essentially conservative, and many others transcend ideology. No one has to agree with all of the arguments in order to reach a decision. As President Reagan has said in another context, doubt should always be resolved on the side of life.

Nor need one be "soft on crime" in order to oppose the death penalty. Albert Camus, an opponent of capital punishment, said: "We know enough to say that this or that major criminal deserves hard labor for life. But we don't know enough to decree that he be shorn of his future—in other words, of the chance we all have of making amends."

But many liberals in our country, by their naive ideas about quick rehabilitation and by their support for judicial discretion in sentencing, have done much to create demand for the death penalty they abhor. People are right to be alarmed when judges give light sentences for murder and other violent crimes. It is reasonable for them to ask: "Suppose some crazy judge lets him out, and members of my family are his next victims?" The inconsistency of the judicial system leads many to support the death penalty.

There are signs that some liberals now understand the problem. Senators Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) and Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), in opposing the death-penalty bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, are suggesting as an alternative "a real life sentence" for murder and "heinous crimes." By this they mean a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole. And if we adopt Chief Justice Warren Burger's proposal about making prisons into "factories with fences," perhaps murderers can pay for their prison room and board and also make financial restitution to families they have deprived of breadwinners.

With these alternatives in mind, let us consider 10 good reasons to oppose the death penalty.

1. There is no way to remedy the occasional mistake. One of the witnesses against the death penalty before the Senate committee last year was Earl Charles, a man who spent over three years on a Georgia death row for murders he did not commit. Another witness remarked that, had Mr. Charles faced a system "where the legal apparatus was speedier and the death penalty had been carried out more expeditiously, we would now be talking about the late Mr. Charles and bemoaning our error."

What happens when the mistake is discovered after a man has been executed for a crime he did not commit? What do we say to his widow and children? Do we erect an apologetic tombstone over his grave?

These are not idle questions. A number of persons executed in the United States were later cleared by confessions of those who had actually committed the crimes. In other cases, while no one else confessed, there was great doubt that the condemned were guilty. Watt Espy, an Alabamian who has done intensive research on American executions, says that he has "every reason to believe" that 10 innocent men were executed in Alabama alone. Mr. Espy cites names, dates and other specifics of the cases. He adds that there are similar cases in virtually every state.

We might consider Charles Peguy's words about the turn-of-the-century French case in which Capt. Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason: "We said that a single injustice, a single crime, a single illegality, particularly if it is officially recorded, confirmed...that a single crime shatters and is sufficient to shatter the whole social pact, the whole social contract, that a single legal crime, a single dishonorable act will bring about the loss of one's honor, the dishonor of a whole people."

2. There is racial and economic discrimination in application of the death penalty. This is an old complaint, but one that many believe has been remedied by court-mandated safeguards. All five of the prisoners executed since 1977—one shot, one gassed and three electrocuted—were white. This looks like a morbid kind of affirmative action plan, making up for past discrimination against blacks. But the five were not representative of the death-row population, except in being male. About 99 percent of the death-row inmates are men.

Of the 1,058 prisoners on death row by Aug. 20,1982, 42 percent were black, whereas about 12 percent of the United States population is black. Those who receive the death penalty still tend to be poor, poorly educated and represented by public defenders or court-appointed lawyers. They are not the wealthy murderers of Perry Mason or Agatha Christie fame.

Discriminatory application of the death penalty, besides being unjust to the condemned, suggests that some victims' lives are worth more than others. A study published in Crime & Delinquency (October 1980) found that, of black persons in Florida who commit murder, "those who kill whites are nearly 40 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who kill blacks."

Even Walter Berns, an articulate proponent of the death penalty, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year that capital punishment "has traditionally been imposed in this country in a grossly discriminatory fashion" and said that "it remains to be seen whether this country can impose the death penalty without regard to race or class." If it cannot, he declared, then capital punishment "will have to be invalidated on equal-protection grounds."

It is quite possible to be for the death penalty in theory ("If this were a just world, I'd be for it"), but against it in practice ("It's an unjust, crazy, mixed-up world, so I'm against it").

3. Application of the death penalty tends to be arbitrary and capricious; for similar crimes, some are sentenced to death while others are not. Initially two men were charged with the killing for which John Spenkelink was electrocuted in Florida in 1979. The second man turned state's evidence and was freed; he remarked: "I didn't intend for John to take the rap. It just worked out that way."

Soon after the Spenkelink execution, former San Francisco official Dan White received a prison sentence of seven years and eight months in prison for killing two people—the Mayor of San Francisco and another city official.

Anyone who follows the news can point to similar disparities. Would the outcome be much different if we decided for life or death by rolling dice or spinning a roulette wheel?

4. The death penalty gives some of the worst offenders publicity that they do not deserve. Gary Gilmore and Steven Judy received reams of publicity as they neared their dates with the grim reaper. They had a chance to expound before a national audience their ideas about crime and punishment, God and country, and anything else that happened to cross their minds. It is hard to imagine two men less deserving of a wide audience. It can be argued, of course, that if executions become as widespread and frequent as proponents of the death penalty hope, the publicity for each murderer will decline. That may be so, but each may still be a media celebrity on a statewide basis.

While the death penalty undoubtedly deters some would-be murderers, there is evidence that it encourages others— especially the unstable who are attracted to media immortality like moths to a flame. If instead of facing heady weeks before television cameras, they faced a lifetime of obscurity in prison, the path of violence might seem less glamorous to them.

5. The death penalty involves medical doctors, who are sworn to preserve life, in the act of killing. This issue has been much discussed in recent years because several states have provided for execution by lethal injection. In 1980 the American Medical Association, responding to this innovation, declared that a doctor should not participate in an execution. But it added that a doctor may determine or certify death in any situation.

The A.M.A. evaded a major part of the ethical problem. When doctors use their stethoscopes to indicate whether the electric chair has done its job, they are assisting the executioner.

6. Executions have a corrupting effect on the public. Thomas Macaulay said of the Puritans that they "hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators." While wrong on the first point, they were right on the second. There is something indecent in the rituals that surround executions and the excitement—even the entertainment—that they provide to the public. There is the cat-and-mouse ritual of the appeals process, with prisoners sometimes led right up to the execution chamber and then given a stay of execution. There are the last visits from family, the last dinner, the last walk, the last words. Television cameras, which have fought their way into courtrooms and nearly everywhere else, may some day push their way right up to the execution chamber and give us all, in living color, the very last moments.

7. The death penalty cannot be limited to the worst cases. Many people who oppose capital punishment have second thoughts whenever a particularly brutal murder occurs. When a Richard Speck or Charles Manson or Steven Judy emerges, there is a tendency to say, "That one really deserves to die." Disgust, anger and genuine fear support the second thoughts.

But it is impossible to write a death penalty law in such a way that it will apply only to the Specks and Mansons and Judys of this world. And, given the ingenuity of the best lawyers money can buy, there is probably no way to apply it to the worst murderers who happen to be wealthy.

The death penalty, like every other form of violence, is extremely difficult to limit once the "hard cases" persuade society to let down the bars in order to solve a few specific problems. A sentence intended for Charles Manson is passed instead on J.D. Gleaton, a semiliterate on South Carolina's death row who had difficulty understanding his trial. Later he said: "I don't know anything about the law that much and when they are up there speaking those big words, I don't even know what they are saying." Or Thomas Hays, under sentence of death in Oklahoma and described by a fellow inmate as "nutty as a fruit cake." Before his crime, Mr. Hays was committed to mental hospitals several times; afterwards, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

8. The death penalty is an expression of the absolute power of the state; abolition of that penalty is a much- needed limit on government power.
What makes the state so pure that it has the right to take life? Look at the record of governments throughout history—so often operating with deception, cruelty and greed, so often becoming masters of the citizens they are supposed to serve. "Forbidding a man's execution," Camus said, "would amount to proclaiming publicly that society and the state are not absolute values." It would amount to saying that there are some things even the state may not do.

There is also the problem of the state's involving innocent people in a premeditated killing. "I'm personally opposed to killing and violence," said the prison warden who had to arrange Gary Gilmore's execution, "and having to do that is a difficult responsibility." Too often, in killing and violence, the state compels people to act against their consciences.

And there is the point that government should not give bad example—especially not to children. Earl Charles, a veteran of several years on death row for crimes he did not commit, tried to explain this last year: "Well, it is difficult for me to sit down and talk to my son about 'thou shalt not kill,' when the state saying, 'Well, yes, we can kill, under certain circumstances.' " With great understatement, Mr. Charles added, "That is difficult. I mean, that is confusing to him."

9. There are strong religious reasons for many to oppose the death penalty. Some find compelling the thought that Cain, the first murderer, was not executed but was marked with a special sign and made a wanderer upon the face of the earth. Richard Viguerie developed his position on capital punishment by asking what Christ would say and do about it. "I believe that a strong case can be made," Mr. Viguerie wrote in a recent book, "that Christ would oppose the killing of a human being as punishment for a crime." This view is supported by the New Testament story about the woman who faced execution by stoning (John 8:7, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone").

Former Senator Harold Hughes (D., Iowa), arguing against the death penalty in 1974, declared: "'Thou shalt not kill' is the shortest of the Ten Commandments, uncomplicated by qualification or exception....It is as clear and awesomely commanding as the powerful thrust of chain lightning out of a dark summer sky."

10. Even the guilty have a right to life. Leszek Syski is a Maryland antiabortion activist who says that he "became convinced that the question of whether or not murderers deserve to die is the wrong one. The real question is whether other humans have a right to kill them." He concluded that they do not after conversations with an opponent of capital punishment who asked, "Why don't we torture prisoners? Torturing them is less than killing them." Mr. Syski believes that "torture is dehumanizing, but capital punishment is the essence of dehumanization."

Richard Viguerie reached his positions on abortion and capital punishment independently, but does see a connection between the two issues: "To me, life is sacred," Mr. Viguerie says. "And I don't believe I have a right to terminate someone else's life either way—by abortion or capital punishment." Many others in the prolife movement have come to the same conclusion. They don't think they have a right to play God, and they don't believe that the state encourages respect for life when it engages in premediated killing.

Camus was right: We know enough to say that some crimes require severe punishment. We do not know enough to say when anyone should die.

Show Comments (58)

Comments (hide)

andrea m | 9/21/2015 - 7:57pm

It seems a pity someone didn't tell all that to the authors of the OT. The Torah is in no sense anti-death penalty; it forbids murder, and frequently commands the death penalty. This new-found Church opposition would be more convincing if it could explain how the Church - which is, the Church claims, infallible in its moral teaching - can have infallibly allowed & justified & practiced something that is so vulnerable to the objections in the article. All one can conclude, is that the Church in the past was woefully wrong about the DP - and may be equally wrong now. In which case, it is pure folly (to speak of nothing worse) to treat it as deserving of any great authority in morals.
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Hamed Jabrah | 2/7/2015 - 1:09am

These reasons are plain REDICULUS. The reason why america STILL has millions of crime a year is because of either little or no death penalty or misuse of the death penalty. America knows as well as EVERYBODY knows that more death penalty = less crimes :P

Michael Cobbold | 3/20/2014 - 4:59am

It seems a pity someone didn't tell all that to the authors of the OT. The Torah is in no sense anti-death penalty; it forbids murder, and frequently commands the death penalty. This new-found Church opposition would be more convincing if it could explain how the Church - which is, the Church claims, infallible in its moral teaching - can have infallibly allowed & justified & practiced something that is so vulnerable to the objections in the article. All one can conclude, is that the Church in the past was woefully wrong about the DP - and may be equally wrong now. In which case, it is pure folly (to speak of nothing worse) to treat it as deserving of any great authority in morals. Some of the 10 points are convincing only in a US context - others are unconvincing on other grounds. The Church cannot burn heretics alive for several centuries - then turn around and condemn the death penalty even in principle: but no explanation for this volte-face in doctrine has ever been given by Rome. Such conduct is reprehensible. How can there be a coherent apologetic for the Faith, when its intellectual foundations show such blatant incoherence ? It either believes its doctrines, and for that reason cannot alter them - or, it does not believe them, and is free (in its own mind) to change them at a moment's notice. Which is it to be ?

Robert Lewis | 2/2/2014 - 11:25pm

Of course the Catholic Church can alter her teachings regarding "morality." Morality is contextual and depends upon the circumstances, the understanding of which may change, with increased scientific understanding of the full context of decision-making. The Church changed her teachings regarding slavery, regarding "just war," regarding clerical celibacy, etc. What the Church may not change is dogma, but dogma and moral theology are not the same things. This is called "equivocation" by those who do not understand that the Petrine Commission bluntly states that the Church's Founder invested her with the power to "bind" and "loose." Protestants who do not understand this fundamental difference between Catholicism and other forms of Christianity need to read John Henry Newman's "Development of Doctrine." The pope can make women cardinals, the pope can institute rites binding "same-sex-couples" in relationships of "chaste friendship" as an alternative to "gay marriage"; the pope with his Council can introduce a change in the teaching regarding the Old Covenant with the Jews--all of these things have to do with "moral theology," and they are fully within the purview of the Catholic Magisterium to "discover" what is in the Spirit of the New Testament. If that Magisterium declares that the "death penalty" is no longer needed to fulfill a Christian state's obligations to her citizens, if that Magisterium declares that "just wars" are no longer feasible, then that decision STANDS, until circumstances change.

bill bannon | 12/5/2013 - 1:30pm

Your number 9 was the least cogent. Christ indeed was repealing the death penalties of the Pentateuch for personal sin like adultery. He was doing no such thing to Gen.9:6 ( execution for murder) which was addressed to both Jews and Gentiles and was reiterated by God in Romans 13:4 in the synecdoche..."sword"..."machaira" in the Greek ( see also Acts 12:2 where Herod executes James with the "machaira").
Aquinas knew this and stated that such death penalties as those for personal sin along with ceremonial rites were
ended by Christ. Aquinas proceeded to see Rom.13:4 as justifying both just war and capital punishment for crimes like murder. Read Evangelium Vitae and the CCC. Romans 13:4 and Gen.9:6 are never mentioned though pieces of Gen.9:5-6 are used four times by John Paul II but he never shows the reader the death penalty part. Cain was protected by God from non governmental revenge but John Paul saw that as iconic for the whole topic in EV. John Paul saw Gen.9:6 but it caused him a problem because he was bringing " the seamless garment" theory from Cardinal Bernadin to the topic. What to do? What he should have done was notice that God gave the death penalty of Gen.9:6 just on the eve of God bringing about the first government under Nimrod in Gen.10:8 ..." Cush became the father of Nimrod, who was the first potentate on earth."
There's the difference: God protected Cain from private execution by vigilantes but instituted execution when He formed governments in Gen.10:8. Ergo God repeats Gen.9:6 in the synecdoche " sword...machaira...used on James unjustly". Initially governments simply evolutionary-wise monitored "avengers of blood" by the use of cities of refuge. That would evolve to more impersonal levels later.

Mary Meehan | 11/26/2013 - 6:14pm

Mr. Dudley:

I believe your response on religious activism against the death penalty
overlooks many articulate and effective people. Their opposition is not weak;
in fact, it is a major reason that a number of states have repealed their
death-penalty laws in recent years.

Many conservatives have turned against the death penalty--some for
religious reasons, and some because DNA or other evidence has shown that
many death-row inmates were wrongly convicted. See, for example,
Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty and their website at

I emphasized Albert Camus because he was a great writer who was eloquent
and consistent in his opposition to the death penalty. Although an atheist, he
was of Catholic background. He remarked that followers of Christ, “the
staggering victim of a judicial error,” should hesitate to execute anyone else.
He also wrote that: “The fact that Cain is not killed but bears a mark of
reprobation in the eyes of men is the lesson we must draw from the Old
Testament, to say nothing of the Gospels...” (See “Reflections on the
Guillotine” in his Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.)

You challenged the studies of severe head injuries suffered by some people
who later received the death penalty. My website piece, “A Dozen Reasons to
Oppose the Death Penalty” (, gives full citations in notes
10 and 11; thus you can check the articles in question.

The Hippocratic Oath, which says that “I will give no deadly drug to anyone if
asked,” seems to ban a doctor’s participation in an execution by lethal drugs.
As you noted, lethal drugs are used in most executions in the U.S. today. I
agree that some doctors are terribly inconsistent in opposing the death
penalty while supporting abortion and euthanasia. Doctors are supposed to
be pro-life healers; they should oppose all death-dealing.

We don’t really know how many, or what percentage, of prison personnel
have conscience problems related to the death penalty. But the literature
shows that some do--including some wardens. I don’t think you are correct
in saying that those who take part in executions “are all volunteers and can
un-volunteer or never volunteer in the first place.” A warden certainly can’t
“un-volunteer,” and I doubt prison guards always can, either.

You said that pain relievers are used when the “cut down” procedure is
needed to find veins for an execution by lethal injection. That may be so, but
I don’t recall any mention of pain relievers in the cases I described.

You complained that I didn’t provide links to information on innocent people
who were wrongly convicted. But I did provide citations to written material,
such as the long and heavily-documented piece by Hugo Adam Bedau and
Michael L. Radelet, “Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases,”
Stanford Law Review 40, no. 1 (November 1987), 21-179. If you register as
an independent researcher with the academic website,, you can
gain access to that article. Another source is: Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld
and Jim Dwyer, Actual Innocence. New York: Doubleday, 2000 (available

I have been writing about issues of life and death for over forty years. And I
deeply believe that we should use non-violent ways to prevent violence. The
end and the means should be in harmony. Effective work against street
drugs, alcoholism, and severe mental illness are among the best ways to
prevent murder. Another key point: Adults who teach, counsel, and mentor
young men without fathers can do much to keep them on the right path and
away from violence.

thomas mcmorrow | 11/13/2013 - 7:02am

Of course the death penalty prevents recidivism. this is no small protection to the public. We need to be particularly sensitive to the needs to protect the dignity of prison guards. They are often attacked, or even murdered, by murderers in prison. A disproportionate number of prison guards in many states are, themselves, Catholics. The murderers usually aren't. So, let's say a prayer for the peace officers on patrol in our jails and prisons. Let's protect them, too.

Michael Cobbold | 11/10/2013 - 9:38pm

What holds in US society, is not automatically valid anywhere else on Earth - so one cannot extrapolate from the US to he rest of the world, and take for granted that all ten objections outlined in the article are equally valid in Mexico, Japan, or Burkina Faso. But perhaps that is by the way.

Doctrinally, there is a problem - or rather, several of them. The Church cannot maintain for centuries, on the basis of Divine Revelation, that capital punishment is, at the very least, not against the Will of God; and then, in recent, times, say that it is. If it can change its doctrine on one issue of morals - it can change it on others. It is useless to invoke Catholic teaching on sexual ethics as proof that gay marriage (for instance) is utterly inconsistent with a faithful Christian life, if the Church reverses its teaching on other issues of Christian morals. And if it reverses itself on moral teaching, what becomes of its infallibility in what relates to morals ? There is little point in claiming to be infallible on such issues, if that infallibility has been evacuated of all substance by a turn-around in the Church's teaching. The magisterium has no competence to alter the traditional faith of the Church, but only to deepen its appreciation & understanding of the Faith "once delivered to the saints" which it has received. It cannot ask, or rather, require, interior adhesion of intellect and will to what it teaches - then turn around, & tell the Faithful to forget what it required them, on pain of sin, to believe, and instead to believe the opposite of what it formerly taught. For it to behave like that, is a form of abuse; no milder word will do.

I for one am very strongly in favour of the death penalty - I do not accept that something frequently laid down as willed by God in the Bible as part of His Law can be wrong, especially as it has been repeatedly employed by canonised rulers and by the Popes. If the DP was good enough for Blessed Pius IX and his predecessors to employ, it makes no sense to call it unChristian. St.Pius V burnt his quotum of heretics, even during his pontificate - why has this zealous Inquisitor and enemy of heresy been canonised, if he was doing something so clearly unChristian ? It seems quite likely that the current Catholic unease with the DP may owe a good deal to considerations which are more humanitarian than Christian.

Dudley Sharp | 11/12/2013 - 1:04am


None of the ten (or 14) points are valid in the US, either, as detailed throughout.

I also posted a full rebuttal to the AMERICA editors, in regard to one of the major (alleged) reasons for the change in Catholic teaching on the death penalty, but the editors removed it, a sad refutation of truth.

That reason was, to quote the editors, from their article "Life, Not Death", herein, "Blessed John Paul explained, what we choose as punishment “ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.” "This raises an obvious question: In what places are public authorities actually incapable of safely and effectively incarcerating those convicted of serious crimes? Almost nowhere. “Such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent,”

That is, in fact, a false statement.

I had sent a copy of it, directly to the editors. If you wish a copy, let me know.

Mary Meehan | 11/1/2013 - 2:17pm

Response to Mr. Sharp (continued)

First, I add information that you requested about innocent people who were executed. Then I deal with some of your other points.

Of people who confessed to crimes after innocent people were executed for those crimes, you asked whether those who confessed were prosecuted and whether those executed were pardoned. According to the sources I cited yesterday: In the case of Mitchell Wooten, the two men who later confessed to the crime were tried, convicted, and hanged. In the R. Mead Shumway case, the real killer confessed on his deathbed--too late for hanging. In the case of Maurice Mays, the woman who confessed was not prosecuted. Bedau and Radelet reported that the authorities "never accepted this confession," but didn't say why.

Sixteen years after the Englishman Timothy John Evans was hanged for a murder he did not commit, Queen Elizabeth II issued a full, posthumous pardon. The real killer was convicted and hanged. In the case of William Jackson Marion, where the alleged murder victim was found to be alive: Nebraska's Pardon Board--nearly 100 years after Marion's execution--voted to pardon Marion posthumously.

We clearly don't agree on the question of religious support for the death penalty. “A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty,” an updated version of my 1982 America article, includes a longer discussion of religious views than the one in the 1982 article. Last revised in 2004, it's available at I would add to it by saying that there's a strong tradition of religious activism against the death penalty—one that includes Quakers, many mainline Protestants and some evangelicals, and many Catholics. The late Pope John Paul II often appealed to governors or national leaders to spare the lives of people scheduled for execution. The late Mother Teresa did the same—and once visited prisoners on San Quentin's death row. After her death, Jesuit Father John Dear recalled that he had "arranged Mother Teresa's intervention on behalf of death row inmates on eight occasions. Each time, she eagerly offered her support and the prayers of her community in an effort to stop the killing and end the death penalty." (America, 19 June 1999)

I agree with you that Camus is fascinating, but wish you would focus on his "Reflections on the Guillotine.” I especially recommend to you his statement that: "We know enough to say that this or that major criminal deserves hard labor for life. But we don't know enough to decree that he be shorn of his future--in other words, of the chance we all have of making amends."

On the issue of premeditated killing: I stay with my conviction that society imitates the murderer when it premeditates his killing. As noted in the revised piece for my website, Roberta Roper, whose daughter was brutally murdered, opposes the death penalty partly because it "lowers society to the level of the murderer." Moreover, some good and conscientious prison staff find it very difficult to take part in premeditated death. Prison work is hard enough for staff without the death penalty. Why make their work even harder? And why force some to choose between their work and their conscience?

On methods of execution and my contention that there "is no good way to kill someone": You described one lethal-injection case as the "only relevant case" that I mention on this point. Not so! Here's an excerpt from my website piece:

When they work as they are supposed to, some methods probably involve little physical pain, or at least pain that is soon over. The problem is that none of the executed can return to tell us for certain. Even when an execution is quick and relatively painless for the target, it may be hard for witnesses and prison staff to watch. In an electrocution, for example, the condemned man often strains or lunges against the restraining straps after the first charge of electricity. And electrocutions do not always go as planned. When Alabama electrocuted John Louis Evans in 1983, a strap ignited and burned a hole in the prisoner's left leg. That was after the first jolt. It took two more to kill Evans. In a 1985 Indiana execution, five jolts were required to assure the death of William Vandiver. "There was a smell of tremendous burning in the room," said a lawyer who witnessed the execution. "Eventually the fans had to be turned on."

In Alabama's 1989 electrocution of Horace Dunkins, Jr., doctors found that Dunkins was unconscious but still alive after the first jolt. "I believe we've got the jacks on wrong," a prison guard said. There was a 19-minute delay while doctors checked Dunkins and someone fixed the technical problem; then a second jolt killed the prisoner. When Florida electrocuted Jessie Tafero in 1990, the headset conducting electricity caught fire. Witnesses saw flame and smoke around Tafero's head. Witnesses to Florida's 1997 electrocution of Pedro Medina saw the same thing. The Associated Press reported that the "smell of burnt flesh filled the witness room and lingered as observers left two minutes after Medina's death." When Virginia electrocuted Wilbert Lee Evans in 1990, witnesses saw blood stream down the man's shirt. The state corrections director said Evans had a nosebleed, due to high blood pressure. Undoubtedly the 2,400 volts of electricity applied to his head also had something to do with it.

A reporter who watched Jimmy Lee Gray die in a Mississippi gas chamber in 1983 said the prisoner gasped for breath and banged his head on a pipe behind his chair. He said that the execution chamber echoed with Gray's moans, which were "blood chilling."

Sometimes, especially when a prisoner's veins are badly damaged from drug abuse, it is hard to find a vein suitable for lethal injection. In a 1985 Texas case, a technician needed 40 minutes of poking and prodding to find a suitable vein in Stephen Morin's arm. There was a similar delay in the 1987 Texas execution of Elliot Rod Johnson. In the 1998 execution of Raymond Landry, also in Texas, "the catheter carrying the lethal mixture to his vein popped out of his right arm, spurting the fluid about 2 feet in the direction of reporters and prison officials." The execution had to be halted and restarted.

Virginia prisoner Kenneth M. Stewart, Jr., chose electrocution instead of lethal injection for his 1998 execution. Asked about the possibility of "a more humane way," he responded: "There ain't no humane way to put a human being to death if you stop and think." No matter how they are done, executions tend to dehumanize the condemned, the executioners, and the witnesses. Executions are sometimes painful, dirty, smelly and visually shocking as well. Somehow the majesty of the law gets lost in all of this.

[Note: The complete article, "A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty" (2004) at, includes end notes.]

Why do you mock the idea of financial restitution to murder victims' families? You wrote: "Let's say your daughter was raped and murdered. On what days would you like to receive that $30/month check from that rapist/murderer?" I envision that the check would not come directly from the prisoner, but from a state restitution fund. And it would be much more than $30/month if the prisoner is working full-time, which he or she should be. Again, we should explore the late Chief Justice Warren Burger's idea of making prisons into "factories with fences."

You seem to think that few condemned prisoners are suicidal. I believe you underestimate the incidence of serious mental illness among them. Here's another excerpt from "A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty" [endnotes are in original]:

In 1986-87, researchers studied all prisoners in four states who had been sentenced to death for crimes committed before they were 18 years old. They found that most of the 14 inmates had head injuries as children and that nine had "serious neurological abnormalities." Seven were psychotic as children or when examined in prison. Most had been physically abused in childhood, and five had been sexually abused. One boy had been hammered on the head by his stepfather and sodomized "by stepfather and grandfather throughout childhood." There had been violence between his parents as well, and his mother had a psychiatric hospitalization.

An earlier study of 15 death-row inmates found that all had head injuries, in some cases quite serious ones. Nine of the 15 were evaluated as psychotic, either chronically or episodically. As children, two had been beaten on the head with two-by-fours; one had been beaten on the face with a whip handle; and one had been nearly killed when beaten by his father. Former police chief Patrick Murphy once said, "You try to find out how such a psycho could have put a bullet into that old woman's head, and you find it's because that kid doesn't respect life. He never got much respect for his own life from others."

By the way, some people who have run-ins with police are trying to provoke police to kill them. There is a term "suicide by cop" for such cases, and there are books about it.

Mental-health care for people on the margins can do far more to prevent murder and other violence than executions ever can. Effective work against street drugs and alcoholism can also prevent much violence.

Apparently referring to cases of serious mental disability, you complained that I listed only "mitigating circumstances" and not "aggravating circumstances" in those cases. But in severe mental illness, especially in paranoid schizophrenia, it is usually the illness itself that leads to the "aggravating circumstances." If you have not done so already, I urge you to read a book or two about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other severe mental illness.

On my point that the death penalty gives some of the worst offenders publicity that they do not deserve: You blamed this on anti-death penalty activists and the media, saying they are “often one and the same.” Actually, the media were giving enormous publicity to executions long before there was an effective anti-death penalty movement in this country. This was true when executions were open to the public--but also after they were closed to all but prison staff, witnesses, and reporters. If the anti-death penalty movement disappeared tomorrow, it would still be the case. And if there were a huge increase in executions, which you seem to think is a desirable goal, there would be far more publicity for murderers. As I said in the '82 article, “If instead of facing heady weeks before television cameras, they faced a lifetime of obscurity in prison, the path of violence might seem less glamorous to them.”

On whether there is a moral prohibition against physicians' participation in executions: Many doctors believe there is. They know that the whole purpose of doctoring is to preserve health and life—not to ruin health or end life. You're right in saying that in the past there were strong prohibitions against physician involvement in abortions and euthanasia. (Many doctors still refuse to be involved in either one.) We should work for strong prohibitions against all physician involvement in death-dealing.

I agree that there is less racial discrimination in application of the death penalty than there used to be, but I don't believe that it and class discrimination have disappeared.

About murderers who kill again: You did not cite sources for your statement that we have allowed "14,000 to 28,000 murderers" to kill again since 1973, or for your claim that 40,000 to 200,000 innocent people have been killed by recidivist murderers since 1973. Those are very wide ranges--especially in the second case.

Dudley Sharp | 11/12/2013 - 8:20am

Ms. Meehan:

My additional replies:

1) Below, within these posts, I had already added and rebutted your additional points from your website article, “A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty,”.

2) I would agree that there is a "tradition of religious activism against the death penalty—one that includes Quakers, many mainline Protestants and some evangelicals, and many Catholics", but I would qualify it as, particularly, weak, in opposition to your calling it strong, which is rebutted by the historical record in all those faith traditions, as I have already presented, in detail, as opposed to your claims which have extremely limited and weak support, if you present any evidence, at all.

Likely, the only "strong" rebuttal to that position might come from the Quakers, a group which seems, amazingly, uneducated on their faith traditions with regard to the death penalty.

Quakers and the Death Penalty

3) I don't know how you can possibly emphasize Camus, when his position is, absolutely, overwhelmed by every faith tradition supportive of the death penalty. In addition, he is an atheist. It appears your only reason for pushing Camus is because he is a well known, wonderful writer who agrees with your position, yet offerring no real reasons to get rid of the death penalty, as Camus is very easy to rebut, both philosophically and factually. I will do so, if you wish. But is seems superfluous. Not to mention his other problems, which I already posted.

4) Financial restitution. I do support all convicted criminals having to pay fines which go into victim or victim survivor restitution funds. I know of no one, except criminals and their families, who object. My objections, which was quite specific, was the real suggestion that the murderers should, directly, provide those funds to the murder victim families, which I found grotesque. I thought I was very clear.

5) All of those alleged head injuries and mental problems either failed at trial or on appeals, as both sides were presented. For those studies, which, apparently, may have been independent of any legal proceedings, were they ever 1) peer reviewed and 2) were the results ever used in later appeals and did it have any effect on the sentencing or retrial?

Overwhelmingly, mental illnesses are of either a type and/or degree that they will not mitigate a criminals culpability.

There is a reason we have an adversarial system, so that each side is challenged to make their case stronger or see it fail in rebuttal. Dueling experts are common, for that very reason.

It is very similar to our exchange, here. Both sides, airing their positions.

6) A very small percentage of prison personel, possibly, 1%, that I have heard of, have developed some type of problem with being involved with the death penalty. They are all volunteers and can un-volunteer or never volunteer in the first place, hardly a reason to end the death penalty.

7) Yes, there are some doctors who are part of the 10% who oppose all executions. That is hardly a reason for anyone else to oppose executions. My point was that there is nothing within the (false) allegations that the Hypocratic Oath or "Do no harm" mandate medical professional not be involved with executions. It is, quite simply, a lie, as I already detailed, in my prior posts, but will post again, here:

Physicians, Executions & Do No Harm

8) We have to premeditate our executions, as we do all sanctions - it is called the due process of law, morally and legally, the opposite of premeditating a murder, the vile process of planning the murder of innocents within criminal activity - few people, with moral and legal consideration, could, possibly, equate the two.

I have no idea how anti death penalty folks can, rationally, legally and/or morally, equate the rape and murder of children with the just sanction for the rapist/murderer who committed those crimes, but anti death penalty folks can do so, effortlessly, every day, day after day.

I have no concept as to how death penalty opponents can justify such "equality" and I have never seen their rational, detailed explanations as to the moral, rational and/or legal "equalities" of murder and executions, likely, because they don't exist.

9) You misunderstood my dismissal of the other methods of execution, which was my fault. All other types of execution methods, other than lethal injection, are all but extinct in the US death penalty system, making that discussion nearly moot. As it is, now, the option of the condemned, in some few states, is to chose their method of executions, which also makes it near moot, as it is their choice.

The "cut down" procedure, needed to find veins is very common and necessary in many operations, world wide, as a result of no good surface veins. It has never been considered either cruel or painful, in surgery, and it should not be allowed to fictionalize its harm within executions, as both surface and internall pain relievers are provided to the condemned, with that procedure, just as with patients.

Here, as I already posted, earlier:

Lethal Injection: Controversies Resolved

I have no objection to switching to nitrogen gas, a cheap, abunduntaly avaiable source, which can not be taken away, which causes unconsciousness with no pain and no gasping for air, prior to death, as suggested, at least some 15 years ago, by a National Review author named Stuart Creque, I believe.

10) I have rebutted your beliefs about racial and wealth bias. If you have something that, specifically, rebuts my reviews, systemically, please provide. I will review and get back to you.

11) I did provide the sources for the 14,000 - 28,000 murderers that we allowed to murder, again and the 40,000 - 200,000 innocents murdered by those criminals we released. They were within the link that I provided, as I provide links and confirmation for all of my factual assertions (I hope).

The link iniside the referenrce was and is:

Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty

Timothy Saenz | 5/17/2014 - 4:51pm


I am getting in on this quite late, but I'll throw in a few pennies anyway.

First, to Ms. Meehan: Thanks for a stimulating and well considered article, as well as subsequent responses.

Now I would like to take a couple of Dudley's points and discuss them.

First, there is the matter of this statement: "Overwhelmingly, mental illnesses are of either a type and/or degree that they will not mitigate a criminal's culpability."

I would suggest that our knowledge and understanding of the brain increases every day. Already, however, damage to the frontal lobe, where resides our executive function, merits serious consideration as a good reason to caution any person thinking about ending another person's life in the name of Justice.

Secondly, and more importantly, is the teaching of our Lord in regard to the adulteress. Now, I know that some commenters have decided that scripture, that teaching, applies to other, shall we say, noncapital sins. But if you examine the principle our Lord instructs us on, it has no qualification:

"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (NAB)

The question isn't whether certain sinful acts, such as murder or rape, etc. deserve death or not - they do. The question is whether sinners should be executing other sinners. As the Lord teaches us, one who breaks a jot of the law has broken it all and "we are all under the domination of sin (Rom. 3:9)."

When it comes to execution, we should leave it to The Most High. He is able to punish, to dole out what is deserved, far better and far more exactingly than anything we can do here on earth. Life imprisonment seems punishment enough, and if the sinner hasn't repented by the end of his days, then a Just Punishment awaits him.

See the transition to a death penalty-free society as spiritual growth rather than as an inflexible adherence to - or inflexible rebellion against - any law or moral principle. We're just getting better at what we've always wanted to do and be: Christians.

God bless!

Dudley Sharp | 9/6/2014 - 4:11pm


With mental illness, I am speaking of known realities, today, not any unknowns in the future. Frontal lobe issue are, often, currently considered.

Reconsider you adulteress claims.

The Woman Caught in Adultery, The Death Penalty & John 8:2-11

There is nothing to support that the Most High has aksed us to delay justice on earth, with regard to the death penalty.

Please review:

New Testament Death Penalty Support Overwhelming

Dudley Sharp | 11/10/2013 - 9:11am

Ms. Meehan:

I should have said that I haven't looked at the claims of innocent executed in other countries. However, I did have a meeting with a Home Office official who stated, without evidence, that the false claims of executed innocents in the UK are similar to what I have found in the US, which means either false or unsupportable.

I asked you for the links to the alleged innocent executed cases. There are none. Do you have any? If so, please provide.

If not, how did you fact check, to confirm the innocence claims? Or did you just accept the claims of anti death penalty activists, who are constantly guilty of fabricating such claims?

If you, and/or other anti death penalty folks have no verifiable claims as to actual innocents executed, why would anyone accept those claims? They shouldn't. Don't you agree?

I am aware of the very recent, post 1950, efforts by some Christian groups to oppose the death penalty, efforts which are dwarfed by the scholarship from the time of Jesus through today, as I detailed.

The bible and theoology didn't suddenly change at 1950, but much humanistic liberalism has overrun almost all historical/traditonal Christian teachings since that time and some accept those changes without challenge or historical review.

For example, Pope John Paul II based his EV (1995) on defense of society, meaning, the capability of prisons, a truly secular concern, which is overwhelmed by 2000 years of previous Catholic teachings supportive of the death penalty, by many Popes and Sainst and many others, which relied upon eternal teachings.

God knows well the difference between murder and executions, as do most people. The inability to make moral distinctions between crimes and their punishments is not something that most would see as a virtue but is, instead, an amoral lack of reason.

Killing Equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents

The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation

The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge

The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation

more later

thomas mcmorrow | 11/13/2013 - 7:16am

Let's not forget the generation of Diplock court victims of Irish Catholic heritage brutalized by the British Crown. Many were innocent and it turns out there was a secret free mason-Orange Lodge link behind the injustice. It still reaches into the highest levels of British law enforcement and seeps into the court system, too. It is hate, not justice.

Mary Meehan | 10/30/2013 - 5:37pm

First, a reminder: I told you that, since I had just returned from an out-of-town trip and had a pile of work to do, I wouldn't be able to respond to you until later last week or sometime this week. You are, after all, commenting on an article that I researched and wrote over 30 years ago!

Responding to your request for names of people who were executed for crimes to which other people later confessed: Alabama hanged Mitchell Wooten in 1893 for the murder of his employers, an elderly couple. Two other men later confessed to the murder and said Wooten was innocent. (Source: Watt Espy, Statement before the Judiciary Committees of the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, 11 Feb. 1981, 2. The late Mr. Espy did an enormous amount of historical research on the death penalty in the United States.)

Nebraska executed R. Mead Shumway in 1909 for the murder of his employer's wife. The following year, the employer--on his deathbed--confessed that he himself had murdered his wife. Tennessee executed Maurice F. Mays in 1922 for murdering a woman; but another woman confessed to the murder four years later. England executed Timothy John Evans in 1950 for the murder of his baby daughter. Several years later, another man confessed to that murder and to the murders of several other people. (Source: Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet, "Miscarriage of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases," Stanford Law Review 40 (November 1987), 21-179, 161, 144-45, and 77.)

Bedau and Radelet also noted several cases in which alleged victims of murder were later discovered to be alive. That kind of discovery came too late for William Jackson Marion, who was executed for murder by Nebraska in 1887. Several years later, his alleged victim was found alive. (Ibid., 75, n. 274, and Lincoln Journal, 12 December 1986, 12.)

In many other cases, there is good reason to believe that people who were executed were, in fact, innocent. See, for example, Bedau and Radelet's other cases and Barry Scheck and others, Actual Innocence (Doubleday, 2000). Because of DNA testing and the admirable "innocence projects" around our country, such people today are more likely to be exonerated while on death row instead of after execution. But death row itself is a terrible punishment. And science cannot solve all problems of evidence—especially when trial witnesses lie to protect themselves, or make a deal with prosecutors for a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against someone else.

I hope to respond to some of your other comments in coming days; but I just do not have the time to read and respond to all of the articles to which you linked.

Dudley Sharp | 11/9/2013 - 6:01am

Ms. Meehan:

Thank you.

I just found your reply.

I am not sure I have heard about any of those pre 1972 cases. I don't accept any claims without fact checking, so I will get back to you on those.

The anti death penalty folks have a 70-83% error rate in their "exoneration" or "Innocence" claims, with regard to those released from death row and a 100% record of inaccuracy in claims of executing the innocent, in the US cases which I have reviewed. (1)

I am not sure what cases you are speaking of, in reference to innocents executed with "Bedau and Radelet's other cases and Barry Scheck and others"

Bedau and Radelet wrongly presumed 23 innocents executed and later said they never had said it. The only case that I know of from Scheck is Todd Willingham. Scheck well knows there is no proof of innocence in that case (1).

The Innocence Project has admitted to fabricating claims of false confessions (2), have made, blatantly inaccurate claims in the Todd Willinghman case, making one wonder what else they have not been caught doing wrong.

1) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy

2) The Innocence Project Invents False Confessions

DAVID LUKENBILL MR | 11/9/2013 - 5:25pm

Dudley, you continue to do excellent work refuting the claims of some Catholics that the Church no longer supports capital punishment.

As you know, it is a work I spent over a year working on, as a convert and a former criminal who spent 12 years in maximum security prisons, knew many murderers and well-understand the nature of evil men can do, requiring the final sanction.

The work was done as a work of my apostolate, the Lampstand Foundation and a book resulted, “Capital Punishment & Catholic Social Teaching: A Tradition of Support” which revealed to me, beyond any doubt, that the current support of capital punishment as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with the appropriate reservations, continues the ancient traditional support.

It is too bad and confusing to the faithful, that recent popes have, in a rather offhand way, countered the support of their Catechism by calling for abolition of capital punishment.

If there is a true case—based on traditional Catholic teaching—that can be made that capital punishment should be abolished, then it should be presented through the papal magisterium in the proper format, Apostolic Constitution, Apostolic Exhortation, Apostolic Letter, or Encyclical.

Dudley Sharp | 11/10/2013 - 8:48am

Thank you.

We have a different view of the Catechism, in that you, as many others, find it supportive of the death penalty and not in conflict with traditonal teachings.

I respect that opinion but disagree with it.

I, as others, find the recent teachings, in the various edits of the Catechism, to be filed with error and confusion, both factual and theological, are based upon presumptions, contradicted by the facts, and reflect a discounting of traditonal, eternal teachings, wholly unsupportable with the weaknesses in those recent changes.

A true saving grace in this debacle, is that with our two interpretations, we can rely upon Pope Benedict, who, when Cardinal Radzinger, agreed that these new teachings amounted to a prudential judgement and, as such, any good Catholic could disagree with these recent Church teachings.

I have asked repeatedly if the Catechisms have ever included prudential judgements before and have never received an answer.

It appears the answer is, most likely, no, because it is contrary to a Catechism to include anything dependent upon human opinon and disagreement.

It is a sound position that a prudential judgement should never be entered into a Catechism, again, as this poor example so exemplifies.

The Catechism and the Death Penalty

Saint (& Pope) Pius V, "The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder." "The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent" (1566).

Pope Pius XII: "When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live." 9/14/52.

"Moral/ethical Death Penalty Support: Modern Catholic Scholars".

Dudley Sharp | 10/30/2013 - 6:04am

Anti death penalty arguments are false


The pro death penalty positions are stronger.

I emailed Ms. Meeham 10/19/2013, to let her know that America had re posted her article and that I had rebutted all 10 points, inclusive of an additional 4 found at her website, inviting her reply.

On 10/21 I received a "thank you" from her.

40 days have gone by with no reply at this site.

Stanley Kopacz | 10/23/2013 - 10:49am

I would say that way more murder and violence result from a stressed out population, usually for economic reasons, than can be allegedly saved by capital punishment. There will always be murder, but so much of it? If you want to reduce violence, get people jobs, a good working environment, a good living environment. Keep 'em off the street, as they say. One other factor could be brain damage from environmental pollutants causing loss of impulse control. Violent crime has decreased since we took the lead out of gasoline.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/19/2013 - 2:09pm

Gee, Dudley, you have me wondering what feeds your zeal to kill and defend that killing? A sense of justice, fairness? Or is it an ideology? What if it were your child who was condemned to die, yet who had not killed anyone himself? I know several cases, men (children, really) who are convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to die (see the felony murder rule) even though they neither killed anyone nor had an intention to kill. Essentially, most were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is this fair? (If you respond to this, I would appreciate it if you would speak from your own life experience and not refer me to other sites. thank you)

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 6:35pm


It is doubtful that you are truly speaking of cases whereby the persons "were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Please refer to the cases and we can review them, here.

To be clear, a criminal who can become a legal accomplice, under the felony murder law, or more properly, the law of parties, is one who was actually part of the illegal activity, an activity which resulted in a capital murder. The accomplice is part of the capital murder, even if they did not "pull the trigger", because they were, legally and morally, an accomplice to the criminal activity, just as Bin Laden was, thousands of miles away.

It is much more likely that the innocent murder vicitm(s) were in the right place at the right time - but a bad guy perverted it into the wrong time and place - the murderers turned something right into something wrong.

murder and the law of parties

“What do you think is going to happen when a guy goes into a convenience store to rob it and he’s armed with a gun, and your job is to help him commit that crime?” said Mary Lou Leary, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. “It’s a very high-risk activity.”(1)

Put another way, don’t commit an armed robbery when you know there is a reason for taking a gun.

Better yet, don’t commit armed robbery, at all. You might end up on death row.

There are many ‘non-triggerman” murders that most, if not all, of us, would find equally as culpable, both legally and morally, as the triggerman, such as the person who hires a hit man to murder someone.

Texas Law of Parties:

A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another if acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense or if, in the attempt to carry out a conspiracy to commit one felony, another felony is committed by one of the conspirators, all conspirators are guilty of the felony actually committed, though having no intent to commit it, if the offense was committed in furtherance of the unlawful purpose and was one that should have been anticipated as a result of the carrying out of the conspiracy. (2)

(1) Should murder accomplices face execution? By John Gramlich,, August 13, 2008


Beth Cioffoletti | 10/19/2013 - 7:41pm

--It is doubtful that you are truly speaking of cases whereby the persons "were in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Please refer to the cases and we can review them, here.

Dudley, I will tell you about the case that I know most intimately, that of TW. I had known TW since he was 5 years old - he was a bright, creative, eager to please child. He was never in any trouble whatsoever at school. ZERO record of misbehavior of any kind. When he was 18 years old, just before he graduated from High School, he got "mixed up" with some questionable characters. TW had a car and was coerced into driving these characters to a house where they were going to buy marijuana. TW waited outside while they went in to get the marijuana. While they were in there, a young man was shot and killed (it wasn't planned, it just happened.) TW's parents were not properly advised, legally, and could not believe that their son could be convicted of 1st degree murder, so they refused any plea deals. TW was in fact convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. This was in 1992. TW is now almost 40 years old and has had NO WRITE UPS for misbehavior while in prison. Yet all attempts for clemency and pardon have been denied.

This is just one story, the one I know most intimately. Under the mandatory sentencing laws of the state of Florida, the judge had only 2 choices in sentencing Taylor: the death penalty or life in prison.

Is this justice? Is this reason to condemn this young man to death?

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 7:52pm


What is TW's name and do you have a link to the appelate or court record?

I would need to look at the case and make a determination based upon the facts, which all can see.

Full disclosure, please.

Dudley Sharp | 10/20/2013 - 5:07am

and here's the problem.

When you don't have the court documents, who do you believe? The judge, a neutral partry, or defense counsel, an advocate for the defendant/convicted party.

The judge.

Judge Maxwell writes in his order.

"Although the (Wells) did not specifically state that he knew about the robbery plans before the crime occurred, it is clear that he did,"

He cites that Mr. Wells said in a post-arrest interview that he had heard his co-defendants talking about getting eight or nine pounds of marijuana, and he heard one pound would be worth about $1,500.

"He (Mr. Wells) also stated that the co-defendants had two guns, while they were talking about picking up the weed, and that he saw them take the two guns into the house in Cape Canaveral,"

"(Wells) also stated that they wore masks when they went into the house so they could hide their identities. A jury would not believe that the defendant did not know the co-defendants planned to commit a robbery after he saw them entering the house with masks on, carrying guns."

In his motion for rehearing, Mr. Lykkebak (defense counsel) said the statements are false, citing portions of Mr. Wells' post-arrest interview.

"It is clear that Wells never saw co-defendants with the guns or masks until after the crime was completed," Mr. Lykkebak writes. "The interview further provides that Wells never saw the co-defendants enter the house with guns and masks. Wells could not even see the house."

Judge Maxwell's ruling also says that Mr. Wells intended to reap the benefits of the robbery.

"The defendant told the police that he took about a half ounce of the marijuana that was stolen from the house, and he expected that the co-defendants to give him more of the marijuana later that night," Judge Maxwell wrote. "The following day he bought zip lock bags, so they could divide up the marijuana. The Court finds that even if (co-defendant) Kharibe Burgan testified that the co-defendants took advantage of, and intimidated the defendant, and that the defendant did not know about the robbery plans, the result of the trial would have been about the same. The testimony of the four co-defendants would not overcome the defendant's statement to police."

Mr. Lykkebak strongly disputes Judge Maxwell's opinion.

"Wells was originally told that the co-defendants had arranged a deal for eight to nine pounds of marijuana and that he may receive one-half pound," Mr. Lykkebak states. "After the crime, Wells only accepted some small scraps of marijuana out of fear of refusing. (In the arrest interview Mr. Wells said) Burgan had Wells drive him to the grocery store, so Burgan could buy some zip-lock bags."

Mr. Lykkebak argues that Judge Maxwell's ruling improperly relies on a previous opinion from another judge and not on the post-arrest interview and statements by co-defendants whose testimony was previously unavailable.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/20/2013 - 6:30am

So you believe the judge? I was at that hearing. Mr. Lykkebak did a good job presenting the facts and gross misinterpretation of the case by the prosecution. From my point of view Judge Maxwell was a coward, unable to undo the rulings of previous judges because of political and career considerations.

So you think that it is ok to execute this 18 year old who is still in high school and has no prior criminal (or other) record of misbehavior? Or to send him to prison for the rest of his life?

Dudley Sharp | 10/20/2013 - 8:53am


As I stated, the problem is that I don't have the trial transcript and as a matter of fact, any neutral party must accept the opinion of a neutral judge, over that of the covicted parties advocate, who is, by definition, not neutral. In addition, this judge repeated a number of the facts as stated by a prior judge, which as a matter of law and fact, provides a stronger case against Wells and less credibility to defense counsel.

Under that scenario, yes, of course I believe the judge. I can see no evidence for your allegation that political or career considerations were part of the judges decsion and I suspect you have no such evidence, other than what appears to be your vested interest in being another advocate for Wells.

None of this is to say that your side of the story is untrue. However, the opinon I read is supported by two neutral judges and is only rebutted by two advocates for Wells. Both reason and probability makes one side wth the judges, which explains why pardon and clemency efforts have failed, based ONLY upon the limited evidence I have read.

If you have court documents of other judicial opinions, that would be helpful.

It is not a matter of me saying what is OK or not. It is a matter of being fully informed, prior to rendering an opinion.

We all want truth and justice. In our system it requires admissable facts of evidence.

A prior record is, very often, not telling as to guilt. John Wayne Gacy, as well as a number of additonal serial murderers, had no priors to their being found guilt of their serial murders. Even criminalss with massive prior records can be innocent of other crimes they are charged with.

The issue is having all of the facts.

For me, that is a requirement, as it should be for all.

As detailed within my death penalty reviews, herein, there is an 83% error rate in some of the death row innocence claims, which emphasises the importance of having confirmable and complete facts, prior to forming an opinion.

I think it is the responsible position.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/20/2013 - 10:07am

All I am asking, Dudley, is if you think that the law is just?

A law that allows someone to be executed who is peripheral to a murder? Taylor's is the one case that I know the best. I know plenty of other cases where there is more or less involvement. A guy drives a friend to a 7-11 to get cigarettes. While he is in there the friend shoots the shopkeeper. The friend comes out with his cigarettes and the guy drives away, never even knowing what happened. Two weeks later the guy is arrested and then convicted of 1st degree murder. 1st degree murder carries the punishment of death in many states.

Whether you believe the judge or the attorney or me, or read the trial transcript - the end result is that Taylor Wells is culpable under the law and that the judge would have been perfectly within bounds to have him killed. It took me a few years to understand this. For a long time I wanted the judges to listen to reason, have some compassion, before I realized that they just follow the law.

You are a big proponent of the Death Penalty. This is how it works in America. Young kids are killed or sent to prison for the rest of their lives with no chance to get out, for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. They never killed anyone or held a gun or assisted a gun-man. Get to know some of these cases and families.

Dudley Sharp | 10/21/2013 - 11:04am

When a party to a criminal enterprise knows that robbery, with threat of force, weapons, is part of that enterprise and someone gets murdered, yes, they should be prosecuted as part of that conspiracy and subject to the same culpability as the actual murderer, while also considering any mitigating circumstances, in additonal to the aggravators.

A crime with threat of harm, robbery, rape, car jacking, etc., the threat is clear "do what we want or you die". That is why the weapon is there and that is always the threat, as all parties to the conspiracy know.

Bin Laden was thousands of miles away. There is no one who doesn't find him 100% morally culpable, just as the person who hires any assasin. Just as it is the same for a robbery conspiracy, whereby folks are murdered.

I must correct you.

The only neutral evidence that I have read finds that Wells was in the wrong place at the wrong time at his chosing and with his full knowledge.

One has to be a minimum of 18 years old, at the time of the crime, to be sentneced to death or life without parole.

These are not young kids, but young adults.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/21/2013 - 10:26pm

If we are honest, most all of us will admit to errors of judgement when we were 18, 19, or 20 years old. Situations not so very different from that of my friend, Taylor Wells. In fact, most every one I tell the story of Taylor to say: that could have been me! You are saying that these situations warrant execution or life in prison without a chance to ever get out.

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 1:54pm


There have been about 700,000 murders in the US since 1973.

A very small percentage of those get the death penalty or life without parole.

8400 (1.2%) were sentenced to death.

The data I have shows that 41,000 were serving life without parole (LWOP) in 2008. In Georgia, which evidently keeps great records, breaking down their life sentences, finds that 60% of those LWOP cases were for murder.

If I estimate that as of 2013, that LWOP cases number 55,000, with 60% for murder.

That would be 33,000 (4.7%) of the 700,000, serving LWOP for murder.

Which means that at least 94.1% of crimes involvinga death that the guilty party will either not go to jail, or is eligible for release.

As 38% of death penalty case are overtuned and presuming 15% of LWOP cases are oveturned, around 96-98% of the crimes resulting in death, the criminal will either not be imprisoned or will be eligible for release.


This does not include the calculations resulting from 20% of the murders remaining insolved, because your issue is "You are saying that these situations warrant execution or life in prison without a chance to ever get out."

If that 20% is excluded from the beginning of the calculations, it seems that maybe in 98-99% of the cases, of those caught for being the criminal in a case involving a dead vicitim, that they will either not be imprisoned or will be subject to release.

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 1:54pm


My guess is that you described the scenario to others, as per your bias.

If we accept the neutral judges opinions, that Wells knew it was an armed robbery of a drug dealer. likely, zero of the people you talked to would have said they would have gone along with it.

The probability of violence or death is way too high for any rational person to say they would have gone along with it.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/22/2013 - 10:20am

You know, Dudley, every one that I tell this story to (other than those who know Taylor personally) think that I am leaving something out. Like you, they think that I'm biased and in some way twisting the story. But I am not. They can't believe that this kind of outrageous injustice is done in the courts of America. I couldn't believe it either. For many years I thought that some court error had taken place, that it could be corrected. Surely we didn't execute or cage forever promising young kids like Taylor who made an error of judgement. For maybe 10 years I thought that we could we could find a way for Taylor to resume his life. But I was wrong. It's all cut and dried. In all these years (more than 20), I have only known of one FMR conviction that was overturned - a girl whose father worked in maintenance at the University of Colorado. He got a major writer and the entire University community behind him and was able to get a judge to overturn his daughter's 1st degree murder conviction. That is the only one.

There is something seriously wrong here. You can't believe it either, so you tell me that I'm not telling the story straight. I am.

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 12:40pm


You write: "For maybe 10 years I thought that we could we could find a way for Taylor to resume his life. But I was wrong. It's all cut and dried. In all these years (more than 20), I have only known of one FMR conviction that was overturned . . "

It is because you have not looked.

38% of death penalty cases are overturned on appeal.

I am told, by multiple credible sources, that 15% of all criminal convictions are overturned in appeals. I have never researched, which would be easy, I suspect.

I don't know the percentage of life sentences which are overtuned. I suspect it is close to 15%. You can research.

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 1:25pm


You seem to be missing what I am stating clearly.

Based upon the two judges neutral opinions, I can see no one agreeing with your position.

The judges found that Taylor willingly participated in an armed robbery of drug dealers and as a party to that murder/robbery Taylor got life.

I make these case judgements based upon the facts, not faith. The ONLY neutral facts at my disposal are the opposite of your story.

Well, there are more facts against your position and for the position of the judges.

All of Taylor's appeals have been denied, which are decisions in line with the judicial comments I have read, which conflict with your side of the story.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/22/2013 - 12:33pm

You misunderstand what I am arguing, Dudley.

The judges are just upholding the law. After some years I've come to understand the Taylor WAS guilty of Felony Murder the way the law is written. Their rulings are correct. Taylor was part of a group of people who committed a robbery and during that robbery someone was killed. Taylor made a terrible mistake and deserves some punishment.

But does he deserve to be killed??? Does he deserve to spend his life in prison with no chance to ever get out???

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 3:17pm

Let's be specific.

It's not just the law, but the facts we are discussing.

The judges are saying that Taylor went along with the robbery of drug dealers, an extremely risky proposition and that Taylor knew his conspiracy involved guns and the threat of force was required and violence could easily be predicted, based upon their target - drug dealers - and violence did, in fact, occur.

In the course of that criminal conspiracy, a capital murder was committed - a young father was murdered, during the course of that robbery.

It is hard to fathom a robbery more likely to go wrong than the robbery of a drug dealer.

All parties were aware of the risks and rewards. They share in both.

A lot of very good people make very bad decisions, some resulting in the deaths of other people, with consequences, for some, that last a lifetime, that of the dead vicitm(s) and of those causing their death, all of whom are part of that conspiracy.

Stay away from a criminal conspiracy that may send you to jail. Run away from a criminal conspiracy, whereby violence is very possible - the robbery of drug dealers - and whereby your involvement in that conspiracy may find you culpable for murder.

That is, certainly, the message to others, with this case.

Taylor should have run away. Instead he elected to be part of that conspiracy. His choice. His consequence. He may be a great kid, but he made a terrible choice, which he is, now, living with.

That is what the law and the facts as I know them say in this case.

Beth Cioffoletti | 10/22/2013 - 9:03am

Your guess is wrong, Dudley.
I KNOW Taylor Wells. I know that he is not a criminal and has never intentionally hurt another person in his life. Everyone of his teachers and classmates have testified the same thing. He was one of the best kids you could ever know. That he is spending his life in prison is beyond absurd. Since I have been so outraged about Taylor's sentencing, I've found out that there are tens of thousands of others in this country with similar stories.

I also know that I have been in situations with questionable characters, especially during early adulthood, where I would have been in a similar situation as Taylor and gone along with something that I wasn't sure about. If you are honest, you would know and admit to the same thing in yourself.

Once again, I ask you to dare to get to know, personally, some of these cases and people. Just one case is probably enough. Go to a prison and get to know a prisoner. It will change you forever. You might be able to forgive yourself so that you don't have to be so rigid and hard with everybody else.

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 3:18pm


I have reviewed a number of these cases, often involving folks with an emotional attachment to the guilty party, such as you, with them and defense presenting only their side of the story and leaving out the court evidence and judicial rulings, which conflicted with those advocating for the criminal.

The appeals courts, most often, providing their neutral opnions, contraditcting the position of those advocating for the criminal.

The same, as I have observed, here, in Well's case, with my limited review of the judicial opinions.

As I said earlier, I make no judgement on whether your position is true, just that, based upon the limited neutral opinions that I have read, the facts support his guilt in a criminal conspiracy resulting in a robbery/murder, with all the appellate courts upholding that view and not yours.

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 6:26pm


Thank you for the inquiry.

I thought it was clear by my responses.

To be more clear:

Anti death penalty arguments are either false or the pro death penalty arguments are stronger.

That should have been obvious in every response.

In any public policy debate, fact checking should be very important.

In the case of the death penalty, justice is at stake.

In the case of the death penalty debate, truth is at stake.

Truth and justice are preeminent moral concerns and thus, should always be defended, particularly in the primary context of the horrendous crimes and their innocent victims.

I was much more thorough, here, because it is the America Magazine.

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 1:10pm

Leszek Syski, a Maryland antiabortion activist, says that "capital punishment is the essence of dehumanization."

Odd she wouldn't say that about abortion. Anti abortion activists find the fetus to be profoundly human, some pro abortion folks find the fetus to be a zygote, a collection of cells.

The Death Penalty: Recognizing the Humanity of the Murderer

Both pro and anti death penalty folks recognize the humanity of the murderers.

In fact, Christian moralist C.S. Lewis finds a murderer's humanity to be the foundation for execution:

"But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we ‘ought to have known better’, is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image." (1)

Similarly, Pope Pius XII; "When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live." 9/14/52. (1)

John Murray: "Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life." "... it is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty." "It is the sanctity of life that validates the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merit." (Page 122 of Principles of Conduct). (1)

Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey: “. . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy.” synopsis: “A Bible Study”, from Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. Dr. Carey was a Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College. (1)

"The normal moral reason for upholding capital punishment is reverence for life itself. Indeed, this is the reason why scripture and Christian tradition have upheld it, a fact which suggests that, if anything, it may be the abolition of capital punishment which threatens to cheapen life, not its retention." J. Budziszewski, Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, Jan. 25, 2002 conference, Pew Forum, titled "A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty," (1)


All laws and sanctions are based upon the human condition and the human responsibility to the social contract.

There is no greater legal due process than with the US death penalty, what the US Supreme Court calls super due process, only present because of our reverence for the human condition.

Of all sanctions, the death penalty has greater due process, pre trial, trial, appeals and in commutation/clemency considerations.

To punish with death, each one of the 12 jurors must agree with the prosecution in each of five specific areas(2) .

A death sentence requires that the prosecution must prevail in 60 out of those 60 considerations, or 100% (12 jurors times 5 considerations) .

To avoid death, the defendant/covicted party must prevail in only 1 out of those 60 considerations, or 1.67%.

If convicted and sentenced to death,some inmates may then begin an appeals process that could extend through 23 years, 60 appeals and over 200 individual judicial and executive reviews of the inmates claims.

The average time on death row for those executed from 1977-2012 was over 10 years.


"The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge"

"Killing Equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents"

"The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation"

Pro Life: The Death Penalty

"Moral/ethical Death Penalty Support: Modern Catholic Scholars"

Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty,


The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy


1) The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation

In the United States, Dudley Sharp,10/1/97,

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 11:58am

Camus is fascinating.

But, I am not sure he's the guy to listen to on the death penalty.

Camus sees this question of suicide as a natural response to an underlying premise, namely that life is absurd in a variety of ways. As we have seen, both the presence and absence of life (i.e., death) give rise to the condition: it is absurd to continually seek meaning in life when there is none, and it is absurd to hope for some form of continued existence after death given that the latter results in our extinction. But Camus also thinks it absurd to try to know, understand, or explain the world, for he sees the attempt to gain rational knowledge as futile. Here Camus pits himself against science and philosophy, dismissing the claims of all forms of rational analysis: “That universal reason, practical or ethical, that determinism, those categories that explain everything are enough to make a decent man laugh” (MS, 21).

These kinds of absurdity are driving Camus's question about suicide, but his way of proceeding evokes another kind of absurdity, one less well-defined, namely, the “absurd sensibility” (MS, 2, tr. changed). This sensibility, vaguely described, seems to be “an intellectual malady” (MS, 2) rather than a philosophy. He regards thinking about it as “provisional” and insists that the mood of absurdity, so “widespread in our age” does not arise from, but lies prior to, philosophy. Camus's diagnosis of the essential human problem rests on a series of “truisms” (MS, 18) and “obvious themes” (MS, 16). But he doesn't argue for life's absurdity or attempt to explain it—he is not interested in either project, nor would such projects engage his strength as a thinker. “I am interested … not so much in absurd discoveries as in their consequences” (MS, 16). Accepting absurdity as the mood of the times, he asks above all whether and how to live in the face of it. “Does the absurd dictate death” (MS, 9)? But he does not argue this question either, and rather chooses to demonstrate the attitude towards life that would deter suicide. In other words, the main concern of the book is to sketch ways of living our lives so as to make them worth living despite their being meaningless.

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 6:38pm

From Ms. Meehan's other site, as well

Ms. Meehan actually added a few more, additional reasons to oppose execution at her site, A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty,

She finds that

8. Executions are premeditated killings in which society actually imitates the killer.

This is a common anti death penalty problem, not being able to see the obvious moral differences between the rape and murder of children ( a crime against an innocent victim) and the execution of that rapist murderer ( a sanction for the guilty party).

Anti death penalty folks equate both killings, only because they have no moral compass.

They also equate kidnapping and incarceration, as they do fines and theft.

Zero moral compass. Just astounding.

"Killing Equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents"

"The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge"

The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation

"The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation"


Ms. Meehan finds:

9. There is no good way to kill someone; all of the methods are appalling.

Her statement is based upon her opposing the death penalty and not much else.

The only relevant case she mentions is one lethal injection case, whereby a "cut down" was required. This is a common procedure with surgeries, when a suitable surface vein cannot be found, the same procedure used in lehtal injection, when required.

Lethal injection is painless. I agree with her assessment that the search for the most painless method is a bit of a bad story.

However, I think she overlooks the constant efforts by anti death penalty activists to undermine any method of execution, by legal as well as public policy channels, inclusive of the absurd one with lethal injection, that made it all the way to the US Supreme Court.

A review of the most common anti death penalty absurdities.

Lethal Injection: Controversies Resolved

Veterinary Claims a Distortion of Reality: Human Lethal Injection

Physicians & The State Execution of Murderers: No Ethical/Medical Dilemma

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 10:19am

Ms. Meehan recommends:

"Murderers should do productive work in prison in order to pay for their room and board and to make financial restitution to the families of their victims." (1)

There have been a few polls showing a "preference" for life sentences with restitution to the victim's survivors..

I am certain that the respondents to this poll have no idea how grotesque it is.

Let's say your daughter was raped and murdered. On what days would you like to receive that $30/month check from that rapist/murderer? Her birthday? Your birthday or wedding anniversary? The day she would have graduated from high school?

Is there any day you would want to open that letter and hold that check from the man who raped and murdered your daughter?

Think about it.

1) A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 10:08am

Ms. Meehan has since added two more reasons to oppose the death penalty (see footnote):

1) That the death penalty is assisted suicide; and
2) That murderers are executed despite mitigating circumstances

to rebut

1) The death penalty is assisted suicide

a) 99.7% of murderers subject to the death penalty do everything they can to avoid the death penalty/execution.

b) very few, if any, of the 0.3% that waive appeals could be considered assisted suicide. Some of them waive appeals because they are doing the right thing, as they deserve their sanction and want to show that they accept it. We want criminals to accept their sanctions, to show contrition and remorse.

Very few, if any, would be found to have committed suicide. Why? Because the sanction has been imposed upon them -- it is not their choice, except in the context that they put themselves at risk of the death penalty , because of their decision to murder, just as all criminals put themselves at risk of sanction because of their bad choices.

c) Ms. Meehan's illogic would include removing any sanction whereby a prisoner commits suicide while in prison, likely, causing the removal of all sanctions, based upon Ms. Meehan's poor reasoning.

2) that murderers are executed despite mitigating circumstances

Well of course.

Juries and judges weigh mitigating circumstances against aggravating factors and make the decision for death, based upon those cases wherein the mitigators are overwhelmed by the aggravators.

This is how it is intended to work.

Ms. Meehan only lists alleged mitigators, not the rebuttals to them or the aggravating factors. In other words, she only presented the defense side, which may have been completely destroyed by the prosecutor and overwhelmed by the aggravating factors.


A Dozen Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty

Dudley Sharp | 10/22/2013 - 12:49pm

Ms. Meehan writes: "A number of persons executed in the United States were later cleared by confessions of those who had actually committed the crimes."

I am unaware of these cases.

Can you name them and provide a link for the evidence?

Follow up:

There is no statute of limitations for murder. Were those who confessed prosecuted? Was the executed party (ies) pardoned?

Dudley Sharp | 10/19/2013 - 9:22am

Viguerie wrote: "that Christ would oppose the killing of a human being as punishment for a crime." This view is supported by the New Testament story about the woman who faced execution by stoning (John 8:7, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone").

Well, no.

The Woman Caught in Adultery, the Death Penalty & John 8:2-11

Jesus and the Death Penalty

The Death Penalty: Mercy, Expiation, Redemption & Salvation


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