Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Moral Issue Should Transcend Politics.

Chairman, members of the Judiciary,
My name is Deborah Sampson. I am a Volunteer Advocate for Colorado Interfaith Voices for Justice and a member of the Colorado Episcopal Public Policy Network.

I recently read a quote from Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice:
I'm opposed to the death penalty not because I think it's unconstitutional per se -- although I think it's been applied in ways that are unconstitutional -- but it really is a moral view and that is that the taking of life is not the way to handle even the most significant of crimes. Who amongst anyone is not above redemption? I think we have to be careful in executing final judgement. The one thing my faith teaches me - I don't get to play God. I think you are short cutting the whole process of redemption... I don't want to be the person that stops that process from taking place.
Repeal of the death penalty is not a conservative issue or a liberal issue - politically or theologically. It is a moral issue that should transcend politics.

 Theologically, the scriptures set a tone:
In Hebrew scriptures, Deuteronomy is a book of law.
34 Is not this laid up in store with me,
    sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
    for the time when their foot shall slip;
because the day of their calamity is at hand,
    their doom comes swiftly.
36 Indeed the Lord will vindicate his people,
    have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone,
    neither bond nor free remaining.
In Christian scriptures, Paul admonishes the church in Rome:
18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[a] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
The death penalty is final. It leaves no room for pardon, mercy or forgiveness and these concepts are central to the Bible and, thus, to our theology. In that context, we ask for your vote to repeal.

And that is what I said before the Colorado House Judiciary. It is, by no means, the entirety of my stance on the death penalty which is also informed by the huge price tag for death penalty prosecution and defense and the incredibly high percentage of low-income, black death row inhabitants. In Colorado, all three men on death row even attended the same high school. One must go back some 50 years to see a white man on death row. No statistics seem to exist on which, if any, defendants given the death penalty had private representation from the beginning of their trial process. I'd wager a guess the answer is none. It is a policy that should be repealed on moral and financial grounds.

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