US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Three headlines about the death penalty

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Three different stories about the death penalty are making the news today:

  • Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of the accused in the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people last April. “The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. From the Boston Globe: “Prosecutors said in today’s filing with the court they would seek the death penalty for 16 of the charges Tsarnaev faces, and they would prove the following factors, as required by law: that the killings and injuries were intentional, that Tsarnaev willingly took part in the acts that resulted in death, and that he knew they could end in death. The prosecutors also cited other factors that would allow for the death penalty: that death occurred during the commission of another crime, that the crime itself created a grave risk of death, that there was planning involved, that there were multiple killings and vulnerable victims, and that there was a “heinous, cruel and depraved manner of committing the offense.”
  • The editorial board at the New York Times has published an op-ed decrying the states attempting to shroud in secrecy the combinations of lethal drugs they are using in executions. Last week in Missouri, a court upheld the state’s secrecy when it denied a condemned inmate’s claim that he is entitled to basic information about the drugs that will be used to kill him. (Untested drug combinations came to the fore earlier this month in the case of Ohio’s Dennis McGuire.) The piece concludes: “In the end, the argument over what is the most ‘humane’ way to kill someone only obscures the larger point, which is that, in the 21st century, the United States has no business putting people to death by any means. Public support for capital punishment has reached a 40-year low, and virtually all other Western societies have rejected it. It will end here, too, but not until this despicable practice is dragged out into the open for all to see.”
  • In Cleveland, the family members of John McGrath, killed in 1986 by Gregory Lott, are crediting their Catholic faith as the main reason why they don’t want to see the death penalty used against Lott, who is scheduled to be executed in March. Said McGrath’s daughter Irene Allain: "Although it has been difficult for me to come to terms with how my father died, I do not agree with executing Gregory Lott. I am a devout Catholic, as is my family. I believe that life in prison is a just punishment for Gregory Lott. I believe his death sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment.'' One of McGrath’s grandsons added: "I wouldn't want to be the person who prevents someone from changing -- from finding God, understanding the depth of what he has done and helping him prepare for the afterlife. If a man's put to death, any preparation for that is pretty much ended.''