Cities for Life event gives voice to those opposed to the death penalty
More than 60 people shrugged off the threat of rain showers Wednesday night
when they gathered outside at the Shrine at the Mission Nombre de Dios to say
they wanted to see an end to the death penalty.
Those who came heard from a number of speakers, including Deacon Jason Roy who
ministers daily to some of the 386 men and women currently sitting on Florida's
Others included Darlene Farah, who has been fighting with the 4th Judicial
Circuit State Attorney's Office, urging prosecutors there not to seek the death
penalty in the case against the man accused of her daughter's 2013 murder.
Herman Lindsey, who was sentenced to death in 2006 and exonerated in 2009, told
his story, as did Deborah Jackson, whose husband, Kim Jackson, is currently
sitting on death row.
Through the differing perspectives offered, a number of messages emerged
including the assertion that the death penalty hurts far more people than it
"The death penalty creates more victims," Farah told those gathered in front of
She told a tale of the hurt and pain that her family has gone through after her
daughter's death and the realization that, if the death penalty is secured in
the case against the man accused of her murder, they will be forced to relive
it for decades to come as the case goes through the appeals process.
It was that appeals process that saved Lindsey, who called himself the
Florida's "23rd death row survivor."
His case, he said, was the 1st in the state's history to be thrown out with a
unanimous decision from the Florida Supreme Court, who ruled that the evidence
presented at his trial did not support a conviction.
After his conviction, Lindsey told those gathered that he "lost all faith," but
eventually came to the conclusion that, after his exoneration, he had to fight
to end the death penalty.
"God takes us through things so he can use us in a certain way," he said.
The 1-hour event, co-hosted by the the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine and
Equal Justice USA, was called Cities for Life. It also featured music from the
St. Augustine Chamber Singers, who sang during a candle lighting ceremony where
those in attendance lit 386 candles representing each death row inmate.
Cities for Life is an effort that was started 15 years ago by the Rome-based
Sant'Egidio Community as a movement to end the death penalty. Since it began,
more than 2,000 cities throughout the world have declared themselves against
executions, according to diocese spokeswoman Kathleen Bagg.
While local cities haven't signed on, Bagg said parishioners started organizing
the event locally last year. That 1st event was smaller than Wednesday
evening's, but, Bagg said, the anti-death penalty cause has grown in
significance here since the Rev. Rene Robert, a local priest known for his
opposition to the death penalty, was found shot to death in Georgia earlier
Robert's body was found in April in a remote area of Burke County, Georgia,
days after he was reported missing by friends and family. Authorities say he
was killed there by 28-year-old Steven James Murray, a man with an extensive
criminal record, who, it is believed, met Robert through the priest's active
ministry devoted to serving the less fortunate, including those who had spent
time in prison and jail.
Shortly after Murray was arrested and charged, Georgia district attorney Ashley
Wright filed her intent to seek the death penalty in the case against him.
That troubled some who knew of Robert's beliefs.
The issue was further compounded, at least for some, when a signed and
notarized document was found in Robert's file at the diocese that left
virtually no doubt as to his wishes should he be killed. The Declaration of
Life, as it is titled, said that if he were ever to fall victim to a violent
crime, he would not want the death penalty sought against the person convicted
of the crime.
That discovery prompted letters from the Most Rev. Felipe J. Estevez, bishop of
St. Augustine, to the editor of The Record and to Wright herself, calling for
an end to the "cycle of violence" perpetuated by the use of the death penalty.
Wright told The Record in a subsequent interview that such letters or even the
decalration itself held no sway over her.
"My oath actually prohibits me from making decisions based on what the
community demands or rejects," she said.
The Rev. John Gillespie, pastor at San Sebastian Church, read a portion of his
friend's declaration Wednesday night.
As the ceremony drew to a close and the wind began extinguishing the candles
behind him, Gillespie asked those who came to consider adding their signature
to a petition asking Wright to revisit her decision to seek the death penalty
in the case against Murray.
"I don't think he wants it," Gillespie said of Robert. "I do not want it. And I
hope you agree."
(source: St. Augustine Record)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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