Thou Shalt Not Kill. Unless . . .
A Texas native stares down his state’s execution machine, one day at a time
The state of Texas' execution chamber in Huntsville
Ken Light / www.kenlight.com
A good friend told me something startling. She said that, barring some unforeseen event, a good friend of hers was going to be poisoned to death by the state of Texas.
Her friend’s name was David Lee Powell, and David was a convicted criminal who was sentenced to death for the vicious, evil murder of a police officer named Ralph Ablanedo.
I recognize that David Lee Powell’s crime was heinous. And yet I don’t believe he was a heinous man. I don’t believe the state had the right to kill him. I also doubt, very much, that any of this—the shooting of a police officer or the poisoning of a convicted murderer—would have registered as more than a passing blip on the radar screen of my mind if I hadn’t been personally affected, albeit in an extremely indirect manner, by this sorrowful series of events.
But because I was personally affected, because I was challenged by conversations I had with my friend—about David Powell and the death penalty, about the state’s right to kill American citizens, and about my own obliviousness to political issues that don’t directly affect me—I volunteered to write a series of posts for the Texas Observer’s website. Excerpts from some of them follow.
During the two weeks I wrote these posts, which took the form of a daily countdown to David’s death, I found myself profoundly confronted by the experience.
Twelve Days Left to Live
June 3, 2010
Here’s something that David Powell, the man who’s scheduled to be killed in Huntsville on June 15, has set me to thinking about.
What does it mean, as a matter of public policy, to give up on the idea of redemption?
Here’s a man who is 59, and has been in prison for 32 years. His whole life—even according, it seems, to his jailers and prosecutors—has been virtuous, productive, and gentle, with the enormous, glaring, terrible exception of the horrible crime he committed.
One of the things about the death penalty is that, because convicted killers (for a whole variety of reasons) aren’t typically white, middle-class honor students, with reputations for being kindly, wholesome people, it’s very easy for middle-class people like me to presume that folks on death row are people from “over there.” Folks from another, meaner America—that hard, irredeemable underbelly of the nation’s poverty and crime. You know, the kind of place you see on Cops.
Of course, there are so many things wrong with this presumption that it’s hard to know where to begin. But imagine if one of the sweet, golden kids of your local high school—who made good grades, and volunteered for local charities, and got into a great college—got hooked on meth and, in a blind fog of addiction, killed a cop who pulled him over for a traffic violation. For this is what David Powell did.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>