Tuesday, September 25, 2007


A Reflection

Today as we wait to hear from the Tennessee Supreme Court concerning their decision to grant the state's motion on vacating E.J. Harbison's death sentence, I am relieved that we are, most likely, not facing another execution early tomorrow morning. At the same time though, I am also filled with a sense of sadness and longing.

Lately, I have found myself wanting to know more about Edith Russell, the elderly woman who E.J. Harbison is convicted of killing. I think about Mrs. Russell that January day in 1983 having gone to the grocery store as usual and headed home to put the groceries away. Maybe she was thinking about what she would cook for supper that evening for her husband Frank. Maybe she was thinking about what a brand new year would have in store. Maybe she was listening to the radio and singing along.

When she went into the rental apartment behind her home, she had no reason to suspect anything. And then, her ordinary day turned to terror. She was confronted with intruders, hit on the head at least twice with a marble vase--crushing her head-- and left there to die. I wonder about her husband, her children and grandchildren and how they have suffered. I lost my grandmother in a traffic accident and know how hard that loss was on me. I can't imagine if she had been murdered.

It breaks my heart to imagine Edith's last moments. It breaks my heart to think of her husband coming home to find her body. What senseless loss...over a TV and a few antiques.

The violence that we do to one another, whatever the reason, confounds me. There is enough sorrow in our world--illness, natural disaster, and accidents--without humanity increasing the suffering with acts of violence.

I know that there are people who read this blog who cannot conceive of why I am against the death penalty after murders as tragic as Edith Russell's. Someone once wrote to me and said, "you make me sick that you defend these murderers."

But, I don't defend murderers, I honor life by opposing violence. I honor life by opposing the awful violence done to Mrs. Russell, and I pray for her family in their healing that certainly will take a lifetime. But at the same time, I honor life by opposing the violence our state plans to do to E.J. Harbison as well. I honor life by opposing the violence done to E.J. Harbison as a small child when he was beaten and burned, when he was hungry and afraid.

I heard a report on T.V. this morning saying that violent crime is on the rise again. The report attributed the rise mostly to guns in the hands of juveniles and lack of enough police officers. Again, I wonder why we don't use all the money we are spending on the death penalty to address some of these deeper issues in order to keep murders from happening in the first place. Killing a person who is already in prison for life won't save anybody, using those resources to work on prevention and policing might.

So, though I am so grateful that Tennessee will not be executing E.J. Harbison this week, I mourn for the Russell family and for us as a people. When will we let go of our belief that violence can save us? How many will die before we do?
Comments :
...violence is a substitute for thinking....
...to the state we say: stop
...alternatives to violence exist...
...let us opt for those alternatives....
....in peace....
It's nice to see that someone is willing to devote a long post to the victim here.

The non-violence ethic is an interesting one for me. Violence, in and of itself, cannot be bad--cops have guns for a reason. Why is it evil to execute a killer?
Great thoughts Stacy.
I would have to say I agree with you all the way.
In prayer one day God showed me something quite interesting when I was praying about why our society is the way it is.
The STATE has now determined that spanking a child can land you in jail, thus discipline has become a scary thing to parents so we let kids rule. I just watched 2 shows yesterday, Dr. Phil and Oprah where 2-5 year old kids are ruling their parents and they were literally crying trying to figure out what to do with them. This is not 5 or 10 families. There are enough people to keep hundreds of shrinks in business. However GOD says the rod will not kill the child and you will use it if you love your child.
When we live by the state's rules our children grow up into out of control adults and then the state is the first ones to scream "Now how can we get rid of them so we don't have to deal with them."
How long will our society go on believing that the state knows how to make a go of this life?
Getting back to the laws of our Creator who knows how to deal with us better than anyone could save this country and everyone in it a lot of grief and pain.
nice stacy
Cheryl, I agree with your view on corporal punishment. More of it would probably prevent capital punishment down the road. The state has no business telling people how to raise their children.
To the Anonymous comment that "violence,in and of itself, cannot be bad." Name one good thing - really good - that violence ever accomplished. Also, "why is it evil to execute a killer?" Simply because it is evil to kill anyone,period. An execution is merely a murder that is sanitized and whitewashed in cheap political rhetoric.
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