Progressive Revival

Progressive Revival

John Allen Muhammad: Murderer and Murdered

As the nation observed the killing of John Muhammad last night (Live with Larry King!) I gathered with a small group of students, seminarians, and a Roman Catholic Priest to meet Rev. Caroll Pickett, who was the chaplain for prisoners about to be executed in Texas.  We watched the documentary At the Death House Door: 

After his ministry of being present with 95 inmates in the last day and moments of life, Rev. Carroll Picket has come out against the death penalty.  Rev. Pickett is no softy.  When he started this work he was for the death penalty.  Hs own grandfather was murdered, and while he was still serving as the pastor of a church two members of his congregation were taken hostage and murdered at the same prison where he would eventually serve as chaplain at the death house.  His views changed over time, and last night he emphatically said that everyone can change, everyone can be redeemed – that includes the inmates, but also himself. 
Rev. Pickett’s reason to be against the death penalty are varied.  One important one is that he believes that some of the men killed are actually innocent and that the death penalty leads to the miscarriage of justice which cannot be taken back if new evidence is uncovered.  Another reason is that it doesn’t solve anything, that the death penalty offers no closure for the families of the victims.  Another reason is that it doesn’t work as a deterrent.   Finally, Rev. Pickett just doesn’t believe that killing is right ever.  Pickett is no liberal and he doesn’t have a lenient bone in his body – he wants people locked up for life with no possibility of parole in solitary confinement.  In his view (and he has seen it) this is a far more threatening and feared penalty among the criminally minded than death.  
Rev. Pickett ended his talk with asking us the question: Do you know what it says on the cause of death for those executed by the state?  Death by murder.   John Muhammed deserved to have life in prison, in solitary confinement, without the possibility of parole.  Instead, last night while the nation watched, he was murdered. 
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posted November 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I have been an ardent opponent of the death penalty. Expensive due to the million and one appeals. No matter how you rationalize it, it is still taking a human life. IMO, no one has a right to kill, not even the government. Life without parole in isolation is a much better punishment. In lots of ways, it is worse than death. The perpertrator has the rest of his/her life to think about what they did.

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posted November 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm

I come at the problem from a different direction. I have no problem whatsoever with the death penalty in theory. It’s not a matter of government having the “right” to kill someone. It’s about an indvidual’s ability to forfeit their humanity and their right to live among us by committing certain acts.
Murder violates the most fundamental term of the social compact which allows us to live in society rather than the state of nature. In a sense we live by each other’s leave everyday. In the absense of that compact, you have a situation like Somalia. That said, I tend to oppose the death penalty because it is probably impossible to fairly administer and our track record is so shoddy that even a flip of the coin would be more reliable in some cases.
In this particular case, guilt was very well established. It may be un-progressive of me, but I bear no remorse whatsoever for my own roughly one three hundred millionth share of responsibility in Muhammad’s death.

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Dudley Sharp

posted November 11, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Rev. Pickett has no idea what he is talking about.
First, the death certificate nver says death by murder, with regard to execution. He simply made it up. Please fact check.
There is a huge moral difference between the murders comitted by Muhammed and the just execution of the murderer. If Rev. Pckett cannot understand the moral difference, my sympathies.
“Killing equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents”–very-distinct-moral-differences–new-mexico.aspx
Anti death penalty folks have to want to get some honesty into this discussion.
“At the Death House Door” Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?”

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posted November 12, 2009 at 9:51 am

It should be up to the survivors of the murder victim to decide how the murderer is to meet his or her fate.
If it was up to me, a lifetime in a TV less, musicless tiny cell with pictures of the murder victims (my family member) set in resin plastered all over the walls would be my decision. Every day I would write a note to the murderer describing how nice it is to not be a murderer and how wonderful it is living freely.
Calling the execution of tried and convicted murderers murder, is in itself a crime against humanity.
Murderers believe in the death penalty.
You liberals peddle too much permissiveness for a civilized world to stay healthy. And it is the reason society is becoming more sick every day.
Something must happen to cause mental illness to make a person embrace liberalism.

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Your Name

posted November 12, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I have tertiary syphilis.

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Your Name

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

Terri, you are so naive. To think that this scum would “think about what they did” the rest of his life. To the end he still felt he was innocent. These kinds of people have no remorse, do not think twice about what they did. You have got to not think of people like this in terms of your experiences, but rather in the dark disturbed reality that is their world. To say that he is mentally ill and should be excused and pampered for his actions is absurd!!! He had enough mental capacity to rig up a car to become a killing machine and go about killing 10 people. Yes he is mentally ill, but we should not excuse his actions but should respond in kind. Matthew 5:38

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posted November 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Anyone needing an argument against the death penalty can find it by reading the biography of Brother Jim Townsend. The title of the book is “The Prisoner”; it tells the story of how an admitted and convicted murderer became a Fransiscan Brother. His rehabilitation (rebirth, really) started only after he was doing hard time. The Lord can bring about such a change in anyone – if they will accept it. If we execute them, we have taken away their chance to become what God intends them to be while in this world.

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l. lovelace

posted May 21, 2010 at 3:38 am

i have gonorrhea of the throat.

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Rose T.

posted July 8, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Brother Jim Townsend recently passed away. My husband and I were blessed to have him co-celebrate our wedding alomst 5 years ago. This mans story is one of hope and faith and we were blessed to have been able to count him as one of our dear friends. He had a brilliant sense of humor and spread (and lived) Gods word more than anyone I have ever known. While he committed a horrible crime, he repented in a way that most people would have been unable to do. He was a humble and loving man and we shall certainly miss him!

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