Is taking a murderer’s life justified?
Advocates personally touched by murder argued no Wednesday night at Fort Lewis College.
Panelist Jeanne Bishop’s sister and her sister’s family were murdered in 1990 execution style in their home. But rather than defend capital punishment as just retribution, she has become a defense attorney and a strong advocate against it.
“Whether or not a person deserves to die, we don’t deserve to kill them,” she told the crowd.
A majority of people across America consider the death penalty morally acceptable, according to a Gallup poll.
But Bishop and two other advocates presented compelling arguments against it as part of the Common Reading Experience at the college. This year, all the freshmen on campus are reading Dead Man Walking, the account of a spiritual adviser to a man on death row.
Panelist Bill Pelke spoke about how his grandmother was stabbed to death by teenage girls and the spiritual transformation that followed.
Before he forgave the ring leader of the group, he could think only about his grandmother dying on the floor of her home. Forgiving the perpetrator gave him peace.
“I no longer envision how she died, I envision how she lived,” he said.
Both Bishop and Pelke contacted the perpetrators of the crimes that changed their lives and found both people had been transformed after spending years in prison.
Bishop said that the death of her sister’s killer would not have paid for her sister’s life, only his redemption could do that.
There will be several more events with this theme. Sister Helen Prejean the author of Dead Man Walking will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Whalen Gym. A book reading by the Theatre Department will be presented at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Roshong Recital Hall.