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"Charge of the State"

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I wrote this essay a while back after stumbling across a site debating the validity of the death penalty website while looking for something else entirely. Previously, my position on Capital Punishment had been reversed... but you can see how it changed.




You are condemned. You know exactly the day that you will die—the place, the time, and even your last meal. You have already designated five people that will watch as you take your last breath. You have seen your family for the last time.


You are on Death Row in San Quentin, California. You are here because you have been convicted of a crime you did not commit. Innocence, in this place, is non-existent, and no one can, or will, believe that you are here for something you did not do.


Because admitting that brings along other unpleasant thoughts. If you are here, and you shouldn’t be, then the justice system has failed. If the justice system has failed, then the government that set it up has also failed. And, since the people elect their government, the people have failed. Most people don’t care to admit that.


The prisoners are always fed better just before an execution, and yours is no exception. Instead of the usual sloppy oatmeal for breakfast, they are giving you fresh fruit, and a bran muffin.


But you won’t be able to eat any more bran muffins. It’s too bad you won’t be able to see your children grow up, and get married. You will never meet your grandchildren.


You receive a letter the day before the execution. It is from your spouse. They write that they know you are innocent—that they will always love you, and that they know you’re going to a better place. But you don’t deserve to go there… not yet, anyway.


And now you walk the mile. What do you think, as the executioner opens your cell door? Are you afraid? Angry? Benevolent? What runs through your mind, as you walk across the linoleum on Death Row? And, as you sit in the wooden chair that will be your hindquarters’ last resting place, what are your last thoughts? As they slip the metal cap over your head with the moist sponge beneath it, how do you feel?


How did the 147 that were executed last year feel? More importantly, how many were innocent?


Now, we will never know. Because, as man, we have taken upon ourselves the role that only the Lord God Almighty can take. We have become the tax collectors of the universe, and we’re making those murderers pay their dues.


I read an article on how a man condemned to die had written to the family of a victim. A single mother of one daughter had been stabbed 16 times over her body with a butcher’s knife. The extent of the note was, “I’m sorry I killed your mother.”


The daughter, who had received the note, made an appearance on television. When asked how she felt about the man being executed, she said that she was upset.


“My mother is dead. Killing her murderer will not bring her back.”


Her mother was stabbed 16 times. She understands that, in life, we are not to take away a man’s precious, if sinful life.


I wonder how you would feel, sitting in that electric chair, right before the electricity surges through your veins. More importantly, though, I wonder what you will do now that you know.

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