As I sat in the gas chamber, the door clanged shut. I was alone and suddenly dizzy and disoriented. Fear welled up inside of me. In the profound silence I could hear my heart beat, and realized that people had sat here before me until their heart was stopped–at the hands of the government.
Those moments had a profound effect on me.
As a law enforcement professional who had worked on many death penalty cases, I had accepted an invitation to enter the pod that was the gas chamber of Parchman State Prison. This was a working gas chamber where the state of Mississippi killed its condemned prisoners. It never occurred to me that it would ultimately lead to me completely changing my views on capital punishment.
More than forty years ago, I lost a cousin to murder and, at the time, I would not have objected to a death penalty had the killer ever been caught. I have worked in law enforcement and the criminal justice system for nearly fifty years, including 24 years in the FBI, often visiting prisons and death rows without really questioning the use of the death penalty. I was myself once partly responsible for an execution, having arrested a murderer who ultimately received the death penalty.
But after my experience in the gas chamber, my conviction was shaken. I started to think and reflect. Following my retirement from the FBI, I became involved in the international human rights movement and gradually my attitudes changed. I found I could no longer support the concept of capital punishment.
I am not someone who is soft on crime, quite the contrary, but I have come to realize that killing the killer does not help the victims and is not a deterrent to crime. The cost of state killings is also a major drain on state budgets–money that could be used to put more police officers on the streets. That is why I would now advocate for the life of my cousin’s killer.
This is why I support Death Penalty Focus (DPF) in their work to end the death penalty. They have been educating and mobilizing the public on this issue for more than 25 years. During that time, they have amplified the voices of law enforcement, murder victims’ family members, and exonerees.
Public opposition to the death penalty continues to grow and it is imperative that we do not let up now. That’s why I dedicate so much of my time and money to help DPF to put an end to this cruel and pointless practice once and for all. I hope you will join me by making a contribution generous within your means to help DPF in its work to replace the death penalty with justice that works for everyone.
PS. If you agree that we should end the death penalty, then please make tax-deductible donation today. If you have already made a contribution, thank you for your support.