Monday, October 24, 2011

Executions wrong no matter what (even in case of Brewer)

"Byrd says the execution of Brewer is simply another expression of the hate shown toward his father on that dark night in 1998. Everybody, he said, including the government, should choose not to continue that cycle." A quote from Ross Byrd from the shortened article below.

Just in case readers missed (as I did) the consistent calls to forego the death penalty - even in the worst of cases. Here is a condensation of an article with another excerpt:

"You can't fight murder with murder," Ross Byrd, 32, told Reuters late Tuesday (late September, 2011) the night before Wednesday's scheduled execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer for one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times.

"Life in prison would have been fine..."

...An avowed white supremacist, Brewer, 44, was one of three white men convicted of capital murder in the kidnapping and killing of Byrd Jr., in June 1998.

John King, another white supremacist, is on death row awaiting an execution date. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

...Dick Gregory has joined Ross Byrd and Martin Luther King III in the past to publicly protest Brewer's execution.

Ross Byrd, a recording artist studying for his MBA at nearby Stephen F. Austin University, said Tuesday that he wouldn't attend the execution but will "be there in spirit."

He says he doesn't want to "waste my time" watching anybody die, even a man who killed his dad.

"Life goes on," said Byrd, who has a son. "I've got responsibilities that I have every day..."

(The) crime ...touched off a nationwide effort to tighten punishments for hate crimes...The jury sentenced the three men as the nation was still reeling from a second hate crime that same year -- the October 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, beaten and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he was gay.


In 2001, Texas passed its hate crimes bill named after Byrd Jr., and its symbolic signing by Perry was a "watershed moment" in Texas and one of Perry's "finest moments in office," said Texas state Senator Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat, who helped move the bill through the Texas Senate in spite of staunch Republican opposition.

Eight years later, President Obama signed into law a similar federal bill named after Byrd Jr. and Shepard.

"James Byrd's murder certainly changed Texas and, in many ways, the nation," Ellis told Reuters.

"It was a wake-up call that evil and hate, while no longer considered mainstream views, are more prevalent and virulent than we pretend."

Ellis said the death sentence in Brewer's case "will close a chapter in this tragic story."

"I cannot say for certain that it is a requirement in order for justice to be served but, as Mr. Brewer was a ringleader in the most brutal hate crime in the post-Civil Rights era, it is certainly a very appropriate sentence," he said.

Unlike Byrd's children and wife, all of whom oppose the use of the death penalty against his killers, other family members have been supportive of it.

"I'm not down on them at all for the fact that they support the death penalty," said David Atwood, a good friend of Ross Byrd's and founder of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.* "They've gone through a traumatic experience, and there's a history in our country of horrible things happening to African Americans, so it's understandable that a number of them would say finally we're getting some justice."

He called Ross Byrd's stand "powerful."

Byrd says the execution of Brewer is simply another expression of the hate shown toward his father on that dark night in 1998. Everybody, he said, including the government, should choose not to continue that cycle.

"Everybody's in that position," he said. "And I hope they will stand back and look at it before they go down that road of hate. Like Ghandi said, an eye for an eye, and the whole world will go blind."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

See Reuters article here

* Note: David Atwood has been a longtime friend of The Journey of Hope and a great encourager/supporter in Journey's efforts in Texas.

Another comment about Brewer execution and in response to criticism of assumed silence by death penalty opponents:

Gloria Rubac said: ALL the anti-death penalty organizations in Texas opposed the execution of Russell Brewer...ALL of us oppose ALL executions, even those of despicable racists. There was an unusually large crowd protesting in Huntsville... ...which groups did not protest brewer’s execution (?). The organization that I work with, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement has opposed the execution for James Byrd’s killers since 1998. We went to Jasper for Byrd’s funeral in 1998 with flyers explaining why the death penalty should not be a punishment for this unspeakable hate crime.

Byrd’s son, Ross Byrd, spoke at our annual march to abolish the death penalty back in 2002. We held a press conference and then caravaned with Martin Luther King III and Ross Byrd when they drove to Brazoria County to the prison where Shawn Berry is doing life and met with him for two hours.

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