Forgiveness. Vengeance. Pain. Suffering. Closure. Healing. Finality.

As I contemplate this week’s topic for Random Writers – What is one thing you felt strongly about but changed your mind? – these are the words that are rattling around in my brain.

I grew up a Reagan Republic in a very conservative, Hispanic, Catholic household in Miami. That meant there wasn’t a lot of room for shades of grey regarding most topics of discussion. Specific to the death penalty and capital punishment, the answer was clear cut; You willingly and deliberately kill someone and you deserve to die. There were no “if’s.” There were no “but’s.” There was simply an emphatic “Que lo maten” imperative from my parents coupled with equally emphatic hand gestures. (If there’s one thing about angry or emotional Hispanic conversation, it always comes with hand movements).

I never disagreed with that position. The message from the New Testament notwithstanding, I took the side of the Old Testament when it came to capital punishment. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. A life for a life. I was an unwavering supporter of the death penalty, understanding of the argument which states it’s better to set 100 guilty men free than to put one innocent man to death, but not overly concerned about that scenario.

Flash forward to 2008 when I was summoned to perform jury duty. It was a re-sentencing trial for a convicted murderer. The conviction was not in dispute. Rather, our job was to hear the evidence and make a recommendation of life in prison or the death penalty. It was an experience I will never forget, and one that made me reconsider my position on the death penalty. It’s so easy to think, “Fry the bastard” when you’re removed from the incident in question. However, when immersed in the details of case in which another person’s life rests literally on your judgment, a world of perspective is usually found in that moment.

Flash forward to today. The trial of the man accused of manslaughter in the death of my wife’s cousin begins. Five years to the day of her tragic passing, my in-laws are hoping for resolution, closure, and justice for their beloved Dee. It’s been a roller-coaster of delays and continuances, and we’re all praying the jury deliver a verdict of guilty.

Yet those prayers are to God, and Jesus taught us to forgive those who wrong us and pray for our enemies.

This is where my conflict lies.

Although the death penalty is not part of the discussion in the trial of the man accused of negligence in Dee’s death, it does, for me, raise the question of how can a parent not want anything but death for the person who is responsible for the death of his or her child?

My mind immediately goes to the scene from the movie “A Time to Kill” where Samuel L. Jackson’s character ambushes the men who savagely raped his daughter and kills them. I get that anger. I understand that rage.  I almost applaud it, because for me, parenting is a zero sum game. You invest your heart, your soul, your every ounce of being into your kids. And to have all of that taken away by someone else? How can you not go down the path of vengeance and want to kill that person?

I know I’m not answering this week’s topic question. I also know I’m avoiding it because I don’t particular like the answer as it applies to me.

Do I see the world of grey that exists in the discussion of the death penalty? Yes, I do. Am I a 100% proponent or opponent of capital punishment? No, I’m not. I better understand now that each circumstance is unique and must be reviewed in accordance to the specifics of that case (e.g. I’m all for putting to death a serial killer like Ted Bundy, but I felt a world of reservation regarding the recent execution of Troy Davis).

The only thing I am sure of, however, is that if – God forbid – someone ever took the life of one of my kids, I would consume myself in finding a way to kill that person with my own two hands.

4 thoughts on “Conflicted

  1. Baby, I remember the toll that trial took on you and how conflicted you were not only with the decision you had to make but in reconciling your own belief structure with those actions. I think you answered today’s topic question beautifully. The topic only asked what thing did you feel strongly about but changed your mind. That is exactly what you’ve told us. You went from living in a world of black and white to shades of gray. I can’t tell you how much more I loved you for the strength you showed through that whole ordeal.

  2. I really liked thos post, Gill!
    I have some questions though. Would you say this would be cause of religion, herritage or or public veiws?

    It’s a relative question. As you may know Norway had an domestic political and religion terror attac july 22nd. Yes, I was close to the bomb, and there is no death penalty in Norway. The most he can get is 21 years in prisson.

    Reason for me asking is because, I realise we had a verry common upbringing. Except for me me canadian and french herritage. My parents are very conservative and catholics too. But, as I remember there was always “buts” and “ifs”. And when ever we had them, mom and dad welcomed them. Theres only 1.1% catholics in Norway. That was though enough by itself…

    I have never been for death panily. But I do believe there should be better justice for all the families who lost someone on july 22nd… It sickens me that he can only get 21 years…

    But all in all, a really good read! Hope for more of these eaye openers 🙂

    Have a good week!


    1. Michelle, thank you so much for the comments. I had no idea you were near the blast, and I can only imagine how terrifying that was for you.

      To answer your first question, I believe all factors play a part in someone’s decision to be for or against the death penalty. As I wrote, I was raised Catholic and we were for the death penalty. That being said, I believe the Catholic Church’s official stance is against the death penalty. Regional culture if also a major factor. People in Texas tend to be very pro-death penalty. By contrast, people in Massachusetts do not. Then there’s experience. It’s not unheard of to have a proponent of the death penalty find remorse and compassion following a tragedy, and thus end up arguing against the death penalty. Similarly, a DP opponent may experience nothing but rage and contempt following a tragedy, and thus end up being the most vocal proponent for the death penalty.

      If anything, I think this conversation is a microcosm of how unique we all are as individuals, and how no issue is ever truly black or white.

      As for the terrorist in Norway that killed so many people, it’s my opinion that person should be put to death for his crimes. I think society can and should demand justice in this case, and perhaps it takes this incident to have Norwegians consider a modification to their laws regarding the death penalty.

      Once again, thank you for the comments, and I am so glad to hear you’re okay. I hope you’re doing well and we miss seeing you.

  3. Thanks for the honest and fast awnser!

    At first I could not believe this was happening. Little tiny, inocent Norway and Oslo… In reaction to this, my sister and her roomate got in the car, and drove off to IKEA. While we where there we got the news of the shooting at Utøya. The terror really sank in saturday night when the numbers of killed whent from 5 to 80 in just a few minutes, and we had no idea whether we had lost loved ones or family. Thankfully, our other sister lives up north at the time, and out parents, and out grandma was was out of Oslo.

    It’s good to hear you say all factors take part in that. Like you say in the post, you may at sometine think “I’d like him to fry”. Even though I was brough up, and are still catholic, my parents have taken a different course after the events of 7/22. They bevlieve now that he should be convicted death. I still don’t. I just pray, for my kids, that he will serve more than 21 years. Beacause he have already stated that we will pick up right where he left off when he gets out. Even though I didn’t lose any loved ones this time, who knows “next time”?. And I am sorry you had such a hard time on jury duty, and for all you and Lee may go through during the trial for her cousin.

    I am keeping bouth of you, and your children in my prayers that it will run smoothly. and that her cousin gets justice!

    And I miss you giys too, and ofcourse Sister hazel concerts… They never come to Norway:(


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