Saturday, 20 September 2008

Bishops ask Gov. Crist to spare murderer’s life

Welcome to the Florida Catholic Online Edition

Bishops ask Gov. Crist to spare murderer’s life

Florida’s bishops asked Gov. Charlie Crist Sept. 17 to spare the life of a double

child murderer whose execution date is imminent, and repeated their ongoing

plea for an end to the use of the death penalty in the state.

“The Sept. 23 execution of Richard Henyard will be another example of our

failure to recognize the inherent dignity of every human being, even those

guilty of horrible crimes,” the bishops wrote in a letter delivered to the

governor’s office.

Henyard was sentenced to death in 1994 for the January 1993 murders of

7–year–old Jamilya Lewis and 3–year–old Jasmine Lewis, and the rape

and attempted murder of their mother, Dorothy Lewis. Henyard, who was

18 at the time, and a 14–year–old accomplice carjacked the Eustis family

from a neighborhood supermarket. Each of the girls was shot once in the

head at close range and the mother survived three close–range gunshot

wounds in the mouth, forehead and neck, according to media reports.

“While the untimely deaths of the two young victims and serious injury to

their mother cry out for justice, we are reminded that executions diminish

us as a civil society and perpetuate a culture of death instead of a

culture of life that acknowledges all are created in God’s image,”

the bishops wrote.

The bishops said the details of this crime, including the culpability

of the accomplice and the young age of Henyard at the time, are

enough reason to question the inconsistencies in sentencing in Florida,

a point made by the Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team in 2006.

“Life in prison without possibility of parole is severe punishment for

offenders. While the church acknowledges that society has a right to

execute violent transgressors, the ability of the modern penal system

to protect society makes the need for the death penalty very rare, if not

practically nonexistent,” the bishops wrote.

They added that they pray for and grieve with Lewis and cannot truly

comprehend the unimaginable loss of two young children.

Henyard’s would be the 66th execution in Florida since the death penalty

was reinstated in 1976 and the second since July, when executions

resumed after an 18–month hiatus for constitutional issues surrounding

the type of lethal injection Florida uses to be decided by the Supreme Court.

The bishops sent a similar letter to Crist before the July 1 execution of Mark

Dean Schwab, which spurred prayerful protests and vigils by Catholics

around the state.

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