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
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.