Bus to Starke to protest executions
For more than three years, an ever-growing group of parishioners of varying ages, led by the Rev. Phil Egitto, has made the journey from Daytona Beach to Starke to stage silent protests in opposition to Florida's death penalty.
Each time an execution is scheduled, a bus is rented and 25 to 35 people from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community in Daytona Beach and five to 10 from Our Lady of Grace church in Palm Bay join together and make the trip.
"Our goal is to draw attention to what we view as the wrongful execution of individuals in the name of Florida's citizens," said Marie, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes. "Plainly put, we do not want executions carried out by the state of Florida in our names."
As Catholics, the death penalty goes against our beliefs, but vengeance and retribution at this level clearly flies in the face of and challenges other religions as well.
"If you think about it in realistic terms, death is the easy way out for a convicted person on death row. Once executed they no longer have to be burdened with the reality of what they have done or the damage it has caused the victim's family or their own family. They pass and never again have to deal with the repercussions of their actions," said Bill, a six-time visitor to Starke.
As a side note, living in a dark, cement cage with only a cot, toilet and sink for the rest of their life, and having to wonder what their life might have been if they had not committed their crime is, in the view of many, a far worse fate than being put to death.
Tom, also a parishioner, commented: "Purely from a practical standpoint, the state of Florida spends more than $50 million annually in death penalty appeals, a great deal more than it costs to house and feed these prisoners for the rest of their natural life."
As the recent Angel Diaz execution illustrates, mistakes do happen. How often we do not know, but one botched execution is one too many. Even California has come to the realization that lethal injection is unacceptable.
Our points are simply these:
· The death penalty does not deter criminal acts.
· Capital punishment amounts to state-sponsored murder.
· Over the years, numerous death row inmates have been released because of new and compelling evidence of innocence.
· Many innocent and wrongly convicted individuals have been put to death.
· There is no going back. Once the state kills an inmate regardless of how much new evidence, recanted testimony by witnesses or DNA evidence is produced, nothing will bring the wrongly executed back to life.
Yes, some people do unspeakable things to others and society should be protected from such people. Life without the possibility of parole meets this criterion.
Ask yourself these questions: What if it were your son or daughter who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and things got out of hand and someone got killed? What if your son or daughter had new evidence come available, yet the appeals process had run its course? What if your child's alibi was you, and that was not believed in court due to your relationship?
Our mission is to have the death penalty abolished in favor of life without parole.
Ogle is on the pastoral staff of Our Lady of Lourdes church.