Kelly Gissendaner and the Ethics of Execution


Kelly_GissendanerLast weekend I was mindlessly flipping through my Facebook feed when I came across the petition to grant clemency to Kelly Gissendaner, the Georgian woman whose execution date was originally set for Feb. 25, 2015.

As I read the emotional plea to join in the effort to grant Gissendaner a chance to live out her natural days in one of Georgia’s maximum-security prisons, I found myself being easily convinced. Of course, I reasoned, now that Kelly Gissendaner has her life in order, now that her theological pursuits have yielded her an equal degree as the one I worked so hard to earn, she should be allowed to escape state-instituted death.

But then I wondered about my prompt reaction, as I filled out the information joining the petition. What if she had turned her life around as a result of her dedication to a branch of Christianity that is a bit on the theological fringes? What if her conversion was to a peaceful iteration of Islam? What if she knelt and prayed three times a day, her body pointed toward the East?

As I clicked the “submit” button on the petition, my mind wandered some more. What if she had gotten her proverbial [crap] together without the benefit of religion? Or worse, what if she was faking her claim to have it together now more than she did when she admittedly asked her boyfriend to murder her husband? Or worse still, what if she had not changed at all in the past 20 years, appearances be damned?

What if, instead of being one of just 57 women on death row in the U.S., Kelly Gissendaner was simply one of the nearly 3,000 men awaiting execution on our tax dollars?

Where do we draw the line, in other words, between somebody who deserves to die and somebody whose life is worth sustaining?

Sources: CNN, Christianity Today
Photo: Christianity Today

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