"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Friday, October 21, 2011

"You go see Jesus"

These were the last words Christopher Johnson uttered to his infant son, after bludgeoning and smothering him to death. Johnson was executed yesterday by the state of Alabama. He spent a relatively short six years on death row, and according to his brother, "he has great grief for what he has put upon his family, his wife, all of his in-laws and the rest of his siblings. He's answered to man's laws, now he'll answer to God's laws."


Johnson pled guilty to murdering his infant son, Elias, who was struck 85 separate times breaking his ethmoid bone, which is in the sinuses, and causing his sinuses to fill with blood. His brain had hemorrhaged as a result of blunt-force trauma. Elias had hemorrhages in both eyes and had injuries to his inner lips and nose that indicated that he had been forcefully smothered. Johnson testified that he intentionally murdered his son because he hated his wife, and would have left her long before the murder if it had not been for Elias. He was afraid his wife would have him jailed over alimony or child support. Johnson stated that his final words to Elias were: “You go see Jesus.”

Two points of interest: First, the anti-capital crowd, so very vociferous over the execution of cop-killer Troy Davis, was and is curiously quiet about Johnson's execution. Could it be that Johnson's crime is particularly heinous, and that he does not fit the "profile" for the agitators, i.e., he's a white man, so the "system is racist" meme doesnt fit?

Second, Johnson's brother related that Johnson "had become deeply religious while he was in prison. Johnson and his brother spoke extensively about their faith during the days leading up to the execution." Hmmm, that sounds curiously like the point St. Thomas Aquinas makes about capital punishment:

[Condemned criminals] also have at that critical point of death the opportunity to be converted to God through repentance. And if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers.
Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 146.
This point has been borne out before, most notably in the case of Patrick Sonnier of "Dead Man Walking" fame, who, if he had not been sentenced to die for his crimes, probably would not have met Sr. Prejean, and probably would never have come to take responsibility for his crimes and sought atonement. Shortly before his death he received Holy Communion and recited with Sr. Prejean Isaiah 43, “I have called you by your name, you are mine.”

Knowing the moment of your death is not necessarily a bad thing, after all.

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