Whenever I'm mired in a project I try to avoid (not always successfully) anything like facebook, twitter, etc., because I'm super good at using any excuse to procrastinate. (No, really, I absolutely must read every single blog in my blogroll before I can even hope to create something magical myself...)
I'm still mired in a project. And I'm gearing up for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers' Conference. But so much has been happening lately in the news that I had to post something.
Little known fact: While I always wanted to be a writer, I also wanted to be a lawyer. I interned with attorneys in high school. I was accepted to Rutgers University with an eye to eventually acquiring my law degree there. The reason behind this is simple. I'm a justice junkie.
My two uncles (my mother's brothers) were murdered in NC by a man named Clinton Ray Rose. We found out the awful truth the day of my 6th birthday. I learned then that some people are evil. There's no excuse. There's no mitigating factors. Clinton Ray Rose walked into the campground where my uncles were staying and shot them multiple times. I read somewhere that it took my uncle Larry minutes to die. My uncle Richard had an expensive ring on his finger that Clinton Ray Rose couldn't pry off--so the murderer cut off his victim's finger to slake his greed and acquire a new-to-him piece of jewelry.
The man was caught--for a large part--because he was seen around the campground after the murders wearing my uncles' clothes, holding on to their possessions.
Clinton Ray Rose sits on North Carolina's death row.
I'm not okay with that.
I'll be 29 this June. Even in the long, drawn out appeals process, twenty-three years dodging a well-deserved lethal injection is ridiculous.
People seem to feel the need to make excuses for why they support the death penalty. I don't.
I remember so clearly reading a piece my mother did for the paper during Rose's trial. In it, she talked about how the defendant would look at her, at my grandmother, and smirk when he was in the courtroom. Smirk.
And for those who would argue that life in prison is just as effective, I feel I have to point out that Rose has 22 infractions (with presumably more to come...) while in custody. This is not a man for whom rehabilitation is working.
I beg you'll forgive me because I've spent more time on our family tragedy than I intended. I wanted to reference the upcoming death vs. life debate in the Jodi Arias trial. I wanted to talk about the mother who lives two miles down the road from me and shot her 5-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, and then her husband. I was hoping, perhaps, that by blurting the painful thoughts out they'd lose a little of the power of despair both crimes have inspired in me.
I see perhaps now that thinking was foolish.
The Alexander family, the Arias family, and the Simpson family (the aforementioned mother...both children are with God now, and the husband remains in critical condition) are forever changed. My family is forever changed.
I won't apologize for wanting the ultimate justice in each of these situations.
We're charged as Christians to forgive. After 23 years, I'm still working on that for Mr. Rose. I might have been a child and unaware of the more heinous aspects of his crime at the time. But I've seen the ripples the violence has had ever since. One moment can change the entire course of a life...of a family, of a community's life.
North Carolina appears to have an unofficial moratorium on carrying out death penalty sentences, and for the life of me, I can't help but imagine Clinton Ray Rose thinks about that every day...and probably smirks. I hope if/when it finally happens that I can be there. Not out of a morbid desire to watch a man die, but so that I can be the voice for those who have been untimely and cruelly silenced.
In the meantime, I know that my God is sovereign. His forgiveness covers and expunges the most egregious and unthinkable of sins. And He knows much better than I what it will take to heal the holes, the ragged places in the hearts of those who have been left behind while loved ones have passed on.
11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 ESV