My last blog post (way too long ago) was about Kelly Gissendaner, a woman who was to be executed back in the early spring.
It is with a heavy heart that I write this post–Kelly is to be executed (the third scheduled date so far) this coming Tuesday.
My heart has ached over this. I’ve wanted to call up Governor Deal and cry into the phone, curse the parole board, and cry some more.
This week, a certain story from the Bible has been on my mind in reference to Kelly’s case–the story of the beheading of John the Baptist in Mark 6.
But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias[g] came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” 24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s[h] head. He went and beheaded him in the prison,28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.
Growing up, I always thought this story was pretty straightforward–Herod made a promise and he kept it–with disastrous consequences. However, there is a deeper layer to the tale. When the daughter of Herodias asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, Herod had a choice–do what was right and save himself a lot of grief by saving John, or do what was politically savvy and have him killed, appeasing not only his stepdaughter but the other people at the table. Herod made his choice and was “deeply grieved” by what he had done.
So, Governor Deal, as much as I hate throwing the Bible at people, I hope you are fully aware of the choice you’re making–the choice to end a life for political gain. Kelly is a LIGHT in this world, not unlike John the Baptist. She doesn’t take credit for helping women she’s met in the prison system–she points to God. Kelly is a vessel through whom God is working, and what right to we have to end her life? No more right than Herod did to execute John the Baptizer.
Kelly is the ultimate example of true rehabilitation in our prison system, which is extremely rare. So instead of punishing her for being redeemed, why not use her as a way to show that SOMETHING is being done right in our prison system, in a time when so many states are facing scrutiny. After all, if we punish someone who has changed her life, what is that going to teach others in prison–that it isn’t worth it because you’re treated as less-than-human anyway? Maybe or maybe not. Regardless, in this instance, it’s making a lot of people lose faith in our justice system (and rightly so). Governor Deal has an opportunity to show that Georgia values life and uplifts people who upheave their lives and affect other people.
I am at a loss heading into this next week while simultaneously feeling even more on fire to get through school and be a lawyer for people like Kelly. My biggest (and most selfish) wish in all this is to one day be able to meet Kelly and thank her for her part in making me who I am and shaping who I’m going to be. But that can only happen if our state shows mercy on someone who has changed her life.
Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly.