One year ago Daryl Holton was executed by the state of Tennessee for murdering his four children. The vigil that TCASK organized at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution for the execution was early on in my tenure with TCASK and has served as a galvanizing moment in my conviction against the death penalty. Because of the severity of Holton’s crime, his execution did not create a large scale public reaction of opposition. As a death penalty opponent, I am opposed to every single execution. In dealing with Holton’s execution, I learned many valuable lessons.
I learned that nothing will change what the perpetrators of crimes worthy of the death penalty have done. We must never forget the murder victims and the family members of murder victims. However, an execution closes off any possibility of forgiveness and redemption that these men and women could have sought–while locked up in their cells. We shut that door forever when we execute them.
I learned that the death penalty is wrong morally, but in order to convince the public it is wrong, we must show them why it is wrong factually. When talking to the media or an audience about our opposition to Holton’s execution it was difficult to talk about his case in particular. It was not difficult to point out that the death penalty costs significantly more than life without parole. I could point out that the death penalty is unfair as 90% of Tennessee’s death row could not afford their own attorneys at the time of conviction. The death penalty also puts the lives of innocent Tennesseans at risk: Paul House, Michael McCormick.
Daryl Holton’s execution was a life changing moment for me. I was witness to the state’s ultimate power–to take the life of a human being. However, I was also witness to those that come together to oppose the taking of a life. It was a beautiful group of people and although I was sad then, I knew that there would always be people in opposition to the death penalty and that they will come together in solidarity–a comforting assurance.
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