Running Out of Time

In less than one month from now, on September 12th, the state of Tennessee plans to execute Daryl Holton, a man inadequately represented at his trial and who has a history of mental illness.

When serving this country in the military, Holton spent a month in a psychiatric facility and has a history of suicide attempts. He also has been diagnosed with severe depression which makes his perception of reality extremely tenuous, leading him to commit the tragic crimes for which he is now on death row.

In 1997, after the break-up of his marriage, Daryl Holton, in what can only be described as a delusional state, killed his four children after he determined that their lives would be ruined if they had to grow up in a broken home. Holton’s intention was to then kill his ex-wife and himself, but he stopped when he realized that no one would be left to tell the story.

Since arriving on death row, Holton’s depression has deepened. He has chosen to end his appeals and has dismissed his legal counsel. He has also chosen electrocution as his method of execution, raising more issues concerning his mental state considering that the electric chair has not been used in Tennessee in more than 40 years. In fact, the chair’s designer has expressed grave concerns as to its reliability, meaning that it could potentially torture Daryl Holton without killing him.

There are really no words to describe the scope of the tragedy in this case. I have seen Daryl Holton’s mother at the prison visiting her son. I have seen the pain in her eyes and the heartbreak she carries with her everyday. I think about the fact that the victims’ family members in this case are also the family members of the one who will be executed. Executing Daryl Holton, a man whose mental illness is apparent, will only compound the tragedy of already suffering people.

Nothing the state can do to Daryl Holton will bring those precious children back. However, what the state does to Daryl Holton will have a profound affect on his mother and the rest of his family, people already traumatized by unspeakable loss. The state’s actions toward Daryl Holton will also have an affect on us, the people of Tennessee, as we become participants in more violence in order to enact vengeance upon a sick man.

I will continue to pray for and to work toward the day when we can find another way to deal with the violence in our society without creating more of the same. I hope you will too.

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