A reply to Cissy McKissick (Front Porch, "On the Execution of Desmond Carter," Dec. 18-24, 2002):
I stopped at Schlotzsky's on North Roxboro. I like to read when eating alone. There was no News & Observer or USA Today, but The Independent was free, so ...
I thumbed through, finding your poem. You will soon know why I stopped to read it.
I cannot know how it must feel to witness the execution of a relation, a living person. My visits and letters to a man on death row these past three and a half years are but half the time you spent in your relationship with Desmond Carter. Yet, I have a vicarious feeling of how my man feels when anyone is executed. He has lived with them. He, too, is heartbroken and sometimes cannot sleep for days.
We exchange letters every week, sometimes more. And I visit him about once each month at the prison. I took a week of personal vacation time recently to attend an evidentiary hearing in his behalf. I have gone to the Supreme Court and other hearings to support him. He is to me an adopted son.
Yet, I am a citizen who believes (in his 70th year) what I learned as a young Jaycee many years ago. It is an integral part of (what was then) the "Jaycee Creed." It states simply and plainly the basis of our American civilized democracy: "Government should be of laws rather than of men (or women)."
Your poem expresses beautifully your feelings--not necessarily the related facts.
Your first two words reflect feelings, not fact. No one was "killed." Someone WAS executed! "They" is NOT the them to which you point the finger of fault so accusingly. To paraphrase Pogo, "They is US!" The "State" of North Carolina executed Desmond Carter for killing another human being under circumstances, I must assume, now that all reviews of his case are past, that warranted execution under existing N.C. law. I believe the judges gave their best, just as do juries.
Your problem, though understandable, is a simple one: You oppose capital punishment. And someone you know was executed, not "killed" by "they" as he killed and murdered "her." Are these not correct assumptions and facts?
From the facts you share in your expression of grief, "He killed her ...," you condemn your friend and "adopted little brother." Whether you or he or anyone else would wish otherwise, Desmond was responsible for his own acts.
My dilemma lies in a case of questionable facts, going even to the basic question: "Was there even a homicide?" And, I have prayed and worked in my own way to believe that the court--in this case--will find and render a just verdict, whereby my relationship will obtain a new and fair trial, definitely not received in the beginning.
Better still, if the facts before the DA after the ruling indicate, he may be freed because those facts will indicate that it is improbable that a new trial would remove the reasonable doubt that there was even a murder in the first place, and even if there was, that the defendant was too far away at the time to have been the one who did it.
I do admit that my "son" was one who ran with the dogs and got fleas. But I do NOT believe he committed murder. And, furthermore, I believe the courts will find the same to be the case.
However, Cissy, if tomorrow the courts found evidence that the defendant had committed murder, and the act was a heinous crime with no excuses to pass to someone else, and was premeditated, whether momentarily or over time, and I was on the jury of that case, I would have to find him guilty, and I would have to sentence him according to my understanding of the law and the facts and the circumstances (in that order) and not based upon my feelings. Else I would not be worthy to serve as a juror.
There are many viable arguments, supported by certain facts, to suspend executions and initiate an honorable and independent review of the prosecution of capital offenses in our state. I am personally in favor of that moratorium. However, I do not argue as one dressed in false clothing, as an opponent of capital punishment on either religious or any other grounds.
I believe capital punishment, fairly and properly carried out, especially in the initial trial, to be the will of most of the citizens of North Carolina and many other states, though not necessarily the will of the so-called learned leaders and liberal social advocates.
Although I do NOT believe all laws should be based upon "majority opinion," I remain in favor of capital punishment for heinous acts of murder (even rape) against any innocent human being, especially children and women.
For those who oppose capital punishment, let them just be up front and honest. For, in this state, at this time, they are simply in the minority. Their excuses, their feelings, their presumed compassion, is not the law of North Carolina.