My piece in the Waco Tribune today

Sara Hickman, guest column:
Let’s talk about the death penalty

Monday, September 15, 2008
The Waco Tribune

In the early 1990s, I started correspondence with a man on death row, then visited him in person.

What I experienced shocked me. Instead of an angry human being, I met an intelligent person who seemed broken.

Out of an abused, unloved childhood he had lived the only way he knew how: in survival mode.

Uneducated, drugged up, jobless, he had struck out and viciously murdered a woman. He had spent 20 years on death row when I met him, and he still had no understanding of what it meant to be “productive” or a part of society. Kill or be killed. That is what he knew. Several years later after our meeting, he was executed by the state.

As a society, without a doubt, most of us agree that murdering a fellow human being is a horrendous act. It stains the perpetrator, or even an entire country (think Germany) for life, for all time.

Texas robustly enforces the death penalty. But it needs to ask itself: How does executing another person ever solve anything?

And what about those executed who are innocent? The greatest example that comes to mind is Jesus Christ. Or Bruno Richard Hauptmann (executed for allegedly kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. His wife, to this day, cries out that he was an innocent man).

As a mom and a musician, I wanted to start a dialogue about the death penalty. My hope was to start a dialogue that was open to all in the spirit of healthy debate and information — a forum where people who were opposed to . . . or for. . . or conflicted by the death penalty could meet and discuss the issue without fear or hostility.

In cooperation with the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty I have been staging a series of monthly concerts around Texas to discuss the death penalty.

The next concert is Thursday night in Waco.

Attendees have heard comments from a variety of speakers including El Paso Mayor John Cook, who has joined our tour, singing and speaking and challenging other Texas mayors to come out to the events.

We’ve heard the amazing account of Rev. Carroll Pickett, the death row minister who witnessed 95 executions in Huntsville. He is convinced that at least 15 of those men were innocent.

Please, come express your opinions. Meet family members of murder victims. Meet family members of those executed on death row.

This isn’t easy. In fact, it’s intense.

A closing thought: When Cain murdered Abel in the old testament, God didn’t destroy Cain. He banished him, yes, but he set him out in the world marked with protection that no one would harm a hair on his head.

Why would God do such a thing? I challenge you to start the dialogue and continue the conversation.

Sara Hickman is an Austin-based singer and songwriter.

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