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Sister shares experience with death penalty

To die or not to die, that is the question.

On Thursday, Oct. 20 in the Kemper Recital Hall, Sister Christine Martin shared her experience corresponding with a death row inmate, Moses Young, in Potosi, Mo.

She shared her thoughts and views about the death penalty while using her experience with Young and what she called a broken system.

“I think our system is broken. I think our system has many flaws, some seemingly built-in flaws,” Martin said.
Martin spoke of her belief that Young was innocent and that his trial was an example of a broken system.

“After talking with him [Young] and hearing what he had to say about his innocence, which he maintained for 18 years, I do believe for sure that he was innocent,” Martin said. “Young’s experience with his public defender was horrendous. His trial took only two days for a death penalty case, and I feel like he was let down by the system.”

Martin gave her Power Point presentation with many pictures of the prison. These pictures captured the cold, harsh realities of a controlled environment.

It was a heartwarming tale of human compassion crippled by laws and rules of the prison system.
Martin shared a story about a man just hours away from execution that was unable to touch or hold his children or his wife.

Many people could argue that death row inmates don’t have these rights, but Martin pointed out that to deny a human being of human touch, especially loved ones, before their death is unheard of.

Students at Western have mixed feelings about the death penalty.

Kathy Whitley is a double major in social work and sociology. Whitley hosts a talking circle for the Native American inmates at the women’s prison in Chillicothe, Mo., and said she has a higher percentage of “lifers” attending her religious circle than any other in the prison. This alone has an effect on Whitley’s opinion.

“I have good feelings about my lifers. They have better character, in my opinion, than many of my short-timers,” Whitley said. “I’m very conflicted about the death penalty.”

Religion plays a big part in the views of many when it comes to the death penalty, and Western student Kate Fimple expressed her religious beliefs.

“I think the death penalty is very controversial, but my religious belief tells me it’s not right to knowingly cause someone’s death,” Fimple said.

While it is so easy to argue both sides, the real issue is whether or not the men and women who end up on death row are given fair and competent trials.

Martin explained that Young’s defender was proven to be an alcoholic and did very little to defend him in a reasonable way. The same public defender was shortly disbarred by a judge who found him to be inadequately doing his job, but the fate of Young was sealed.

According to Martin, a team of lawyers who believed in Young’s innocence assembled in Kansas City, Mo., but were unable to save him before his execution. She said a witness had come forward declaring Young’s innocence, but it did little to help him and this is part of the broken system she speaks of.

Martin is a part of the Saint Francis Commune in Savannah, Mo. Martin and all the sisters there have, at one time or another, corresponded with other death row inmates.

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