As Executions Roll, Governor's Mansion Gates A Place For Singalong, Chitchat, Twitter

Apr 25, 2017

Without any official program, anti-death penalty protesters busied themselves Monday evening with song and prayer. And Twitter.

"'The court reinstituted Marcell Williams' death sentence for procedural reason no more.' What? Hold on, let's figure out what's happening."

Laura Hardy said the thing that’s most gotten under her skin the last couple of weeks of Arkansas executions has been the seemingly gleeful, baiting comments made on Twitter and elsewhere from Arkansas politicians. 

Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty director Furonda Brasfield and Freddie Nixon (foreground) with Sharon Sweeney, Cas Rifkin and Karen Delavan (in back).
Credit Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

"What lifts me up? There's a lot of people who, all over the world, who're as upset as we are."

Jihad Muhammad stopped by but didn't stay all evening. He himself has served time on a murder charge.

"So I am absolutely against the death penalty. I believe that just like I was redeemed and reformed and restored and I’m out here being successful and helping people, I believe that those men have in them the same potential to be better. And when you're saying you're going to kill a man, you're saying that that person does not have the potential to be better. I don't believe that. So that's why I'm here."

The vigil keepers, perhaps three dozen in all, lit and re-lit votive candles with paper doily skirts handed out from a Little Caesars pizza box.

Madeleine Young, Cheryl Woodard and Stephanie Matlock
Credit Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

Stephanie Matlock says her reading of the New Testament commands her to abjure retribution. She also doesn’t see a distinction between a street killing and one that takes place inside a prison by appointed staff.

"And I don’t know but of two sins that God said he won’t forgive you for. That’s blasphemy and self-murder. Other than that, you’re just to be forgiven. Ok?"

God, she said, picks "the worst of the worst" to use, and besides, who has any better testimony?

But Madeleine Young said not every vigil keeper is a Christian. She’s not a Christian.

Vicki Hatter of Little Rock introduces herself to Jihad Muhammad of Pine Bluff.
Credit Bobby Ampezzan / Arkansas Public Media

"We're not all doing this just because of what we think God has said about it," she said. "I'm here as someone who values human life, you know, not because of the Bible because of people and what I know that they're worth."

The vigil keepers' next date together over pizza and candlelight is Thursday. Will they be stood up by the courts? They certainly hope so. 

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