On Tuesday June 12, 2012, Richard Albert Leavitt is scheduled to die in Boise the state capital. Leavitt was convicted in the July 18, 1984 brutal murder of 31-year-old Danette Elg in Blackfoot.
While no one, including Leavitt’s attorney, disputes his guilt, everyone in Idaho has a position on the death penalty.
Sitting in church on Sunday mornings, the religious right talks about peace, love and forgiveness. They’re quick to point to their alleged spiritual leader, Jesus Christ, and whisper his teaching about turning the other cheek. They’re also quick to pick up the sword and are willing to kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong.
No wonder Gandhi said, “I like your Christ; I don’t like your Christians.”
After each execution, they pat themselves on the back for having made the world a safe and sane place and continue to use their limited and twisted version of scripture to justify state sanctioned murder — even if it means that the condemned turns out to be innocent.
Innocent? Yes. Innocent.
On February 4, 1982 in Nampa, Idaho a little girl, Daralyn Johnson was kidnapped, raped, and drowned. Charles Irvin Fain, along with dozens of others was asked to provide hair samples for comparison to the hairs found on the victim. After performing microscopic hair comparison, an FBI forensics expert determined that the suspect hairs were similar to Fain’s. At trial, the prosecution also relied on the testimony of two jailhouse informants. They claimed that Fain had told them of his involvement in the crime and provided graphic details. Fain was convicted and sentenced to death. He served 18 years of imprisonment before DNA tests showed that the hairs did not come from him.
Read that last line again. “He served 18 years of imprisonment before DNA tests showed that the hairs did not come from him.”
The reasons to abolish the death penalty in this country are numerous and I won’t go into them here. By insisting on hanging on to an expensive, outdated, and often wrongly applied punishment, supporters of capital punishment are placing America squarely in the camp of such countries as China, Iran and Iraq.
I’d like to see if the legislators in Boise can grow a set and join the growing number of states who are stepping up to the plate and acknowledging that the death penalty is barbaric, ineffective, costly, and pig headed. I’m betting they can’t.
Jerry Nelson is a nationally known photojournalist who travels the country seeking out people, places and things that make this country unique. Nelson’s work has been seen in a variety of news publications such as CNN, USAToday, Upsurge, Huffington Post and more. Additionally, he does a twice-a-week column as the Washington D.C. Travel writer for Examiner. You can see more of his work here.