Disclaimer: I'm not real sure what I'm trying to say in the following post as I'm trying to sort through my own opinions on the topic. I think it was just important for me to get my thoughts jotted down.
As anybody who lives here in Utah probably knows, Ronnie Lee Gardner was killed by firing squad approximately 24 hours ago. Gardner escaped from prison in 1984, seriously injuring a guard in the process before murdering a bartender in 1984 and an attorney in 1985 (while attempting to escape from prison yet again). He was sentenced to die and selected the firing squad as the method.
With all the news of Gardner's frantic last minute pleas for a stay, the death penalty has been on my mind a lot lately. My current stand on the death penalty is somewhat neutral. While I don't like it or condone it, I'm not pushing for its abolishment either.
I strongly believe that there are many crimes for which the criminal deserves to die. The question is whether or not any of us here on earth have the God-given right or authority to pass this judgment. I don't think that we do, or at least I would never want any portion of such a decision to weigh upon my mortal conscience. The United States is virtually the only Christian nation that allows for the death penalty. Would Jesus Christ condemn a man to die? (I think that the LORD of the Old Testament would, but not the Savior of the New).
Graphic found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jun/18/death-penalty-statistics-us-world
What I found especially disturbing in this particular case, was the celebration and excitement the victim's families showed when Gardner's final appeals were rejected. While they see Gardner's death as closure (many of them witnessed the execution), I find it sad that this grief/grudge/hatred has been festering in their lives for the last 25 years. As a disclaimer, I have never had to forgive somebody for killing a family member (or worse crime), so I cannot speak specifically to the pain that they have had to endure. My only hope is that as tragedies or criminal acts impact me in my life, I will have the strength to forgive and move on (not to say that justice should not be served and punishments handed out).
I find myself becoming more compassionate as I embrace democratic principles and have the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. If the death penalty is to be used, it should be saved for the most heinous of crimes and only used when the identity of the criminal is known without a doubt (which actually probably justifies it for RLG).
I realize that all circumstances are different. I do not judge those who seek death as retribution.