Culture of Life: Indiana-Style

Red State Values, from my own Red State:
The Indiana Parole Board voted unanimously Friday against a death-row inmate's request that his execution be delayed so he can donate part of his liver to an ailing sister.

The board recommended that Gov. Mitch Daniels deny Gregory Scott Johnson's request for clemency or a 90-day reprieve from his execution, scheduled for early Wednesday.

Johnson, who was convicted of the 1985 murder of 82-year-old Ruby Hutslar, said he wants time to donate part of his liver to his 48-year-old sister, Debra Otis, who lives in an Anderson nursing home.
The gist is that the board feels that staying his execution would undermine the facts of the case—that he had brutally killed a defenseless and elderly woman—and the victim’s relatives feel that if he were allowed to donate the liver, he would remembered as a hero for saving his sister instead of a murderer.

I feel great sympathy for Ms. Hutslar’s relatives, and I admittedly don’t know the torment of losing a family member in this way. I can only imagine their anguish, and so perhaps I am wrong when I say that my imagining of how painful such a loss is makes it all the more inexplicable to me that they could now be so indifferent to the life and death of Ms. Otis. That they are willing to condemn her to death by not supporting a 90-day stay of execution for a possible organ donor that could save her life seems cruel, a punishment on a killer—that he should lose someone close to him as they lost someone close to them—which conveniently ignores the innocence of Ms. Otis.

This decision is also predicated on their assumptions of how others would remember Johnson, which I believe is, frankly, not something over which they have control. (And something they are egregiously misjudging—a convicted murderer suddenly being championed as a hero for donating part of his liver seems incredibly unlikely; a tragic example of someone who ignored the better parts of himself in a fit of evil is about the best he could muster out of anyone, I think.) They do, however, have some influence on how others will remember them, and denying life to someone because they had the extreme misfortune of being the sibling of a killer doesn’t seem particularly better in my estimation than someone who picks up a gun or a knife to end the life of another. Does it matter so much whether he dies Wednesday or dies in 90 days? Is it so important that another life should be lost to expedite his death?

Perhaps I am unqualified to comment, having never been put in such a difficult situation, but I would hope that if faced with the same choice, I would choose give Ms. Otis the chance that her brother had not given my loved one. It doesn’t seem that creating more grief helps anyone.

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