The Horrible Truth about Vengeance and Execution of the Innocent
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I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
August 1, 2012
Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Correctional Chaplain Florida's Death Row & Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella,Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed and for seventeen years a Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults.

The Horrible Truth about Vengeance and Execution of the Innocent

There may actually be a few low information capital punishment supporters who still believe there is at least the remotest connection between our U.S. death penalty and justice.

That is a very difficult illusion to maintain in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. Evidence about the diabolical relationship between the death penalty and politics. Evidence of the death penalty as an invisible industry that devours taxpayers’ hard earned cash for the sake of a handful of state lawyers and bureaucrats. Evidence that the families of murder victims are mauled—not healed—by the maws of the death penalty machine.

Yet, none of that touches upon what may be the greatest, most cynical horror of the American death penalty experiment—a truth that is barely breathed aloud. That is never spoken about on panels or in forums or in law reviews. Even though it is an evil sitting in plain sight for all to see. Simply stated, that truth is:

Vengeance is still satisfied when the executioner’s axe falls upon the innocent.

Through my years of research to comprehend and reconstruct the role of the death penalty in our Judeo-Christian faith history, it became quite clear that the origins of the death penalty were about restoring the social balance between groups, between tribes, among peoples. Kill one of ours, and we will kill ten or seventy or a thousand of yours.

The biblical death penalty tried to drastically abrogate the vengeance of that social structure by insisting that only one life could be taken for a life, and then further requiring absolute certainty of the unmitigated guilt of the condemned.

We do not bother with that last part. In fact those who insist on absolute certainty of guilt before taking the life of the condemned are called “soft on crime”, “squeamish”, “against the family of the victim”. Such epithets only make sense if actual guilt and innocence are not relevant. And they are not relevant. Anyone who thinks that guilt or innocence is relevant to execution under the U.S. death penalty must have been in a coma last year during the September execution of Troy Davis, an innocent black man in Georgia.

For those of us who were not in a coma during that horror, those of us who refused to pretend that the killing of Troy Davis was just an aberration in an otherwise healthy and just process, we were forced to look at the truth about the U.S. death penalty.

That truth is stark and simple: It has nothing to do with justice. It is only about vengeance.

And vengeance is about the groups. Vengeance is about “one of yours” must die because “one of ours” was killed. That is why innocence and guilt are not relevant.

If the condemned is innocent, like Troy Davis, so what? If the condemned is a man of remarkable achievements, a pride to his family, a strongly positive influence to his community, like Troy Davis, so what? The injustice of the loss inflicted on the other group is not relevant to the satisfaction of vengeance.

One might think that this analysis is a bit extreme if one has not read our U.S. Supreme Court decisions on the death penalty and the execution of the innocent. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote years ago that even if the only purpose served by the death penalty is vengeance, that is constitutionally protected. It is no coincidence that he has also written that the need for finality in capital cases trumps the need to determine if the condemned is factually innocent. Moreover, in the Troy Davis case, he and Justice Clarence Thomas opined that there is no constitutional right to not be executed just because you are factually innocent.

It is all about vengeance. Execution of the innocent? No problem.

Vengeance is not about making sure people are guilty.

Vengeance is about counting the pile of dead bodies on each side.

©2012 Dale S. Recinella, Tallahassee, Florida U.S.A.
All rights reserved. No reuse or republication without permission.

Upcoming Events:

Coming Fall 2012:

Now I Walk on Death Row - in Florida

Now I Walk on Death Row - in Wyoming

Now I Walk on Death Row - in Italy

Details in the September 1st Ezine

I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.

Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!

Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed

If you Like this Monthly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
The Poor Clare Sisters
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.

This ezine edited by The Poor Clare Sisters of Spokane
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach