By Hunter Hines
Christian Action League
July 21, 2020
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice carried out three executions in four days. The federal government had not executed more than that number in the previous three decades.
The Justice Department had announced its plans to resume executions in July of last year, but U.S. District Judge Tonya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia had temporarily halted the lethal injections. The D.C. Circuit declined to step in, and the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said on Monday of last week that the executions could proceed.
On Tuesday morning, the federal government executed Daniel Lewis Lee. Two days later, Wesley Purkey was executed, and on Friday, Dustin Lee Honkin.
According to the Department of Justice:
- Daniel Lewis Lee was “a member of a white supremacist group, murdered a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. After robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois bayou. On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death.”
- “Wesley Ira Purkey violently raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl, and then dismembered, burned, and dumped the young girl’s body in a septic pond. He also was convicted in state court for using a claw hammer to bludgeon to death an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio and walked with a cane. On Nov. 5, 2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri found Purkey guilty of kidnapping a child resulting in the child’s death, and he was sentenced to death.”
- “Dustin Lee Honken shot and killed five people—two men who planned to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters. On Oct. 14, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa found Honken guilty of numerous offenses, including five counts of murder during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced to death.”
Sister Helen Prejean, once the national chairperson for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and renowned for her best-selling book, “Dead Man Walking,” said that she was “compelled to speak out about the present rush…to resume federal executions.”
In an article written for American Magazine, Prejean argued that “for every 10 executions carried out in the country, 1 more wrongfully sentenced person on death row has had to be freed. She says that there have been “168 wrongful death sentences thus far – and counting” since the resumption of executions in 1977. She also said that almost 60% of persons on federal death row are disproportionately persons of color.
Dudley Sharpe, however, an Independent Pro-Death Penalty Activist and former Vice President and Political Director of Justice for All, takes issue with Prejean’s claims.
In an email to the Christian Action League, Sharpe said that there is no rush to justice. It’s been seventeen years since an execution and that there is now a moral imperative to secure justice, “the same as for all sanctions, decided by judge or jury.”
Sharpe added that Prejean “continues the well-known fraud of the 1 innocent released from death row, for every 10 executed, when we know the confirmed innocent is about 1 out of 210 so sentenced, about 40 total, since 1977 (not 168), with all of those innocents released.”
Concerning people of color on federal death row, Prejean “complains that 60% of federal death row are people of color, without noting what percentage of murders are committed by people of color.” Sharpe writes:
“For the White–Black comparisons, the Black level is 12.7 times greater than the White level for homicide.
“For the Hispanic-White comparison, the Hispanic level is 4.0 times greater than the White level for homicide.
“For the Hispanic–Black comparison, the Black level is 3.1 times greater than the Hispanic level for homicide.
“White murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers and are executed at a rate 41% higher than are Black Death row murderers.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said that he was “sorely disappointed by the culture of lies that so dominate the anti-death penalty movement.” He said it was especially wrong that so much of the church had become anti-death penalty.
“Among the many issues the Christian Action League addresses, I believe this one is essential. Capital Punishment is not simply a matter of choice or opinion; the Word of God mandates it. God established this punishment for willful murder, saying, “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man, shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6). So the death penalty was established not just for Old Testament times but “for perpetual generations” (Gen. 9:12). It’s not something to be used for personal revenge, but instead a matter for the government who stands in the place of God’s judgment.
“Think about the evil those three federal prisoners had done. Those evil deeds, the Bible says pollute the land, and the death penalty is the way to cleanse the land.
“Consider what the Scriptures say, ‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.’ (Num. 35:33).
“The nation which refuses to obey God in this matter and exercise retribution for the taking of innocent human life shares in the same guilt of the murderer. I find it offensive that some Christians feign compassion greater than God’s, and thereby show more favor for the guilty party than they do for the victims. Indeed, God is loving, but he is also just.”
There are currently 59 other prisoners who remain on federal death row.