Now I have an idea of what pacifist-progressive Texans must feel. The Old Line State has put blood on the hands of its citizens.
With the approval of Maryland Gov. Robert “Hang ‘Em High Bob” Ehrlich, three-time murderer Steven Oken died tonight by lethal injection at the hands of the state. The government-sanctioned killing was done in retaliation for the 1987 rape and murder of 20-year-old Dawn Marie Garvin; Oken also was convicted of killing his sister-in-law Patricia Hirt, and Lori Ward, a Maine motel clerk.
Without doubt, Steven Oken did horrible things. He deserved punishment — a lifetime without freedom, behind bars. What Oken received today was nothing more than an easy way out.
The families of his victims may find some measure of validation from Oken’s revenge murder. They have suffered greatly, and all decent people join in mourning for their loved ones. Having sympathy for those harmed by a violent criminal, however, does not equate to support for capital punishment. And it certainly does not require staying silent in the face of such a grisly act as killing another human being.
It must be said: Thou shalt not kill.
I don’t recall exceptions, amendments, caveats, or anything more than those four words. And I know that every death, each and every one, is a diminishment of us all. Watching pro-death-penalty people outside Baltimore’s state prison complex jump and cheer with joy when word came that a man died tonight, left me feeling more than a little diminished.
So tonight I will mourn — for those physically and emotionally harmed by Steven Oken’s unconscionable acts, for Steven Oken himself, for the souls of those directly involved in his murder — including Hang ‘Em High Bob and the justices of the US Supreme Court. And I will pray, for those who supported the killing, for society’s collective soul, for human decency one day to prevail.