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Warren Hill didn’t get executed tonight. Maybe we shouldn’t, they thought, with him being intellectually disabled and all. Not that he doesn’t deserve it; he brutally murdered his girlfriend then his cellmate. He needs killing. But not now. Not while President Carter and those busybodies across the pond are watching. He is a young man. We have time.

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Sorry about that. I don’t identify with those who need the death penalty. I don’t think it is justified for anyone, no matter how heinous the crime. Not because of what it does to the criminal, but because of what it does to us as a society. The idea that we should have to debate whether a man with an intellectual disability should be executed takes my breath away. I could have been this man’s teacher.

When I was in my 20s I taught children with IQs in the 60s and 70s. We called them mildly retarded. They could talk and walk, read and write, do math. They got married and had children. In college I learned these children were the 6 hour retardates, that they used to be called the pseudo-feebleminded. They had learning problems but were close to normal emotionally, socially, physically. All true. If you met one of my kids outside of school, you wouldn’t know they were retarded. Unless you were in a situation that required decision making, problem solving or modulating emotion. They could hold a job if it were highly structured. If they lived in a stable environment, they needed no support. But in chaotic settings, their limited skills were insufficient.

I don’t know Warren Hill. I don’t know much of his story. The characteristics I describe may not be his. But it doesn’t matter. Because the death penalty diminishes us as a society no matter whom we execute.

One more odd note. When I read about someone getting executed I always Google William Brooks. He kidnapped, raped and murdered Jeannine Galloway in 1977. She was a casual friend; we went to church together. He was sentenced to death. Later his sentence was commuted to life in prison as part of a class action suit. Turns out black men who killed white women were more likely to be sentenced to death. There was no option to make it life without parole. So I check to make sure he doesn’t get out. I don’t want him to be executed. But I don’t want him to be free (a little vengeance in this liberal heart). Here is the weird thing. When I looked him up tonight, I found there is a picture on E-Bay of Jeannine’s coffin being carried by pall bearers after her funeral. We live in a strange world.

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Originally posted to vickijean on Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 10:02 PM PST.

Also republished by Kos Georgia, Tell the Story, and Community Spotlight.

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