Hi, my name is Bob. I grew up in a country and a time where the death penalty was the acceptable punishment for taking a life. I had no reason to question this law, not even when I saw others do so. It did not pertain to my life. Murderers and rapists deserved to be removed from society permanently. Why give them a cushy, rent free life in prison when we know that they hardly ever serve their full sentences, and that they are very likely to re-offend upon release? How many stories have we not heard of killers given time off for good behaviour, only to kill again and again?
Well, my opinion changed one evening in 1984. I was 25 years old. At 7:15 I answered a knock at the door and found two policemen outside.
“Good evening, are you Bob ******?”
“Yes, I am. What is going on officer?”
“We would like for you to come down to the station to answer a couple of questions”.
The officer looked stern and I suddenly felt my heart in the grip of icy fingers.
“Questions about what?” I tried not to sound frightened, I knew those are all signs cops looked for.
“It is in connection with your neighbour, Rachel ******. But we cannot discuss it here, come down to the station with us and we should have you home in no time.”
I agreed, hurriedly told my wife that I was needed for questioning and tried to ignore the panic in her eyes. We got in the car and drove off. That was the last day I spent in my own home in twenty-eight years.
Rachel had moved in next door to us two years previously. She was a mousey, quiet woman who lived on her own. My wife and I introduced ourselves to her upon her arrival but only saw her thereafter in greeting over the fence, or when we pulled out of our driveways together. I knew that she was a kindergarten teacher and guessed her age to be in her mid-thirties. She had a cat and liked to potter around in her garden, which was lush. She mentioned to my wife that she also grew herbs and vegetables successfully. Neither of us had ever seen the inside of her home.
That was the extent of my knowledge about Rachel *****
And here I am on death-row, convicted of her gruesome murder the night before the cops came knocking on my door. She had been raped, sodomised and beaten. Death came by strangulation.
The jury decided my case purely on circumstantial evidence. It was before the scientific breakthrough of DNA. And anyway, samples of the DNA left behind at the crime scene had been contaminated and lost to the extent that today there is not enough left even for mitochondrial DNA testing.
I have spent all my appeals. My execution by lethal injection is scheduled for next month. I will then once again be free, but not to enjoy my family or anything in this world.
I am no longer for the death penalty. I still feel that it is a just punishment for those who murder, but now know that too many innocent people are found guilty for too many reasons.
And, if just one innocent person is executed, it should be abolished. Ask my wife, children and grandchildren, for whom I am saddened above all.