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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10-07 The Review

Opposed to the death penalty
By: John G. Whitacre

    Aba Gayle was driving home when a voice said, “You must forgive him, and you must let him know.”
    Gayle’s daughter, Catherine Blount, was murdered at age 19 in 1980, but after hearing that message of forgiveness, Gayle wrote a letter to the murderer in prison, and it was a release for Gayle.
    When she put the letter in the mail slot, the anger and the lust for vengeance were instantly gone.
    “I was filled with love and joy and peace,” she said.  “I didn’t need to have another human being murdered so I could be healed.  The act of forgiveness healed me.”
    Gayle is a member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation, and she spoke Sunday to residents of Copeland Oaks about her group’s opposition to the death penalty.
    “I don’t want anyone murdered in Catherine’s name,” she said, defining “execution” as state-sanctioned murder.
    Gayle said that an execution costs four times what it takes to incarcerate a prisoner for life.  States with death penalties, she said, have more murders than those without.  “States with death penalties have more murders after executions; murder rates go up.  Violence begets violence.”
    Gayle went through the normal stages of grieving after Douglas Mickey murdered Catherine: crying, then denial, then anger.  She believed the district attorney when he told her that execution would bring closure.
    “Closure is a dirty word in Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation,” she said.  “There is no such thing.”
    Gayle got stuck in anger, waiting for the execution, and she lived in anger for eight years.  “Looking back, it was scary.  Anger permeates every cell,” she said.  “Anger destroys your body.”
    Gayle took the first step toward healing with a meditation class and started on the path to peace after attending church.
    “I learned that Jesus came here to teach us not to hate each other,” she said.  “He taught us to love each other.”
    After Gayle wrote the letter to Mickey, she received a reply, and she visited him in prison.
    “It was the most frightening day of my life,” she said, but when she entered the visiting room, she was surprised.  “I did not see a single monster.  Everywhere I looked, I saw the face of God.”  Men were visiting with families and clergy.  She realized, after meeting Mickey, that the night Catherine lost her life, Mickey lost his life too, and Mickey said he would give his life to change the events of that night.
    Gayle has become an advocate for people like Mickey.  She travels the country, speaking against the death penalty.  She said that members of Murder Victims’ Families all had family members murdered.  “And we are opposed to the death penalty under any circumstance,” she said.  Some members are opposed for religious reasons, some, for intellectual reasons.
    “You can read the facts --- the death penalty doesn’t work,” she said.
    “Douglas Mickey probably will be executed,” she said.  “I will go.”
    But she will not sit with his enemies.  She wants him to see her there, praying for him, extending him loving energy in his final minutes.