Recently, the LA Times published an article entitled, Reaching out from death row. The article fronted Scott Peterson, followed by California death row inmates Randy Kraft, Charles Ng, and Richard Davis. The article goes on to report how death row prisoners in many states have access to the internet through third parties and what states are doing to minimize the risks to the public.
This article brought on a new barrage of hate mail to those of us who publicly support Scott Peterson's factual innocence. I was not surprised.
I was surprised to read such vile hatred in comments to an article on the pending hearing for Susan Atkins, notorious for her part in the Sharon Tate murders. Atkins is dying and her family wanted her to have a mercy release so she could die with her family around her. The language in the comments was every bit as strong as what's been expressed against Scott Peterson, and yet these murders took place decades ago. (She has since been denied parole)
Equally distressing, however, were the comments that anyone who opposed Atkins' parole had no compassion, no mercy, and was not a good Christian.
Is it possible to not hate someone who committed a vicious murder and still not want them to be paroled? Yes, it is.
Love is not giving people a free pass for the wrongs they commit. The love that Jesus Christ encourages us to have forgives people their sins and lets God be the judge, but still requires the person to accept personal responsibility for his or her sins, including suffering through any penalty justly imposed by society. We do no one any favors when we allow them to break laws without suffering any consequences. That is not love.
Was Atkins' life sentence justly imposed? Yes, it was. There is no doubt about her participation in the murders. She was originally given the death penalty, but California, in one of its anti-death penalty phases, reduced all death sentences to life with possibility of parole (California did not yet have the life without possibility of parole sentence). When California reinstated its death penalty, it was not retroactive.
Many believe that Scott Peterson has been justly convicted and that he justly deserves the death penalty. I agree that whomever murdered Laci and Conner deserves the death penalty. I believe God authorizes societies to execute those who murder innocent people, but also places upon those societies the responsibility to take the utmost care that only the guilty are executed. That is why we have the appeals process, to make sure no innocent person is executed. It would be much better, however, if we had more safeguards in place to prevent the innocent from being wrongfully convicted in the first place. If a society executes an innocent person, it sheds innocent blood and is itself guilty of murder.
But God does not give anyone permission to hate another human being, no matter how heinous his or her sins are. He understands the feelings of hate that rise in our hearts when we first experience something, but he encourages us to get over it, the quicker the better. Hatred is self-destructive -- it hurts us, not the person we hate.