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Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Death Penalty

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 21 Apr 2011 02:13pm | comments

A group of Mississippi religious leaders is calling for a halt to all state executions. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the religious advocates are reacting to two executions scheduled by the state Supreme Court.

Leaders of Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant congregations stood side by side in the Capitol dome, united by their opposition to the death penalty.

Reverend Carol Spencer with the Mississippi Religious Leaders Conference says her Christian faith leads her to oppose the death penalty.

"That is where I get my commandment about not taking a life for a life. But we want to be very clear that we understand that people should be held accountable for their heinous crimes. And people who are not able to live in society should be kept from hurting others in society as well," Spencer said.

Death penalty supporter Anne Pace stood beside the anti-death penalty advocates holding pictures of her daughter, who was murdered in Louisiana in 2002. Pace is offended when she sees anti-death penalty demonstrations.

"Frustrated, enraged....unserved by the judicial system," Pace said.

The man convicted of killing her daughter is still on death row in Louisiana. Pace feels any more delays prolong her family's pain.

"I feel that the death penalty is the only proportionate punishment for some crimes. I feel that it is supported by research," Pace said.

Earlier this week, the Mississippi Supreme Court set execution dates in mid-may for Benny Joe Stevens and Rodney Gray.

Stevens was convicted of killing four people, and gray was convicted of the rape and murder of a 79-year old woman.

At a recent crime victim’s memorial event, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says he thinks death is the appropriate punishment for the men facing execution.

"Our system actually works. It is hard for people who don't believe in the death penalty. And they have that right, I am glad they voice that. But it is the law in Mississippi and we are going to carry it out," Hood said.

Hood says the state will not be affected by the lethal injection drug shortages that have derailed executions other states.

The executions are set for May 10 and May 17. 

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