Sight Magazine – Essay: Buddy Stouffer’s execution was the last in the US for 2021. Will it be the last to be proven wrong?
- SHANE CLAIBORNE
On Thursday, December 9, the US state of Oklahoma executed Bigler “Buddy” Stouffer, a deeply committed 79-year-old Christian who has claimed innocence since his murder conviction in 1985. It was the last scheduled execution for 2021.
This execution follows the interrupted execution last month of Julius Jones, one of the clearest cases of innocence in the United States, which has sparked protests around the world and calls for clemency from people like Kim Kardashian and Bishop TD Jakes.
This October 9, 2014, a file photo shows the stretcher in the execution chamber of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma. PHOTO: AP Photo / Sue Ogrocki, file photo.
Stouffer’s execution was also the first in a gruesome series of botched executions in Oklahoma, where Clayton Lockett was dead for 43 minutes as his body convulsed and John Grant, who was killed in October, screamed, convulsed and vomited before being pronounced dead.
Oklahoma’s execution record even prompted the state’s Pardons and Parole Board to vote to arrest Stouffer’s.
“There is a team that works hard to prove Stouffer’s innocence despite his execution. One of the obvious problems with the death penalty is that you can’t bring someone back from the dead when you This is why a growing number of people, including many conservatives, are joining the fight for alternatives to the death penalty. Those who distrust government as a flawed human institution are beginning to wonder s ‘he should have the irreversible power of life and death.
Incidentally, Stouffer’s execution did not attract much attention. In fact, when I first spoke to her, I didn’t even know there was a question about her guilt. But in our conversation it was made very clear that he did not commit the crime for which he was being executed. He even gave me the name of the man who knows exactly what happened. Others have now come forward to help prove his innocence.
I will not be able to forget that he said to me in a neutral tone, “I wish I could prove my innocence in my lifetime … but I just hope the truth comes out, even after I pass away.”
There is a team working hard to prove Stouffer’s innocence, despite his execution. One of the obvious problems with the death penalty is that you can’t bring someone back from the dead when you’re wrong.
This is why a growing number of people, including many with conservative leanings, are joining the fight for alternatives to the death penalty. Those who beware of the government as an imperfect human institution begin to wonder if it should have the irreversible power of life and death.
Stouffer’s case illustrates many things that are wrong with our criminal justice system, especially when it comes to capital punishment. He was convicted on the basis of flawed evidence by a medical examiner appointed Joyce Gilchrist, known as “Black Magic” for its purported ability to work magic with evidence that didn’t match the facts. She has testified in his case and hundreds of others during her 20-year career in Oklahoma. She helped send 23 people to death row before being fired.
In Stouffer’s case, Gilchrist worked closely with prosecutor Robert H Macy, as she has done in dozens of death penalty cases. With Gilchrist’s help, Macy sent 73 people to death row during her 21-year career. About twenty of them were executed. Of them, Curtis mccarty and Robert lee miller, were exonerated and released, a number which corresponds to our tragic national record: for nine executions, there is one exoneration.
Imagine if, for every 10 planes that take off, one crashes. This is the United States’ record on the death penalty.
As I was talking to Stouffer three days before his execution, he told me what really happened that day in 1985. He also told me about his faith, how his love for Jesus lasts. ‘helped get through it all. He was cheerful, fearless, compassionate.
He shared his sympathy for the family of Linda Reaves, the schoolteacher he was accused of taking the life of, and even explained how he forgave those whose lies in court resulted in his death sentence.
We talked about baseball, the year he had a .415 batting average and where he got his nickname “Buddy”. He told me how he reached out to the 113 men who were executed while on death row, as a pastor, as a friend and as an evangelist who wanted to share the story. hope he found in Christ. He told me he would die with forgiveness on his lips and peace in his heart.
He kept that promise. His last words were, “Father, forgive them,” mirroring Christ’s last words, aimed at a system that was killing him the same way. One of his last requests was to commune with his pastor. This request was refused because the prison officials did not want him to choke on Communion after they had killed him. Let it flow.
We ended our conversation with prayer, which I think would have lasted a lot longer if we hadn’t been interrupted by an automated voice telling us that we had “one minute” left to speak. He then called one last time to greet everyone at the prayer vigil the day before his execution. In this call, he praised God for all those working to stop not only his execution, but all executions. We prayed for the Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt.
Stitt is an active member of Woodlake Church in Tulsa. In a Dec. 1 post on Twitter, he wrote, “From day one, I promised Oklahoman that I would sign every pro-life law that came to my desk. I’m proud to have kept that promise and to make Oklahoma the most pro-life state in the country! A week later, he authorized Stouffer’s execution.
Oklahoma has the highest per capita execution rate in the country. This is the latest reminder that the Bible Belt is America’s death belt, where 90% of American executions take place.
It was Jesus who said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”. If Christians demanded that their governors, judges, and legislators be as pro-life on this issue as they are on abortion, there would be no more executions in America.
Shane Claiborne is an activist, author and co-director of Christians Red Letter.