The federal prison in Terre Haute
(Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Objector Says Federal Executions Are Politically Motivated

TERRE HAUTE, Ind.–For the first time in 17 years, the federal government will execute three people at the federal prison in Terre Haute, next week. But, the executions may be politically motivated, says Sister Barbara Battista, with the Sisters of Providence, a Catholic congregation in Terre Haute.

“I believe, as do many others in the movement that there’s a reason behind the selection of these particular four [sic] persons,” said Battista. “It goes way beyond any type of punishment. There are some political underpinnings.”

LISTEN: Sister Barbara Battista talks about the upcoming federal executions

Her reasoning includes the timing and selection of the three people to be executed.

“It’s interesting and non coincidental that they’re all white and that they’ve all killed children, when in fact the higher percentage of inmates on death row are persons of color and killing children is not the most reason to get on federal death row.”

Daniel Lewis Lee is to be executed Monday. He was convicted in 1999, of killing a family of three in Arkansas, including a couple and their eight-year-old daughter by shooting them, then putting plastic bags over their heads before throwing them in a river. Lee’s accomplice got life.

Wesley Purkey was convicted in 2003 of raping and killing a 15-year-old girl after kidnapping her, and for the murder of an elderly woman. He is to be executed Wednesday, July 15.

Friday, July 17, Dustin Lee Honken is set to die. He was convicted of killing five people, including two young girls, in 2004, in Iowa.

But, those crimes are not a reason for the perpetrators to die, said Battista.

“The death penalty is immoral and there is never a reason to execute a person, just because they’ve killed someone,” she said. “Life without parole is less expensive, is more humane punishment and serves the purpose quite well, in fact.”

Battista said she believes the Biblical principle of “an eye for an eye”, is outweighed by numerous other scriptures that speak of forgiveness.

Shye said she and fellow faith leaders will be somewhere near the prison next week, if the executions happen, in a vigil for the men. She said the people at the prison are being much more cautious than they were in 2003, about closing off streets near the facility, and she does not know yet where the vigil will happen.

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