Important Details on Execution Day

The newspaper today announced Glenn Boyd’s execution that was conducted yesterday.

It is striking to see what kind of details the press finds important to include in a brief article about the facts of the case.  Like his last meal:

Boyd requested chicken, French fries, apple sauce, tomatoes and an orange drink for his last meal, Corbett said. Earlier today Boyd ate a meatball sub, a Philly cheese steak sandwich, V-8 Splash and coffee, all from a vending machine in visitation yard, which is indoors, he said.

But you did not read why these were the items he chose.  Glenn knew he would eat his last meal in “the yard” (it’s an inside room) with some of his family, a minister (me) and some friends who he has gotten to know since being on death row these past 25 years.  He specifically ordered the kind of meal he could share – that especially why the french fries, because everyone could have at least one of those. He would not take no or “just a little” for an answer.  Why did he eat out of the vending machine?  Because he gave his chicken away too!  It was a leg quarter.  I had the thigh part – he would not take no.  He wanted to share his last meal as an act of gratitude to the people he had come to know and love.  So his real last meal was that Philly cheese steak from the machine, microwaved for about a minute.

The paper did tell one important fact: that the jury in his case sentenced him to life without parole, but the judge overturned that sentence in favor of the death penalty.

You did not hear that the judge was under investigation at the time for ethics violations and was subsequently disbarred.

You did not hear that the prosecuting attorney had never litigated a capital crime before Glenn’s case, said that he did not feel adequate, asked not to be assigned, and, on the record, in the appeal hearing, admitted he did not really know what he was doing.  Glenn said that he held no ill-will for that man because he “fell on his sword for me” in that appeal testimony.

Nor did you hear that Glenn was raised by an extremely abusive, alcoholic father (his sister confirms this).  Nor that the grandfather who was his lifeline to sanity in those days was badly injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, and eventually was “taken from me” as Glenn said.

Nothing in these facts are excuses, of course!  But what facts are important when reporting about a man’s life?

How about the fact that Glenn had not only become a believer, but was an active assistant of sots to the prison chaplain?  How about that he was a regular “server” at a prison ministry to death row inmates, doing the leg-work so that they could, as he did, hear about God’s love and forgiveness?

How about that he asked his family to leave that “yard” room on his last day earlier than they would have so that his young nephew would not have to see him being taken away in chains by the execution squad officers?

On a blog site kept by pro-death penalty folks, people were asking, “does anybody have a picture of the monster?”   Yes, what Glenn did 25 years ago was monstrous; he deserved to be punished for it.  But the Glenn we knew was not a monster.   Not anymore.  Not for a long time.

There is such a thing as redemption.  There is such a thing as transformation.  There is a God.  Glenn is evidence.  But Glenn is gone.   I don’t know who that helps.



2 thoughts on “Important Details on Execution Day

  1. Thank you for your ministry with Glenn. Thank you for sharing the truth with us. I will share it with others. I read your sermons every week and they minister to me; which helps me minister to mine at Beloved Community UCC in Birmingham. I pray God’s wings cover you in any grief, anger, bitterness, confusion, relief, release, whatever you may be going through in the coming weeks and months after Glenn’s execution. Good Friday and Easter will have deeper meaning, I am sure of that.

  2. Thanks Angie; I re-read my post, and although I didn’t want to sound angry, it did. Especially the end. Actually I’m more sad – but I do have to admit to anger. So much of what we (the USA) does with regard to criminal justice is so far from what it should be – I’m sure I’ll never be objective; I know people. Thanks for your prayers.

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