Priests to Arkansas Governor: Please commute death sentences

 

March 28, 2017

For immediate release

A national group of Catholic priests is asking the governor of Arkansas to commute the death sentences of eight men, scheduled to be executed in April. A letter March 22 from Father Bernard “Bob” Bonnot to Governor Asa Hutchison asks “that you commute the sentences to life in prison without possibility of parole.”

Bonnot chairs the leadership team of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, with nearly 1,200 members in dioceses and religious communities throughout the United States.

In part, the priests assert that every execution “risks the execution of an innocent man” and “sustains the status of the United States as the only major nation in the developed world that continues this unnecessary mode of justice.”

The priests also state that execution “ends any hope of rehabilitating the individual” and that following required legal processes “costs more . . . than to sustain such inmates through life in prison.”

Executions are “an attack on the dignity of human persons” and “a remnant of barbaric times,” the priests concluded. “Pope Francis and the U.S. Bishops have called for abolition of the death penalty. We stand with them."

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For more information or comment from the priests’ association, contact Father Bernard “Bob” Bonnot, auscpbonnot@gmail.com, or (330) 397-1257.

Or Sister Jacquelyn Doepker, executive secretary, AUSCP, office@uscatholicpriests.org, (872) 205-5862, 200 St. Francis Avenue, Tiffin, Ohio 44883

Text of the letter is attached, below.

On behalf of the AUSCP

Paul Leingang • (812) 459-1374 • prleingang@gmail.com

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March 22, 2017 

Governor Asa Hutchinson
500 Woodlane St., Suite 250
Little Rock, AR 72201 

Dear Governor Hutchinson, 

I write on behalf of the nearly 1200 Catholic priest members of the
Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. Together we ask that you not
authorize the scheduled execution of inmates Bruce Ward, Don
Davis, Stacey Johnson, Ledell Lee, Jack Jones, Marcel Williams, 
Kenneth Williams, and Jason McGehee in April of 2017. We ask
rather that you commute the sentences to life in prison without
possibility of parole. 

We are persuaded that every execution of prisoners found guilty of
capital punishment has several negative consequences: 

1) It risks the execution of an innocent man, as numerous cases have
proven; 
2) It sustains the status of the United States as the only major nation
in the developed world that continues this unnecessary mode of
'justice'; 
3) It ends efforts and any hope of rehabilitating the individual and
enabling a constructive life within the prison community and beyond; 

4) It costs more to pursue execution through a long legal process
than to sustain such inmates through life in prison. 

Most basically, executions are an attack on the dignity of human
persons. When Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress in 2015, 
he took the opportunity to support his brother bishops in calling for abolition of the death penalty and to "encourage all of those who are convinced that a just and
necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of
rehabilitation." 

Executions are a remnant of barbaric times which discredit our claim of being a civilized and humane society. Pope Francis and the U.S. Bishops have called for abolition of the death penalty. We stand with them. 

Please commute the sentences of these eight men. 

Hope, Joy & all Blessings, 
Fr. Bob Bonnot
Chair, AUSCP Leadership Team 

LEADERSHIP TEAM
Bob Bonnot, Chair
Diocese of Youngstown 

Kevin Clinton, Vice-chair
Arch.of St. Paul & Minneapolis 

David Cooper, Past Chair
Archdiocese of Milwaukee 

Frank Eckart, Treasurer
Diocese of Toledo 

Louis Arceneaux, CM
Western Province USA 

Dan Divis, Issues
Diocese of Cleveland 

James P. Kiesel
Archdiocese of Baltimore 

Joseph Ruggieri, Secretary
Diocese of Youngstown 

James Schexnayder
Diocese of Oakland 

Bernard Survil, Membership
Diocese of Greensburg 

Clarence Williams, CPPs
National Black Catholic
Clergy Caucus 

Sr. Jackie Doepker, OSF
Executive Secretary