Unless something dramatic happens, Tennessee will execute another inmate Thursday evening (October 11th). This will be the second execution this year. A third execution is scheduled for December.
IT IS TIME FOR TENNESSEE TO STOP EXECUTIONS! In fact, it is time for executions to cease all across our country. They are both immoral and unjust! It is an indictment on the church that the south, the buckle of the bible belt, leads the nation in executions. As one activists has said, “The bible belt has become the death belt.”
Tomorrow’s execution hits close to home. The condemned man, Ed Zagorski, is a friend. I know him as Diamond Jim, or Ziggy. In 1983, as a result of a drug deal gone bad, Mr. Zagorski brutally murdered two men. He has taken responsibility for his crime and is remorseful for what he did. He has shared with me some of his life story. It is both fascinating and sad. It’s the stuff of movies. It’s an example of truth being stranger then fiction.
Mr. Zagorski has been on death row for 34 years. He has not asked be set free. He has asked for his penalty to be changed from death to life without parole. At his hearing, the jurors did not have the option of giving life without parole. Six of the jurists have recently stated if they had had that option, that is what they would have done. The foreman of the jury has recently stated he does not believe Ed should be put to death. One of the victims wives have said the same thing, and guards and prison officials have written letters requested his clemency. He has been a model prisoner. He has not received one “write-up” in all his time on death row. He has been a source of help, encouragement, and service to all who know him. In fact, about a year ago, he asked for (and received permission) to move from one cell pod to another so he could take care of a dying inmate. In my opinion, Diamond Jim has been rehabilitated. The man the State will execute (murder) tomorrow is not the same man the committed the crime so many years ago.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe no one is beyond redemption and everyone is created in the image of God. As a follower of Jesus, I believe the Bible, in its totality, teaches capital punishment to be wrong. You don’t teach killing is wrong by killing anymore then you teach raping is wrong by raping. There is enough violence in our society without the State sanctioning more violence.
Last Friday, I spent some time with Mr. Zagorski. He said he was at peace with whatever happened. I told him I loved him and I thanked him for his friendship. Our conversation was interrupted by a guard telling him his lawyer was their to see him. This was an unexpected visit. I don’t know for sure, but I assume his lawyers told him that Gov. Haslem had denied his clemency.
But it’s not to late! I pray Gov. Haslem, or the State Supreme Court, will step in and stop this execution.
I also pray for the victims families. What they have been through no one should ever have to go through. I pray God’s grace and peace will surround them.