Last Thursday, November 1, 2018, the State of Tennessee executed Edmond Zagorski. He was originally scheduled to die in October, but he received a stay. The reason for the stay is that Edmond (his friends called him Diamond Jim) requested to be electrocuted instead of lethal injection. The State was not ready for that request. Diamond Jim was convinced electrocution would hurt less then lethal injection. Also, when he was sentenced to death back in 1984, his death sentence said “by electrocution.” He told me he thought the State should keep its word.
You see, Diamond Jim was a friend of mine. I knew him to be a kind man, with a simple faith, and a servant’s heart.
On the night of his execution (his death certificate says the cause of death was homicide), I attended a prayer vigil outside the prison walls. It was called a “protest.” But it was anything but. It was a somber time of prayers and reflection. Below is one prayer that was read:
All: Lord, make us an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Amen.
Leader: We pray for all the families who lives have been devastated by homicide and who live with injury in body, mind, or spirit.
Leader: We pray as well for Edmund Zagorski, deliver him from all evil, and set him free from every bond; that he may find eternal rest.
Leader: We give thanks for the work of the attorneys who struggle against the machinery of the death penalty.
Leader: We pray for our leaders and policy makers that they might be guided by wisdom and love as they make decisions of life and death.
Leader: We pray for Governor Haslam, that he may be led to wise decisions and right actions for the welfare and peace of the state.
Leader: We pray for all participants in the criminal justice system–for attorneys, correction officers, for Warden Mays, the Commissioners, and for those who are asked to witness and carry out this most violent event, that they may discern the truth, and impartially administer the law.
Leader: And, we pray for our state and its citizens that they may become empowered to speak, to act, and to finally rid ourselves of the death penalty. Change our hearts, and help us to seek the ways of peace and healing to address our violence and brokenness.
All: O Divine One, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is is dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
The next day, Friday, November 2nd, I visited with the rest of the guys still on death row. We laughed and cried and prayed.
Our church on death row, The Church of Life, and our pastor, Pastor KB, planned a memorial service for Diamond Jim for Sunday evening, November 4th. They asked me to be there. I said I would.
I went and listened as these guys shared story after story of Diamond Jim. One person read something Diamond Jim had written with the instructions not to read it until after he was gone. This inmate gave me what Diamond wrote. I thought about sharing it here, but it is to personal. I will cherish it forever. Another inmate gave me a copy of a letter he had written Diamond, telling him good-bye. It to will be filed away. To emotional to post here.
During the service (without any guards present) there were prayers and tears and scripture and songs. It was emotional. Pastor KB preached a powerful word. I shared a little bit, and then closed it out by reading what I would read if I was doing a grave-side service. All in all, while an emotional service, it was beautiful.
If you don’t mind, remember the guys in Unit 2 at Riverbend in your prayers. Another execution is scheduled for December. The District Attorney has asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to set the dates for six more executions during 2019.
State sanctioned murder is a sin, and it is sad that so many people, who claim to follow Jesus, and who claim to be pro-life, support this sin.