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miércoles, octubre 06, 2010

Ohio Kills Benge For 1993 Murder

Ohio today killed its eighth prisoner this year, setting a state record. Michael Benge was executed for the brutal January, 1993 murder of his lover, Judith Gabbard, at 10:38 am.

The routine of state killing remains so pervasive that it's unlikely you even noticed this execution, even though it was carried out in your name. Such is desensitization. In fact, there's very little that was unusual about this execution. The execution ended 17 years of Benge's confinement on death row. And yet again, it managed to dehumanized each of us.

The Columbus Dispatch provides details about the crime for which Benge was killed by the state:

Binge was convicted and sentenced to death for beating his girlfriend, Judith Gabbard, 38, with a tire iron, then weighting down her body with concrete and dumping it in the Miami River. The murder happened Jan. 31, 1993....

According to records of his clemency hearing, the relationship between Benge and Gabbard soured when he began smoking crack cocaine. He stole Gabbard's jewelry and other things to pawn to get money to feed his drug habit.

He became violent, with the aftermath of the beatings so obvious that she skipped family gatherings at the holidays in 1992 to avoid embarrassment.

They fought the night of the murder after drinking in a bar for several hours; Benge smoked crack. Eventually, he stole her ATM card and beat her to death. After disposing of the body, he swam across the river and hooked up with friends. They used the card to drain $400 from Gabbard's bank account, records show.

The theft of the ATM card was apparently the aggravating factor that made brutal murder a death penalty offense. All of Benge's appeals were fruitless. It took the state almost 18 years finally to end his life. One wonders what his death accomplished that his continuing confinement in prison would not.

While he was strapped to the gurney, Benge offered an apology to Gabbard's family, several of whom were present to observe the execution:

His last words, as family members of his victim looked on: "I can never apologize enough. ... I hope my death gives you closure. That's all I can ask. Praise God and thanks."

Asked about Benge's apology, the victim's sister made it clear that the reason for the killing was revenge for the death of her sister:

After the execution Kathy Johnson, sister of the victim, said, "It makes us feel there was justice for my sister. That's what this was all about."

When asked about Benge's last words, she said, "I don't feel like Mike Binge was remorseful. He has blamed everyone else but himself."

Is there any other way to read this comment, is there any way to perceive it that does not encompass revenge, an eye for an eye, a life for a life? I don't see it. And I don't agree that this is justice. This is not justice. This is barbarianism. This degrades us to the level of the killer. It has us adopt the killer's lack of regard for the sanctity of human life.

I mention this hear so that the ritual of state killing and as important, the ritual of our silence and our failing to notice when the state kills in our names may be abolished.

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