I'm so grateful to the folks over at RELEVANT Magazine for allowing me to write this article about my journey to the Consistent Life Ethic!
I remember the exact moment I changed my opinion on the death penalty.
In 2015, I was a young conservative and an art student at The University of Alabama. I was one of 43 interns who would squeeze into a tiny 19th-century planetarium twice a week for meetings with my fellow interns at a university program centered around arts advocacy. On one such afternoon, the interns were treated to a short film preview; we watched a documentary that followed a man named Anthony Ray Hinton as he re-entered society after spending nearly three decades on Alabama’s death row. He was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit in 1985 and was finally exonerated and released from prison on April 3, 2015.
If you asked me now, I couldn’t tell you the name of the documentary or the film professor who introduced us to it, but I can clearly remember the moment I saw the look on Mr. Hinton’s face as he was reunited with his family for the first time in 30 years. That facial expression, the mixture of relief, joy and sadness about time lost, shattered every naive assumption I had made about due process and capital punishment. It opened my eyes to the reality that the modern justice system in my home state was not as just as I wanted to believe — and in fact that it could be so wildly unjust as to force an innocent man to spend half his life waiting to be killed in retribution for something he did not do.
I had convinced myself that those convicted of a crime as heinous as murder were irredeemable. Seeing his face woke me up to the humanity of death row inmates, a population I had, up until that point, written off as disposable.