Another hot day was waning. Sunlight still reflected on the fields spread out across the delta plains. Cooler air wouldn’t settle until the early morning hours. Inside the concrete block building, lying on a cold, steel table covered with a white sheet lay Earl Wesley Berry. Through his lawyers he had attempted to avoid this departure, but Mississippi law and the U. S. Supreme Court deemed otherwise. At six o’clock Berry died quietly at age 49.
His attempts to remain alive splashed for weeks over local media. His crime was kidnapping 56-year-old Mary Bounds as she was leaving her church one evening. He took her into the woods and beat her repeatedly to death—for no reason than he and she were in the same place at the same time. That was 1988.
Mrs. Bounds’ family relived that evening for 20 years, faithfully attending all of Berry’s appeals, never forgetting the horror this mother, wife, and grandmother suffered. A few nights agao, May 21, the husband and one daughter of Mrs. Bounds watched as a lethal injection ended this man’s life. Berry admitted he killed Mrs. Bounds but never expressed remorse. He said his 21 years in jail was payment enough for his crime. Jena Bounds Watson, Mary’s daughter, is quoted as saying, “…I kept thinking how more humane capital punishment is than what my mother suffered. He was just lying there and then he was asleep” (courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS).
Many don’t believe in capital punishment, just incarceration of perpetrators. I haven’t been in the shoes of the families of Mary Bounds, James Goodman, Sharon Tate and the like.Do we know how deeply stress erodes the health of the families? How revisiting at appeal time floods the memory of feelings and sadness that can’t be forgotten even for a short space of time? I find it equitable that someone who has committed a horrible crime is unable to have 3 meals a day, a clean bed, television, and no labor for the rest of his life. I agree with Jena Bounds Watson that to see the criminal go to sleep is far easier to witness followed by a peace that passes understanding that finally wraps and comforts the souls of the victim’s families.
A letter from Virginia to the editor recently from the relative of a murder victim implored the governor, Haley Barbour, to halt the execution and recognize that “capital punishment is not an ethical response to his (Berry’s) crimes.” He goes on to say that “we should not live our lives trying to right wrongs, but instead we should help make a difference.”
How is allowing any vicious murderer to live until natural death with room, board and free health care financed through our taxes make a difference? These executions rid society of another evil person. We can forgive the transgressor, but allowing him to keep his life when he stole another’s is not easy for a victim’s family and friends to live with.
However, it is the cruel, inhumane act such as the unforgettable killings of three young men working for civil rights in Philadelphia, MS, oh, so many years ago (but never too long ago to forget) in which the highest punishment should be required.
In my opinion, capital punishment wielded to those whose crimes are unspeakable is justified.