Tonight, the State of Florida conducted its 101st execution. Today, Louis had his last visit with his sister Pamela, who loved him deeply. This week he had his last visits with his legal team, who fought hard to stop this execution. For the last 30 days, Louis interacted with corrections officers, who today had to walk a man through his final day, feed him his final meal, take him for his final shower, and strap a healthy man to a gurney, and inject poison into his veins to kill him.
Pamela, his legal team, the corrections officers – these people are the collateral damage the death penalty always inflicts. Each premeditated murder by the State creates a new wave of victims. More trauma, more pain – that each of those people will carry home to their loved ones tonight, and carry with them forever.
Louis arrived in this world disadvantaged. Born to a teenage mother, who used drugs and alcohol. No present father. Beaten, abandoned, neglected by the people who were supposed to care for him. His childhood trauma and genetic predisposition made his decline into mental illness inevitable, with no intervention, no treatment. This untreated illness led him to commit these violent, and senseless murders.
Despite hearing very little about his traumatic upbringing, 4 of his jurors voted to spare his life. In every other State in the country, that would have been enough for this case to have been final three decades ago. Which is exactly why one of Louis’ surviving victims explained, “This death warrant is not doing me any favor, it has only stirred up painful memories and has victimized me again.” More collateral damage.
It’s easy to understand the visceral desire behind an eye for an eye. It’s easy to “other-ize” those who commit such violent acts. It can be harder to see the human being, because once you truly look at it, there’s simply no way to justify the premeditated murder that happened tonight. But Louis was indeed a brother, a son, a friend.
Louis’ execution cannot and will not bring back his victims. But without a doubt, tonight the State of Florida created more of them.