No Clemency, No Peace

It saddened me to learn that the state of Mississippi has executed another person and this time there was quite a shadow casting doubt on the guilt of Mr. Matt Puckett. A person who reviewed some of the public transcripts regarding this case revealed:

It is of interest that the husband of the deceased, who admittedly was at the scene, was never questioned about the blood on his own clothes and they were not taken into evidence simply because he was a relative to someone on the police force that arrested Matt. It is also of interest that he was the only one that had the victim’s blood on his clothing. None was found on Matt. Too many inconsistencies and not enough hard evidence….he needs a new trial.

I used the term “Mr.” to remind all of us that Matt was a person. Heidi Schulmpf over at NCR wrote about him last week and inspired me to sign his petition to the governor to ask for his clemency.

After a social justice project at her church several years ago, a fellow Catholic writer I know began corresponding with a young man on Mississippi’s Death Row.
My friend never considered whether Larry Matthew Puckett was guilty or not; she assumed he had sexually assaulted and murdered a 28-year-old woman in 1996, when he was just barely 18 years old, as the Department of Corrections website claimed.
A convert to Catholicism, Puckett impressed my friend with his intelligence and thoughtfulness. He liked to read science fiction books she sent, as well as the books of Jesuit prayers. He tried his hand at writing essays and got involved with some literary efforts from prison.

One of the saddest things I have ever read was written on his Facebook page tonight by his mother:

“We have talked to Matt and he is calm and at peace. He asked that we not worry about him. We prayed that God would free Matt but God has a different definition for free. Matt will finally be free. I told him that he was put on this earth for a purpose and that was to teach us lessons. He asked that we not squander what we had learned and that if we can’t love our neighbor, then we cannot get right with God. We want to thank each and every one of you who joined us in this fight. We appreciate the petition signatures, the prayers and all the encouragement we as a family have received.”

God has a different definition for free.

Mrs. Puckett, Matt was already free, long before death he had made peace with God, who forgives him all of his sins and sets him free to live and love. It sounds like Matt was able to find forgiveness as well.

I care not whether Matt was guilty or innocent of his crime. I care that Matt was a person with all the dignity that we give to human beings. He did not deserve death as we do not have the right to murder, to take the life of another in vengeance.

Killing Matt didn’t bring anyone back from the dead. But forgiving Matt and forgiving ourselves of this crime just might bring us eternal life, God willing.

May God have mercy on Matt’s soul and on each one of us, now complicit in this death as citizens of the United States.

Meanwhile the state is scheduled to execute another man, William Gerald Mitchell, 61.

From the Clarion Ledger:

He was sentenced to death in 1998 in Harrison County for the killing of Patty Milliken, a 38-year-old store clerk, on the night of Nov. 21, 1995. Authorities said Mitchell took Milliken from the store where she worked, brought her under the north end of the Popp’s Ferry Road bridge and killed her by beating her and driving his car over the top half of her body.

May God grant us all mercy and forgiveness for our vengeance.