Film Club: ‘The Life of Jerry Givens, a State Executioner Turned Death-Row Abolitionist’

[MUSIC PLAYING] Leviticus — an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth I will repay, an normally-quoted scripture that individuals use to justify the loss of life penalty. But we by no means request ourselves, what is the harm that is becoming done to a individual when they execute, when they get rid of a further human being? Jerry was a fantastic case in point of that. Jerry executed 62 people today full. Jerry Givens — a loving partner, father, a devout Christian, and former executioner for the Point out of Virginia. And me? Effectively, I’ve used my lifestyle functioning to abolish the demise penalty. But we grew to become pals. I achieved Jerry late in his life, after he came all-around to remaining a demise- penalty abolitionist. Surprise. There was a large amount of uncommon matches that materialize in this get the job done. Jerry was a very Christian man. I’m a Jewish individual. You bond in excess of things. We would seek out great barbecue. Jerry was a small pudgy. So am I. Jerry was my good friend. “Thank you for coming up below, brother.” “Thank you.” Jerry was born in Virginia, a lifelong resident of Richmond. He missing his father to drugs. He wanted to be a soccer participant. You know how that goes for men and women. You are possibly in or you are out. He wanted to be a law enforcement officer. But he ended up with a career as a corrections officer. And, of system, in 1972, the Supreme Court struck down all the demise- penalty guidelines in the region. Any condition that needed to have executions had to generate a new dying-penalty regulation. A lot of did, like Virginia. When Virginia resumed executing persons in the mid-1980s, Jerry was the human being who was tapped for that job to head the execution group. You’re it. In this period, Virginia was No. 2, just behind Texas as the most executing of all the states. That intended he was the guy that pushed the button, 25 electrocutions, and he pushed the syringe for 37 lethal injections. Jerry’s prayer constantly was God, don’t allow me execute an harmless person. It turned out that there was an innocent particular person named Earl Washington. And they came within just times of executing Earl Washington. That was in particular troublesome for him. But it was not his task to type all those factors out. Jerry executed 62 men and women overall. That does not not do damage to you. He needed to shield his family from what he was absorbing. They did not know what his job was at the jail right until they read about it in news protection when he was on demo for some authorized hassle he got into for allegedly dollars laundering. He ended up going to jail himself, which finished up ending his profession in corrections. When you’re in jail, you get to invest a good deal of time pondering. And I imagine Jerry arrived to understand the evil of the loss of life penalty. “So I consider this was a wake-up simply call from God. The method was not proper.” The load we inquire point out workers to acquire on when we question them to eliminate in our identify is lifelong. Several internalize it and stop up alcoholic or drug-addicted or committing suicide. But Jerry, he advised his tale. He expended the rest of his existence hoping to make amends and fix it. “I have to go through by way of this, not the State of Virginia, not the governor, not the men and women that gave this man the demise penalty, but me. I experienced to undergo as a result of this.” When Jerry spoke, he was listened to. His voice was simple. A portion of his objective was to guard other jail personnel, his comrades. He saw himself as on a mission to right some wrongs. That is where by his heart was. Throughout the summer time, I just took place to be seeking at Facebook and noticing that any person was liking specific pics. And they were being all photos that Jerry was in. So I explained, what is up? And I went to look at Jerry’s Fb webpage. And that’s where by I noticed — that’s how I found out that Jerry had died. When I ultimately received to have a discussion with Jerry’s family, they asked me to come to be a voice to share his tale. There are no coincidences. We ended up meant to do this operate jointly to transform the earth. And we did alter the earth. We’ve abolished the demise penalty in a range of states — New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Colorado. The courts have thrown it out in Washington Point out and Delaware and New York. Virginia, they’re truly, in their legislature, in a discussion about abolishing the demise penalty. And Jerry would have been happy to know that this chance exists in part with his testimony. It does not matter that we have been different religions or distinctive races or different generations. What matters is what we came collectively about 1 matter — the preservation of daily life and the dignity of lifestyle. He identified the hurt that was completed and did his most effective to resolve it, make himself ideal with his God. [SOMBER MUSIC]