Earlier this week the State of Florida executed a man named Manuel Valle by injecting a lethal cocktail into his body as he lay on a hospital gurney at Florida State Prison.
The process took just over 16 minutes and, from all accounts, Valle died a comfortable and peaceful death. Far more comfortably than his victims, Coral Gables Police Officer Louis Pena and another officer.
Thirty-three years ago Valle, who ran a red light in a Miami suburb while driving a stolen Chevy Camaro, was stopped by Pena and Pena’s backup officer, unnamed here. Pena approached the vehicle and Valle pulled his weapon and shot him in the neck, the backup was shot in the back as he went for cover. Pena died.
Valle committed his crimes all by the time he was 27. It took more than twice that long to execute him.
Jeneane Skeen, one of Pena’s two grown daughters that was present at the execution had this to say and it struck me to the bone for a number of reasons:
At this point it’s beyond closure and beyond justice. We finally got revenge on the lowlife piece of human waste that murdered our father.
To me, a Christian, justice was accomplished in just one place 2,000 years ago, on crossed beams on a rock called Golgotha. Jesus Christ accomplished faithful and true justice for all of us and for all time. Anything else done by man pales into insignificance.
It is not our place to take revenge against those who offend or wrong us. Just as we are to leaving the act of judgment to God, we are also to leave it to God to redress wrongs. Romans 12:19
In my work in corrections, I’ve witnessed vitriolic demands for “justice” on a daily basis for 25 years. Often, these demands, usually made loudly and by groups of people (entourages many times) aren’t seeking justice, they are seeking revenge for redress of claimed wrongs.
Not that they don’t deserve restitution of some kind but they want a form of legally sanctioned harm to be visited on people under sentence by the court. I frequently get phone calls from victims, many of whom were closely aligned with their victimizers until things “broke badly” and it cost them something, usually money.
Justice? Not in the least when jail is demanded for a monetary debt which is slow in coming. They’ll take extraordinary steps at ruining the lives of people as permanently as they can in their own mistaken notions of justice.
Look at the daughter’s statement above! Revenge is what the world wants and gets. It ate up that policeman’s family for the last 33 years!
True justice awaits all of us. Jesus took on our sin debts and there is no room for revenge in the grand scheme of things.
Once, I was as visceral in my belief that revenge was the best justice, but clearly this is no longer possible in my belief system.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
My prayer for all who suffer wrongly at the hands of another is that they pray for those who victimize them and not live for revenge as we so often see, making the mistake of believing that harm is the right path to justice. Hatred makes monsters of us all.
Peace be with you.