Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville, Bishop J. Mark Spalding of the Diocese of Nashville, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of the Archdiocese of Louisville, who is currently serving as the apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Memphis, today issued this joint statement on the scheduled execution of David Earl Miller by the state of Tennessee:
For the third time in recent months, the State of Tennessee is taking a needless, vengeful step that neither makes our communities safer nor serves the common good of advancing toward a more just society.
On December 6, the state plans to execute David Miller for the brutal murder of a mentally handicapped young woman in Knoxville in 1981.
There was no absolutely no justification for the crime Mr. Miller committed 38 years ago. His senseless and savage actions denied Ms. Lee Standifer her God-given gift of a joyful and fulfilling life. He should be punished severely for what he did. Recent news accounts revealing the horrendous conditions and abuse that Mr. Miller himself endured as a child and young adult do not mitigate his responsibility, but they do shed light on the impact of sin and the destruction of a soul.
As the state picks up the pace of executions, our long-stated position takes on an added urgency as we speak out against the imposition of the death penalty. There are 59 prisoners on Death Row in Tennessee. In addition to Miller, six more prisoners have execution dates set before April 2020.
The Church teaches that the death penalty is simply not necessary when society has other means to protect itself and provide a just punishment for those who break civil laws. Rather than serving as a path to justice, the death penalty contributes to the growing disrespect for human life.
We believe that all those convicted of terrible crimes still retain their human dignity and deserve a chance to live. To recognize the dignity of the lives of those on death row is not to deny the dignity of the lives of their victims or their grieving loved ones left behind. The lives of victims and sinners alike should be respected; the taking of another life will serve no purpose but vengeance.
Most Reverend Richard F. Stika, D.D.
Bishop of Knoxville
Most Reverend J. Mark Spalding, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Nashville
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Diocese of Memphis