Herman Lindsey and Clemente Aguirre Tell Wrongful Conviction Story at Cities for Life Event
Parish hosts Cities for Life event
An estimated 50 people attended Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Cities for Life at the parish’s outdoor grotto Nov. 30. The crowd gathered under tents to learn about Florida’s history with the death penalty, hear testimonies, and pray for a culture of life.
The multimedia event included a video of the Ted Talk by Lindy Lou Isonhood, a former juror who served on a murder case in 1994. She spoke of her experience and how it altered her perspective on the death penalty. There were also video testimonies from Mark Elliott, executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, and from two death row exonerees – Herman Lindsey and Clemente Aguirre.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish has participated in the Cities for Life Movement to abolish the death penalty since 2015 and the faithful regularly stand outside the state prison during executions to pray for the convict, victim(s), and his or her family.
According to a report from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, each Nov. 30, communities across the globe participate in International Day of Cities for Life, Cities against the Death Penalty. The date marks the anniversary of the first abolition of the death penalty on the part of a state, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Nov. 30, 1786. Specific efforts vary by location, but many cities take part by lighting up major historical, religious, or civic monuments. In turn, those illuminated monuments become symbols of a commitment to creating a world without the death penalty.
Spearheaded by the Rome-based lay Catholic community of Saint Egidio since 2002, more than 2,000 cities participate worldwide. Today, the top five nations carrying out executions are China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.
Florida began applying the death penalty in 1827 with a respite from 1972-1979. After the botched executions of three death row inmates in the 1990s, Florida began using lethal injection as its execution method, instead of electrocution. In 2017, Florida statutorily abolished non-unanimous jury recommendations for death.
Florida has had 30 individuals exonerated, more than any other state.
Father Phil Egitto, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, rang a bell for each person executed in recent months and for their victims and families as well as those scheduled for execution through Jan. 20, 2020, and prayed for an end to bloodshed. “We hear God’s call to us to be instruments of His compassion, His forgiveness, His mercy… instruments of healing and love, of true justice,” he said.
Commenting on the many federal executions in recent months, Father Egitto said, “Without question, this unprecedented execution spree makes clear the system is in need of abandonment of the death penalty or at least a major overhaul.”