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December 15, 2002  399 Words

The Mother of a Murdered Student Argues Against Capital Punishment

CINCINNATI—In the early morning hours of May 31, 1999, Brian Muha and Aaron Land, two Franciscan University college students sharing a house in Steubenville, Ohio, were attacked  by three armed intruders. Abducted, Brian and Aaron were driven a short distance to Pennsylvania, where they were both brutally shot and killed. Shortly thereafter, the three young men responsible for the killings were caught and tried for their crimes. One was acquitted, the second received a life sentence and third was condemned to die. But the young man on death row has received forgiveness from an unlikely person: Brian Muha’s mother, Rachel. She does not want the impending execution to happen.

The life and death of Brian Muha, as well as his mother’s outrage with the sentence handed to her son’s killer, are featured in the January issue of St. Anthony Messenger in an article entitled “I’d Like to Say: The Death Penalty Dishonors My Murdered Son.” In it, Rachel Muha makes a compelling argument against the death penalty on a judicial, practical and spiritual level.

“It is very hard to love someone who has hurt and killed your child,” Rachel says. Nevertheless, she rejected hatred for Brian’s killers and has done something that many would find impossible: love the sinner, not the sin. Real forgiveness, she believes, is saying, “I know what you did. You did a horrendous thing. But together, we can become holy.”

Although the author concedes that God grants some power to us, she believes that under no circumstances are we entitled to take life. “It is the ultimate act of pride: declaring oneself God,” she says. “It is evil.” Muha stands firm in her objection to capital punishment, but she also believes that convicted criminals should pay for the crimes they commit and be open to God’s grace and forgiveness.

“Rejection of the death penalty does not mean rejection of justice or punishment. If we do that, we offer them no real hope for an eternal life of happiness,” she says.

Although Muha lists several practical reasons for the abolishment of the death penalty, her simplest argument is perhaps the most profound. “Life—all life—is precious. That’s enough for me.”


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