Into the Abyss
By Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
On October 24,
2001, Jason Burkett and Michael Perry, both 19, murdered Sandra Stoler, her son
Adam, and his friend Jeremy Richardson in Conroe, TX, so they could steal
Sandra Stoler’s red Camaro.
Both Burkett and
Perry were found guilty; Burkett got life in prison and Perry was sentenced to
death. Perry exhausted all of his appeals and was executed by the State of
Texas by lethal injection on Jul 1, 2010.
Herzog has created a quiet, pensive documentary that never rushes. His voice is
quiet and non-judgmental and he evokes deep responses. It’s like watching 48 Hours or Dateline crime show on slow motion. He interviews friends of the
accused and family and friends of those who were killed. He revisits the crime
scenes with law enforcement officers on duty during the days of the killing to
the shoot out and capture of Burkett and Perry.
part of the film, for me, was the interview with captain of corrections, Fred
Allen. He led the tie-down team for 130 executions before resigning after the
execution of Karla Faye Tucker in 1998. He lost his pension when he resigned
but could not do it any more and questions the morality of the death penalty;
he no longer believes anyone has the right to take the life of another human
Herzog treats his
subject with an even hand, even the woman who married Burkett in prison and
somehow became pregnant with his child without conjugal visits. At the end Adam Stoler’s sister says that she
is doesn’t want to seem like an evil person but that she is glad she went to
the execution. Herzog then asks her if the death penalty is something she
thinks Jesus would do. She replies, “Probably not.”
interview is with a chaplain who describes his role and you cannot almost see
his heart break. If the executed have no one to claim their bodies, they are
buried in the prison cemetery, each grave marked by a cross with numbers; no
names; a reminder of how many of the executed were poor and probably had
I think The
Catechism of the Catholic Church explains Catholic teaching very clearly in
“Assuming that the guilty
party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional
teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this
is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the
however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety
from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are
more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in
conformity to the dignity of the human person.
in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for
effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense
incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the
possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender
is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’"
Since 2000, there
have been 278 murders carried out by the State of Texas. According to the
website of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on November 17, six
executions are scheduled for January – March 2012. 234 executions have been
carried out since Governor Rick Perry became governor in December 2000.
countries that have executed the most people since 2007 are Pakistan, the
United States, Iraq, Iran, and China.
As former death
house officer Fred Allen says in “Into the Abyss”, we need to abolish the death
penalty and it is so easy to do it. We just have to change the law.
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