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Community comes together to discuss morality of the death penalty

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - As the execution date of Thomas Creech inches closer, groups around the region are gathering to discuss the morality of the death penalty and whether or not it should continue to be used in the Gem State.

Michael Conner, the Senior Pastor at the United Methodist Church in Pocatello, led a discussion on Saturday evening.

"As a member of the United Methodist Church, we have a moral conviction that is in opposition to capital punishment," Conner said.

Conner shared it was shocking for him to learn there aren't any groups that are against the death penalty Idaho.

"I was struck to learn that Idaho doesn't have a dedicated I capital punishment abolition group. I had also never heard before about the ways that, depending on the economics of a certain county that heavily influences those cases that are considered for death penalty convictions. And just the power of our speakers' testimony about personal forgiveness, and the testimony that it is possible and that it brings a great sense of personal freedom without minimizing any of the agony of having lost someone to murder," Pastor Conner said.

One of the speakers at the discussion Pastor Conner shared her personal experience with an attack as well as her feelings on the death penalty. She described how she was always against the death penalty but after her attacker was sent to jail it was difficult.

"I watched my father get stabbed to death, and I was also stabbed left for dead, it didn't exactly change my frame of mind of being for the death penalty, but I still had to go through a five and a half year period of time of forgiveness - to forgive this man who I watched kill my father in front of me. It took me five and a half years to go through a period of time, from anger to healing to forgiveness, because it took a lot longer than I expected. And when it took a lot longer, it taught me things about forgiveness of what it really was, because the forgiveness really wasn't for that man, James Bernard Campbell, who killed my father," said SueZann Bosler, the founder of Journey of Hope: from Violence to Healing.

Bosler shared how after her journey of forgiveness, she decided to become an advocate for others to go on a similar journey, starting an organization called Journey of Hope: from Violence to Healing, to do just that.

"If you go back to your school, your group, your church, your conversations about the death penalty, your debates about the death penalty, you could say I heard SueZann Bosler share her story, and this is how she went from anger, healing to forgiveness and saving a life," Bosler said.

She continued, "It can happen, there's nothing wrong with it. You can do it. It can happen. She is proof that it can happen."

She described how even when she's alone, she'll wear shirts or buttons that say she's against the death penalty, so when she goes to the grocery store it can lead to conversations about the subject.

Another speaker at the event, Abraham Bonowitz, shared how he was originally for the death penalty but eventually changed his mind on the topic.

"I am running a national organization to talk about these issues because I tried to prove that these anti-death penalty people were wrong. And in trying to do that, I found out that I was wrong and I had to change my mind. And that's what made me understand that most people just don't have any idea about how the system fails us," Bonowitz shared.

He added when we hear of the most horrible crimes, we all have an immediate gut reaction to it, but shares how we need to move past it.

"Can we trust this government with executing somebody and with getting it right, getting a fair - I mean, we're waiting more than four decades in this case, and sadly, the victim's family has been told, 'wait till we tell them and then they'll feel better.' The vast majority of murders, where there's even a death penalty possible, don't get a death sentence. And really, that's a blessing in disguise for victims families because they're not having to put their healing process on hold," Bonowitz said.

Chreech's execution on Wednesday will be the state's 30th since 1864 and the first one since 2012.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8.


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