Washington, D.C. – For two Catholic bishops in Virginia, the execution of a man convicted of brutally killing a family of four was a time to reflect on God’s mercy.
“Our Creator, who made us out of love for love, has dominion over all life,” Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington said in a joint statement Jan. 18.
“As children of this loving, merciful God we are led to a profound respect for every human life, from its very beginning until its natural end.”
They said that the death penalty should be abandoned because the state can protect itself in other ways.
“Our broken world cries out for justice, not the additional violence or vengeance the death penalty will exact,” DiLorenzo and Burbidge said.
The state of Virginia on Wednesday executed by lethal injection Ricky Gray, age 39.
He and his nephew went on a killing spree in January 2006, murdering seven people in a six day period, CNN reports.
He was convicted of killing a family of four who left their front door open on New Year’s Day 2006. The family had been beaten, bound, and repeatedly stabbed. Their house was then set on fire.
The death sentence concerned the murders of 9-year-old Stella Harvey and her 4-year-old sister Ruby. He was also sentenced to life in prison for killing their parents.
Gray had issued a public apology in the days before his execution, saying, “I’m sorry they had to be a victim of my despair.
“Remorse is not a deep enough word for how I feel. I know my words can’t bring anything back, but I continuously feel horrible for the circumstances that I put them through. I robbed them from a lifelong supply of joy,” he said in an audio message posted on a website advocating his clemency.
DiLorenzo and Burbidge also reflected on the victims.
“We again express profound sorrow and offer our continued prayers for all victims of violence, whose lives have been brutally cut short, and their loved ones, whose grief continues,” the bishops said.
“We pray for a change of heart and a spirt of remorse and conversion on the part of the perpetrators of this violence and ask God to give all of us the grace to work for peace and respect for all life in our communities and our Commonwealth.”
Gray also confessed to the November 2005 killing of his own wife.
His attorneys had filed constitutional challenges with the U.S. Supreme Court against the execution, citing the failure of the lethal drug cocktail to make prisoners unconscious during executions in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. The Supreme Court denied a stay of execution.
Lawyers had also appealed his sentence on the grounds that jurors did not receive a clear explanation of the severe abuse that shaped his life and his use of PCP and the drug’s potential to cause psychosis.
Gray’s nephew, Ray Dandridge, is serving a life sentence due to other killings.