A Night Spent Waiting for Death to Come: College Students Join Vigil at Prison, Learn of Crime, Punishment

By Dix, Tara K. | National Catholic Reporter, May 1, 1998 | Go to article overview

A Night Spent Waiting for Death to Come: College Students Join Vigil at Prison, Learn of Crime, Punishment


Dix, Tara K., National Catholic Reporter


College students join vigil at prison, learn of crime, punishment

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- It's 20 degrees outside. One hundred fifty people huddle together in pools of candlelight. They sing softly. They pray.

Red, blustery faces, stained with exhaustion and tears, look to one another for comfort and support. They bounce back and forth on their toes -- left to right and right to left. An aboriginal dance. They dance for warmth. Frozen toes begin to feel again.

A beep from a watch alarm and they know it is midnight. They kneel. Some cry out. Some weep in silence. The State of Indiana has just executed Gary Burris.

Burris was convicted of murder in the first degree for the 1980 killing of Kenneth Chambers, an Indianapolis cab driver. On a night much like this one, Chambers' dead body lay frozen to the concrete, stripped of his clothing in a pool of his own blood. Now, 17 and a half years later, Burris, too, has died. An eye for an eye. Life for a life.

Outside the prison, the protesters are still shouting, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind! State murder is still murder! Execution is not the solution!" circling the parking lot with their signs in a quasi-militaristic march. Three young black women lead the chants from the center of the circle, their voices hoarse from hours of protest. They have traveled from Gary, Ind., this night to protest, just as they did July 18 when Tommie Smith was put to death at this same facility. That night it took the state one hour and 20 minutes to complete Smith's execution. The crowd wonders how long it will take tonight.

Prison guards leer from their posts in towers, booths and squad cars, keeping close watch on the scene, while TV cameras zoom in on individual faces. Soon the guards will ban the protesters from using the washroom in the guard shack, forcing them to walk about two blocks to the Dunkin' Donuts store if they have to go "Are you joking?" shouts one of the protesters at this announcement. Another quips, "What do they think we're going to do, start an insurrection from the stall?"

Indeed, the tension is high this night at the front gates of the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. The likelihood of confrontation has been reduced by the smallness of the pro-execution faction -- only one makes his presence known. He stands apart holding a sign with Romans 13:1-4 on it: "Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves."

Soon he will get into a shouting match with a small group of protesters who will hurl Bible verses back at him until another group of protesters intervenes.

Among the protesters

Most of those here tonight are students and faculty from the University of Notre Dame about one hour east of the prison. The Notre Dame chapter of Amnesty International, along with the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the Notre Dame Law School, organized the trip as well as a candlelight vigil back on the Notre Dame campus.

On the way to Michigan City, the students are nearly giddy with nervous excitement. In Amnesty International meetings they discuss death penalty issues all the time, but none has ever done this before. Only their leader, Sr. Kathleen Beatty, knows what to expect. The students have been briefed on the possibility of confrontation with pro-death penalty groups. "We will not say anything back to them," Beatty instructs. "We will remain in prayerful silence." Nodding their heads in agreement, they exchange wide-eyed looks.

They talk about the Burris case between songs of prayer and comfort. "Does everyone know `The Prayer of St. Francis'?" asks senior Megan Monahan from the front of the van. They begin singing, "Make me a channel of your peace/ Where there is hatred let me sow your love/ Where there is injury your pardon, Lord ... "

Exiting the interstate, the group gets lost on the small streets of Michigan City. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Night Spent Waiting for Death to Come: College Students Join Vigil at Prison, Learn of Crime, Punishment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.