Gregory Scott Johnson was convicted of breaking into of 82-year-old Ruby Hutslar’s Anderson, IN home, beating and stomping on her, then setting a fire to hide his crime in 1985. The state has said he admitted to the killing but changed his story after his conviction.
He is scheduled to be executed early Wednesday.
What good could come from his life? What about saving his sister’s life, with a partial liver transplant? His attorney filed for clemency in part because Johnson’s blood type matches that of his sister, who needs a liver transplant. The attorney wants more time to check for compatibility.
It’s up to Gov. Mitch Daniels now. The Indiana Parole Board voted unanimously Friday against Johnson’s request.
There are other issues to the appeal.
The state attorney general’s office took no position on the reprieve request, but said Johnson was clearly guilty and that his death sentence should be carried out.
Johnson’s attorneys argue that he should be granted clemency on several grounds. Among other things, they said his case was not fully reviewed by the federal courts because an original appeal request was filed one day late. They also say prosecutors did not turn over certain evidence to defense attorneys before trial.
Michelle Kraus, one of Johnson’s attorneys, said her client’s blood type matches his sister’s. She said that could make his liver compatible with Otis, but more time was needed to explore medical and ethical questions about such a transplant.
“He is trying to do something good,” she said. “He has struggled to find good in his life.”
Julie Woodard, Hutslar’s great niece, said she did not wish any harm to Johnson’s sister. But if Johnson were allowed to donate the liver, she said, “He is going to be remembered more as a hero for saving his sister than for this brutal murder.”
I understand where the victim’s niece’s comment comes from. But shouldn’t this man have a last chance to have some good come from his life? Yes, part of the role of the penal system is punishment. But part of the role is rehabilitation, and trying to turn the offender into a contributing member of society.
For that matter, should a person be remembered for the horror they inflicted, or for the good they did? If Johnson is unquestionably and clearly guilty of murder, then yes, execute him. But if there’s any doubt that he personally committed the murder, then leave him in prison for the rest of his life. But let him do something good.
This brings up a bigger ethical question about capital punishment. What if another offender wants to donate their organs? I’m pretty sure the lethal injection cocktail would render most of the organs useless. Playing devil’s advocate here a bit, but why let those organs and tissue go to waste? Is there a way to put them to use? Would anyone want them? Thousands of people die every year waiting for organ donations. Yes, the US only executes a few hundred criminals each year. But those few hundred could save twice as many lives.