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Differing Viewpoints On Death Penalty

October 14, 2012, 10:00 PM by David Brown

Differing Viewpoints On Death Penalty

At 10 p.m. on Monday night, Eric Robert will be executed by lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary.

His death sentence was upheld earlier this year for his role in the murder of correctional officer Ronald "RJ" Johnson during an April 2011 escape attempt.

Robert is one of five South Dakotans currently on death row and that prompted two state bishops to issue a statement condemning the death penalty last week. But the controversial topic is getting some divergent views from those of the Catholic faith.

Sunday's Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls celebrated the beginning of the year of faith. But it also touched on something that not everyone in the faith agrees on.

"We can protect society and punish criminals appropriately without the death penalty," Bishop Paul Swain of the Diocese of Sioux Falls said.

"I personally think it's an individual issue," Sioux Falls resident Mike Grossman said. "Everybody looks at things differently."

Swain, along with Rapid City Bishop Robert Gruss issued a statement a couple of days ago condemning the death penalty, arguing it lacks moral authority.

"When the state becomes an agent of death, it becomes unnatural," Swain said.

"It's the law, I think we should follow the law," Grossman said.

But Grossman doesn't agree with the statement. He believes the death penalty should be used on a case-by-case basis.

"I personally follow God, not what rules are made up on this earth for different people for different situations because sometimes those rules change depending on periods of time," Grossman said.

And while Grossman's opinion may not fall in line with the Bishop's statement, it's the start of a discussion that will likely continue as South Dakotans continue to sit on death row.

"We live with each other knowing we have differing opinions on different things," Grossman said.

"There's an issue broader than punishment and when punishment can't be done appropriately, then we ought to look at the broader issue and that is right or wrong and whether the state ought to be an agent of death," Swain said.

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