On World Day Against the Death Penalty, Oct. 10, Texas legally lynched Jedidiah Murphy in Huntsville, Texas. The execution was scheduled for 6 p.m., but due to ongoing appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court, he wasn’t pronounced dead until 10:15 p.m.
The notoriously conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had actually stayed his execution on Oct. 9, and Jedidiah, his family, friends and activists were hoping that it would continue.
Jedidiah Murphy emailed this reporter and his supporters that court rulings were so up-and-down that he was worried about the toll it was taking on his family: “This back and forth is challenging because you go from a gut punch, to hope, to a maybe. The torture of this punishment is not what will happen to me, but what I see happening to my wife and family.
“They won’t make me suffer for what happened 23 years ago by giving me the rest of my life to think about it and everything life in prison brings … but they make my loved ones suffer instead.”
But Jedidiah Murphy’s final appeal was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court around 9 p.m., and the execution was prepared to go forward. His spouse, Bella Murphy, witnessed the killing as his brother, sister and activists protested outside the death house until it was over.
Jedidiah Murphy’s execution was the first in Texas in seven months. Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement activists held a press conference a few days before the execution to announce that the seven-month pause in executions hadn’t caused the sky to fall and that executions must stop. The irony of an execution on World Day Against the Death Penalty was emphasized.
“Texans need to know that the world is limiting executions and here in Texas we need to step outside of the box and examine what this state is doing,” the activists told the news media. “Last year, on October 10, there were over 1,000 actions in 64 countries for World Day Against the Death Penalty. But here in the U.S., Texas has executed 583 people and five more are scheduled. Most people around the world think Texas is reprehensible as it approaches 600 state killings since 1982.”
Jedidiah’s Murphy’s life as a child is all too familiar with those who follow the death penalty. Poverty, violence, physical and sexual abuse, starvation, abandonment, and the resulting mental illnesses are the life experiences so many incarcerated people grow up with, particularly those sentenced to death.
While Jedidiah Murphy admitted his guilt in his case, he expressed remorse almost daily. His mental health issues were treated while he was living on death row, and he eventually regained a sense of self-worth. He was a mentor and a friend to many.
Texas has four more executions scheduled. The machinery of death is well-oiled in Texas.
An activist and poet on Texas death row eloquently expressed the feelings of so many:
he was for a moment
our small bubble of hope —
then that bubble burst
Jedidiah was no more.
we collapsed onto ourselves.
It would have been a landmark case had it held. … But it didn’t …
that small glinting globe
for a while
held us fixed and filled with a hope
as iridescent as itself.
Then it popped
and was no more.