I have an interesting story for you today, tumblr. It’s actually somewhat relevant to current events in Georgia.
Do you recognize this woman? Most of you won’t because of age - the event that changed her life happened in 1998. Her name is Vicki Schieber, and she is officially one of the strongest women I have ever met.
I am taking a course on the death penalty at my school right now - it’s an elective in Philosophy (my major), Theology (let me specify that my university is unabashedly and proudly Roman Catholic, so Catholic Theology), and Sociology. When I got in there on the first day, this woman was sitting with the rest of us students. I had never seen her before, nor did I know anything about her; I assumed that she was maybe a staff member who was interested in the course - people who work at the school are allowed to be enrolled in classes here, after all.
She would dutifully take notes, but rarely spoke. (She talked me once, and said I had a very pretty name, but that was all.) My professor would occasionally look to Mrs. Schieber when discussing key sociological aspects to the death penalty, as if she knew more than she was letting on. As the weeks passed by, I heard my professor mention that this woman had degrees (I believe a PhD!) in sociology! However…she wasn’t co-teaching the course. She sat there like a regular student. I had no idea what to think.
Today, this woman spoke in class. She taught the entire lecture period.
The first thing she did was circulate this photograph:
“I like to start my talks by circulating this picture,” she said. “This is Shannon.”
“She was…22 when this picture was taken,” she explained. “This was taken about a year before she was murdered.”
Shannon, from her mother’s account (and other accounts - google her name) was a brilliant young woman with a bright future. Finished a triple major degree (mathematics, economics, and philosophy) with a 3.9 GPA in three years from Duke University, and was given a full scholarship and stipend to complete a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. Vicki stressed over and over that Shannon wanted to “make a difference in the world,” stressing that Catholic Social Teaching and social justice was very much part of their family life.
In May of 1998, she was raped and murdered. I will not rehash the details; hearing them from her mother was enough to put me on the edge of tears.
Four years later, the attacker was positively identified. Out of respect for Mrs. Schieber’s practice of omitting his name, I will not circulate it, either. He was found guilty, after a period of investigation, of 13 other sexual assaults (but no other murders) in the Philadelphia and Fort Collins, Colorado areas. He even plead guilty to all of the charges - DNA linked him to every single crime.
According to Mrs. Schieber, the DA was pushing for the death penalty in Philadelphia. Mrs. Schieber, her family, and the family of the 13 other sexual assault victims asked them not to give him the death penalty.
Why? Mrs. Schieber said simply that her Catholic faith teaches that all life — all life — is sacred. That she could not live with herself knowing she had put another human being to death — even one who admittedly was guilty. She said “I couldn’t live with myself knowing that when I go for judgment, I’d have to stand and say ‘I signed a man’s death warrant.’ If I backed down from my principles — from my faith— when things got bad…did I really hold that principles at all to begin with?”
I share this information because it is pertinent to punishment in our country currently. I share it also with hope that it may lead people to investigate the death penalty in the United States. Mrs. Schieber said that when she started campaigning against the death penalty, 10 states forbade it. “Now, almost 10 years later, it’s up to 16. If one good thing can come out of Troy Davis’ execution — it’s that people everywhere are taking a critical look at capital punishment, and being forced to think about its application.”
I have nothing but respect for this woman. Immense, immense respect.