Exonerated death-row inmate Ray Krone and Rev. Stacey Rector, executive director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, spoke on Belmont’s campus today, discussing death penalty issues on the morning after Tennessee executed a man by lethal injection. The event was co-sponsored by Belmont’s College of Law and the Office of Spiritual Development.
In 2002, Ray Krone was the 100th death row inmate to be exonerated as a result of DNA evidence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison. A former Boy Scout and Air Force veteran, Krone was arrested on Dec. 31, 1991 for the murder of Kim Ancona, an acquaintance, at a bar in Arizona. At his 1992 trial, Krone maintained his innocence, claiming to be asleep in his bed at the time of the crime. Supposed experts for the prosecution, however, testified that bite-marks found on the victim’s body matched Krone, and he was sentenced to death.
“Like Jonah, I found myself in the belly of the whale,” Krone told a packed crowd in Neely. “I found strength in stories of Job and Jonah and in passages like ‘out of the darkness will come the light.'”
More than 10 years after his conviction, Krone finally won release when police and prosecutors were forced to admit that recent DNA testing exonerated Krone of the crime, an admission that came only after extensive media coverage of the new evidence. On the day he left prison, a reporter asked Krone how, as a man of faith, he justified God leaving him in prison for a decade. Krone responded, “Maybe it’s not about the 10 years I spent in prison. Maybe it’s about what I have to do the next 10 years. I want to be a survivor and not a victim.”
Rector, a leader in The Moratorium Campaign who directs anti-death penalty efforts in Tennessee, followed Krone’s talk and spoke of three reasons the death penalty should be abolished: it’s unfairly applied, often showing racial and socioeconomic bias; it’s extremely costly; and, as in Krone’s case, it risks the execution of innocent people.
In addition, Rector pointed to John 8, where Jesus challenges the people who were about to stone a woman for adultery, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Rector noted, “Jesus reframes the question. The issue is not does this woman deserve to die but do those holding the stones deserve to kill her?”
Click here for more on Ray Krone’s story.