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A switch is thrown, and God speaks

By MARY JO MELONE

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 13, 1999


I will never again doubt the expression that God works in wondrous ways, although I may rewrite it: God gets worked in wondrous ways.

State Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, was among those who witnessed last Thursday's execution of convicted triple murderer Allen Lee Davis. Like everybody else present, she was shocked to see blood running down Davis' shirt after he died.

It was suddenly possible to think that killing in the name of the state isn't much different from any other killing. You pick the adjective. Messy fits. So does mean. Horrible.

Ginny Brown-Waite had a problem. So did Gov. Bush. And the problem had only partly to do with their both being Catholic, part of a church opposed to killing killers as much as fetuses. If executions get gross, the public, otherwise solidly for them, might begin to get turned off. Even ashamed of them.

So even before the autopsy appeared to confirm it, the governor dismissed the bloody scene as the result of a nosebleed brought on by the anti-inflammatory medicine Davis took before he died. The medicine had the side effect of thinning his blood.

Brown-Waite doesn't buy the nosebleed theory.

She thinks God was sending a message. I couldn't get ahold of her to ask her myself, but it seems she thinks the bleeding was a kind of miraculous occurrence.

In an interview last week with Jo Becker, one of the Times' Tallahassee reporters, Brown-Waite said the stain formed the shape of a cross.

I wasn't at Starke (although I am on a waiting list, to serve as a journalist witness for some future execution), so I can't say for sure what the stain looked like. One reporter who attended said it was the size of a dinner plate. Another said it was diamond shaped.

Brown-Waite believes the cross she saw on Davis' chest meant one of two things: Either Davis had made his peace with God, or -- more conveniently for Brown-Waite, a supporter of the death penalty -- that God had given his blessing to Florida killing killers.

John Weiler, whose wife and two young daughters were killed by Davis in 1982, did say God approved of Davis' execution, and even if you find the death penalty repugnant, you can readily see why Weiler would feel that way.

But when a member of the Legislature starts imagining miracles on the order of the Shroud of Turin in order to justify her own views of the most difficult issue in government, then I'd start heading for the exits, friends. Right quick.

I try to look at the bright side. Now we know worse things can happen in the Legislature than the lobbyists dictating the votes. Now we have somebody who thinks God speaks through nosebleeds.

You could get a serious case of the willies wondering what's next. During the next session, will somebody, suffering from indecision on the eve of a big vote, try to read the face of the man in the moon and vote yes if he thinks the man is smiling and no if he's sure he sees a frown?

There's much less pleasure in writing this than you think

It's not my intent to minimize the horror of what was done to John Weiler's family or the agony he has since endured.

You could even commend Brown-Waite for having the stomach to witness an electrocution. It's more than you can say for some of her big-mouth, weak-kneed colleagues. She even had the courage to say she never wants to see another execution, ever.

She just didn't have the courage to change her mind and say that in this state even mad dogs get put down with more decency.

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