(The) Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person,’ and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.”
– Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 2267
Church Teaching on the Death Penalty
The Death Penalty in Georgia
Since 1976, when the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s death penalty statute in Gregg V. Georgia, the state of Georgia has executed 76 people. Over 1,000 executions have taken place in Georgia since its first recorded execution in 1735. Click here to read more about the history of capital punishment in Georgia. As of September 30, 2022, there were 37 men under death sentence, and one woman.
Georgia also has the highest standard of proof for proving intellectual disability in a capital case. Other states have a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, while Georgia’s is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” No one facing a death sentence in Georgia has been able to meet this standard. As a result, Georgia has and will continue to execute people with intellectual disabilities; disabilities that can include a limited capacity for reasoning. Click here to learn more about intellectual disability and Georgia’s standard of proof.
Join the Movement
Georgia Catholics Against the Death Penalty educates Catholics on Church teaching about capital punishment and mobilizes action to eliminate its use in Georgia and around the world.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization that mobilizes Catholics and all people of goodwill to value life over death, to end the use of the death penalty, to transform the U.S. criminal justice system from punitive to restorative and to build capacity in U.S. society to engage in restorative practices. Click here for more.
Declaration of Life
In 2016, a priest of the Diocese of St. Augustine named Father Rene Robert was kidnapped, driven across the state line into Georgia and murdered. Steven Murray, the man who killed Father Rene, faced an almost certain death sentence.
When examining Father Rene’s files, the diocese found that he had signed a Declaration of Life in 1995. Though not legally binding, the document expressed Father Rene’s opposition to capital punishment and his wish, that should he die as a result of a violent crime, that the perpetrator not be executed for it. Then-Bishop Hartmayer of Savannah, then-Archbishop Gregory of Atlanta, and Bishop Esteves of St. Augustine pled Father Rene’s case with the District Attorney.
In the end, Steven Murray received a life sentence. At his sentencing, the judge told him, “Father Rene Robert is speaking from the grave and asking that you be given another chance.”
We encourage you to download and complete the Declaration of Life form, have the completed form notarized and keep it with your important documents (e.g. will, medical directives, etc.).