Witness to an execution

PARCHMAN, MS (WLOX) - Chris Epps, the Department of Corrections Commissioner made the somber statement.  "Inmate Benny Joe Stevens was pronounced dead at 6:22pm (Tuesday.)"

With those words, the state of Mississippi carried out the final punishment for 52-year-old Benny Joe Stevens.  He was convicted of the 1998 shooting deaths of four people, including two young boys in the Foxworth community of Marion County.  His final statement rang with remorse.  "What I did was terrible" Stevens said.  "I hope God forgives me for what I've taken from you.  I'm sorry."

Family members gathered after the execution to express their own feelings. One was Mike Lee, one victim's brother.  "While this does not bring closure to our pain, it is a step in our healing process."

Another was Kathy Pounds, the mother of one of the victims.  "For us, today is not about Benny Joe, it's about Heath, about honoring his memory." Pounds said.  "We're celebrating his life and memory, not the destruction of another mother's child.  Heath was our ray of sunshine and our hearts are still broken. We will always hurt for the loss of our son."

Outside the gates of Parchman, a small group of anti-death penalty protesters gathered. Despite the nature of this crime, their feelings were not swayed.  Sheila O'Flahergy was one of them.  "If I weren't out here, it would be sort of complicit that I think it's right." O'Flahergy said. "I don't think it's right that Mississippi kills anybody.  Killing somebody, no matter how heinous a crime, it just is not right"

Epps said the only thing left to do was to look for solace from above.  "You all will definitely be in our prayers. Our prayers and thoughts are with you as you continue through your life's journey."

Two more executions are scheduled at Parchman in the next three weeks.  Rodney Gray will enter the death chamber next Tuesday the 17th, and Robert Simon's execution has been set for Tuesday the 24th.

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