Part 1: Witness to an execution - CBS46 News

Part 1: Witness to an execution

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Disclaimer: The following is an editorial written by anchor Scott Light. It reflects his thoughts in advance of serving as a media witness to the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. The following in no way reflects the position, philosophy or viewpoint of CBS46 and Meredith Corporation.

On Monday, I will watch the state of Georgia kill a woman. In 23 years as a broadcast journalist, I've covered executions but never been witness to one. Going into this event, I wanted to write down my thoughts and see if they change once the execution of Kelly Gissendaner is over. By now, you've probably heard her story. She masterminded the plot to have her lover kill her husband, Doug, in 1997. For me, I keep thinking about the Gissendaner children. There are three. Two of the three have forged new relationships with their mother since she's been in prison. And by many, many accounts, Kelly has been a model prisoner who's continued her education and become a Christian behind bars. But she killed her husband. She's the one who put her children, her family, Doug's family and many friends in this situation to begin with.

I'm also thinking about my own feelings on capital punishment. Is the death penalty a deterrent to crime? Most criminologists say no. I see the practical side to the argument that it doesn't ‘work' as a law enforcement tool. But if someone hurt my family, my wife or my kids, I'd get medieval real quick. People scoff at Utah trying to reinstate firing squad executions but again if the crime involved my family, give me the gun. No need for a squad. Let me also be clear in that I admire, respect and truly marvel at people who can forgive a killer. Their hearts are bigger than mine and I readily admit it. I wish I had their capacity to forgive.

Which brings me back to the Gissendaner children who are grown now. What in the hell are they going through right now? They had to deal with the crushing blow of their father's death in '97. Then learn their mother orchestrated the whole thing and was sent to death row. Now they're reliving this nightmare knowing their mother's last breath is coming Monday night. I simply can't fathom. I'm going to write down some thoughts after the execution and I promise to be just as open and honest. It's true that journalists become desensitized to crime over the years but there's a reason. We have to. It's the only way we don't break down and lose it. Like many journalists before me, I've covered fatal traffic accidents where even hardened police officers wince when putting a sheet over a body. Or a house fire where you know it'll take dental records to identify the family. Those scenes are horrific enough but it's different when killing isn't accidental. When another human being chooses to kill it exposes a vulnerability and powerlessness in me that I simply have to file away and ignore. If kids are involved, I still physically shudder sometimes when reporting their death. So, now, just a few hours before witnessing a planned execution, please forgive me when I say I'm thankful to witness it through my profession and not as father or husband. If that were the case, I have no idea what I'd think – or do.

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