PHILADELPHIA—In a puzzling move, abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell chose a deal Tuesday to waive his appeal rights in order to avoid the death penalty. I am puzzled because I would have thought that even if he were to ultimately lose on appeals, the process would drag on for so long that he would run out of sand in his hourglass before he ran out of legal maneuvers.
But perhaps the appeals process would be exhausted more quickly than typically, and so Gosnell could indeed die at the hand of the state rather than by natural causes. Or perhaps the process would not be quick at all, but Gosnell is scared and wants to eliminate even an outside chance of that possibility.
Or perhaps Gosnell, knowing he will die in a short time whatever the sentence, may have wanted to spare himself the agony of a perpetuated but unrealized hope: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick …” (Proverbs 13:12).
Or perhaps the prosecution, knowing full well that Gosnell will die of old age before the appeals process is exhausted, and therefore knowing the most severe penalty the jury could come up with would be tantamount to a life sentence anyway, pushed for a deal so that it could relieve itself of any future appeals battles.
Or how about this possibility: If there is one thing I have learned about courts and law in my crash course, it is that the making of judgments is full of backroom deals. Perhaps there was enormous behind-the-scenes pressure on the court by pro-abortion forces to avoid the death penalty at all costs.
Why? Well, if you were on the pro-abortion side, wouldn’t you? Sure, you wanted the guy locked up, to show your obligatory disdain for “atrocities” and to put distance between him and you. But would you really want to see a man fry who is so much like yourself? Wouldn’t that be too close for comfort, if Gosnell were deemed monstrous enough to be injected with a cocktail of pentobarbital, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride? Would you really want the public to be left with a mental image associating capital punishment with the killing of babies—whether outside the womb or inside the womb, whether at 24 weeks or 25 weeks?
Whatever the real explanation for Gosnell’s mysterious waiver, here is my thought about Gosnell’s future.
Capital punishment is certainly biblical: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).
Nevertheless, since Gosnell will now get life instead of death, let us pray he gets life indeed. Time in prison means time for repentance, and repentance of a sinner is always the heart of God, who “is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Scripture exhorts us to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15). Every day that a man’s life is extended is a day God is calling out to him: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts …” (Hebrews 3:15).
Other notorious criminals who have benefited in an eternal way from postponement of death were Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz: the former was executed and the latter still lives and leads men to the Lord in prison. For whether in the case of Kermit Gosnell or your next door neighbor, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).