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Deters: 'The Pope is wrong' about death penalty

Posted at 7:58 PM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 19:58:56-04

CINCINNATI -- Patricia Crawford, who was able to identify her 14-year-old granddaughter's charred body only by the toenails on one partially intact foot, wants to see her murderer die.

Although jurors have again recommended a death sentence for serial killer Anthony Kirkland, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters doesn't believe she'll get the chance.

"I love Patricia, but she's never going to live that long," he said. "It's going to be another 25 years."

Why does he think so? In an appearance on "This Week in Cincinnati," Deters said he believes the death penalty is a valid societal "self-defense" measure that should be carried out quickly, but its efficiency is impeded by soft hearts and judicial activism. 

"Right in the middle of our trial -- I'm a Catholic -- the Pope said, ‘Hey, we disagree with the death penalty,' which I find confounding," Deters said. "Does that mean, like, if Hitler was on Earth today, killing 6 million Jews, that we wouldn't go after him? Are we kidding me? This is self-defense. … I'm saying the Pope's wrong; I'm sorry."

Pope Francis' Aug. 2 declaration that capital punishment was "an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person" and therefore unacceptable in all cases overruled Pope John Paul II's 1992 proclamation that it should be seen as a last resort. "If this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor," the Vatican declared that year, it would not break from the church's teachings.

Deters is unlikely to be the only Catholic rankled by the change. According to a Pew Research poll, a majority of Catholics in the United States support the death penalty.

Going on to characterize death row as among the safest places in Ohio, Deters said he believed judges who oppose the death penalty -- he did not name any individuals -- are in the wrong line of work. They should either enforce the law as written or become legislators if they hope to change it, he said.

As for Catholics with compunctions, he said their perspective is limited by their lack of experience with criminals such as Kirkland.

"My friends who are priests, they don't know what we're dealing with," he said. "We're dealing with vicious, evil killers, okay? And it is self-defense, in my mind, for the death penalty. That's why we seek it on these types of people, like Kirkland, and we need to get rid of them."

Watch the complete interview about to hear more from Deters about why he defends the death penalty.