Witness to an Execution

“Do you want to be a witness to the upcoming execution?”

I don’t know that I really thought of my answer before I said “sure”. It was weeks ago and I guess I really didn’t think the state would see it through. They postpone these executions most of the time and I didn’t even know what the death row inmate had done to be sentenced to die.

“We want you to be there because we think your perspective might be insightful since most evangelical Christians support the death penalty”. That made sense, and it’s true I’ve never really opposed the use of capital punishment. In fact, I guess I support using the death penalty in certain cases.

But after seeing the details of this inmate’s crime, I’m questioning the decision to put him to death. Daryl Holt killed his three sons and the daughter of his ex-wife. The kids loved him and he loved them. Those who know him say he was always doing things for the kids and helping them with school. His wife left him, concocted a story that he beat her and the kids and the state took his visitation rights away.

But the kids begged to see their dad. Even the little girl saw him more as “daddy” than her real father. He met his ex (and her new husband) at a Wal-Mart parking lot around Christmas of 1997 and picked them up. “They ran up and hugged me and Kayla (the little girl) just wouldn’t let go of me”, he later told police.

He would then drive the kids to a workshop, told them he had a surprise for them and to close their eyes and wait. “Don’t peek”, he kept telling them as they stood there waiting on their Christmas presents. Holt then pulled a rifle out and methodically shot each one of them through the heart. He was then going to kill himself but decided to turn himself in so there would be no question as to what happened and why he did it.

He believed he was saving these kids from hell. I don’t know exactly what he meant by this, but he never denied loving these children.

So tomorrow night at midnight, I’ll step inside the prison and watch as the state puts Holt to death. He has requested being put to death through electrocution instead of an lethal injection. He’ll be the first to die in Tennessee’s electric chair since 1960.

I don’t know that I’m ready to watch this. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to watch a man be put to death.


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