JACKSON, Ga. — Prayers were lifted, a hymn was sung, and hearts were healing at a vigil held outside of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison where Marion Wilson Jr. was executed Thursday night.
Wilson was put to death by the state for the 1996 shotgun murder of Donovan Corey Parks.
Although early on those on hand for Thursday evening’s vigil remained hopeful for a last-minute stay of execution, that was not Wilson’s fate.
Protestors of the death penalty, from both near and far, kept vigil outside the state prison.
Among them was SueZann Bosler, a Florida resident, who came to Georgia to show her support to Wilson’s family, but also to take a stance on her beliefs. Bosler herself was a victim; her father was stabbed to death, she was a witness to the crime and she was left for dead with him, as she endured several stab wounds to the head. The man who committed the crime was originally sentenced to death, however, Bosler fought to have that penalty revoked and for his life to be spared.
“I’m a victim,” Bosler said at the protest outside of the prison Thursday night. “A man came to our home and as soon as my dad came to the door, he started stabbing him with a knife, so I came out to help and he stabbed me, then stabbed my father, then stabbed me and basically my dad was stabbed 24 times and I was stabbed in the back and twice in the head, left for dead.”
For the next 10 1/2 years, Bosler worked to not have her father’s killer executed, but to have his sentence reduced to life in prison.
“I’ve learned that forgiveness was not for him, but forgiveness was for me.”
“Violence means more violence and I said to myself if I was going to help the government kill him, what would that make me? I will not degrade my father’s name by killing someone else,” she said. “It doesn’t bring closure, it doesn’t bring anybody back, it doesn’t solve the problem at all. …If we kill these people, how are they going to have the chance to become better people? If we get them in there for life, they have the chance to improve, rehabilitate and be a better person.”
Another avid protestor, an Atlanta lawyer, Daniel Kolber has protested the death penalty at Jackson for a number of years.
“[I’ve been out here protesting since] Kelly Renee Gissendaner, she was the first woman that Georgia had put to death since the Supreme Court allowed executions again in 1976.”
Gissendaner was executed in 2015, and ever since, Kolber has come to Jackson, sign in hand to stand up for what he believes in.
“I just came out here and my life has not been the same since because it gives me a point of reference from which I judge everything else in my own life.”
Kolber spoke passionately about why activism is important in today’s society and how one individual can truly change the world.
“It (death penalty) reminds me of when I was like 5 or 6 and I first realized death. That realization that you’re not going to be here forever. Tonight, I will get the feeling that I had when I was a kid of ‘no it can’t be.’”
In addition to travelers, a couple from as far as Utah and New York, some of Wilsons’s family attended the protest vigil. Tears fell in the final hours.
One protester, a self-proclaimed “play mom” spoke highly of Wilson and talked fondly of watching him grow up.
“I call him my child, my playchild,” Sakile Flowers said. “He was a fun child. My son was a little older, so he would tag along like a little brother. He loved my son like a big brother.”
She mourned alongside Wilson’s daughter, Tykecia, Tykecia’s mom, Angela and her sister, Monisha.
“It’s just a strength of love,” Flowers said. “In other words, it’s like being with a person who’s sick all the way to the end. You want to have loving family members around you when you make the transition. So even though I can’t physically be there, spiritually on these grounds, I’m here with him … I just hope and pray that he’s at a peaceful point.”
Flowers paused and said, “My heart goes out to the Parks family, nothing but sympathy and condolences.”
Wilson’s pastor was also present at the vigil and he spoke on Wilson and their visits in prison. He said that sometimes, the roles were reversed and Wilson actually pastored to him.
After reading out the names of the 1,499 death row prisoners who have been executed, Wilson’s pastor spoke about the man who would become number 1500.
“He wrote poetry, he cared about the people around him. When I asked him recently what he would have done with his life if he hadn’t ended up behind bars, he said he would have wanted to be a counselor. I asked him if he did that now and he said yeah, that he had people on the row coming to him all the time who sought out his advice. For me, it was an honor and a privilege to visit him,” he said.
As the night came to a close the protestors and mourners seemed to have a sense of calm.
In a video posted on Facebook Monday afternoon, Wilson’s daughter Tykecia said, “My daddy is my world … as long as my father is at peace, I’m at peace … I know I will see him again in heaven.”