TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – The spiritual advisor to death row inmate Keith Nelson says the prisoner is resigned to his fate. Nelson is scheduled to be executed at the federal prison in Terre Haute Friday.
Nelson asked Sister Barbara Battista to be his minister of record. Battista serves with the Sisters of Providence and has been outspoken at anti-death penalty protests.
Battista says Nelson asked her to be his spiritual advisor with the help of Dustin Honken. Honken was executed by lethal injection in July.
As a minister of record, Sister Battista has been communicating with Nelson the past several months. She will be in the execution chamber with Nelson strapped to the gurney.
“He asked me if I would be willing to do this a couple months ago, to companion him and to bear witness. His primary request of me was to bear witness so that persons will know what happens in that room so that somehow, through me with God's grace, you know, that I might be able to share that experience."
Sister Battista says her time with Nelson on the day of his execution will be brief. She says Nelson told her he may chose not to give a final statement.
"I have the impression that he's pretty well resigned to the fact that the government will take his life. He's not claiming innocence. He's not like, ‘oh, poor pitiful me.’"
She will be prepared to anoint him if he asks and Sister Battista says she will say a quite prayer written by Sister Helen Prejean as she watches Nelson draw his final breaths.
God of Compassion
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death row and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.
- Sister Helen Prejean
"Part of my preparation is to not, as best I can, not anticipate that. Let the event happen, don't push it aside, be reflective, and I don't know how I'll feel."
Sister Battista says she is not preparing Nelson for execution rather offering him companionship in his final moments.
"How does anyone really prepare to be executed? I don't know and I don't think I'll ever really know."