A Change of Heart: A Gift of God By Anthony "Tony" Cook, executed 11-10-93
When I was asked to write this piece for the Lamp of Hope Project, I agreed readily. However, after agreeing, I had second thoughts. This article involved some very tough decisions that I had to make concerning my capitol conviction and my Christianity.
First of all, let me explain how the idea of this article came about. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior a little over seven months ago. God moved on me in such a way that left no doubt in my mind that He was knocking at my door. Well, I opened the door and let Jesus in and the change in my life has been tremendous. He has changed my outlook on life, my thoughts, and more importantly, my heart. God has instilled in me a love and compassion for others that I have never before experienced. The Lord has also let me know that I have to trust in Him for everything.
When a person gives his life to Christ, he has to do so wholeheartedly. You cannot commit yourself halfway to Christ. It has to be all or nothing. This was my "hard" decision that I had to make. I accepted Jesus as my Lord with the realization that I could not continue to maintain my innocence in the murder of David Vantassle. I have thought about David a lot in the last few months and it is always with remorse. I remember during my trial my lawyer's telling me not to show any emotion. Well, I didn't. I sat through the trial with a blank look on my face, hiding all the emotion. At the end of my trial, the Prosecutor for the State said that I obviously didn't feel any remorse and that I deserve to die. Remorse, in a capitol crime, is like a two-headed snake with both heads poisonous. If you don't show remorse, you are a cold-blooded killer and deserve the death penalty. If you do show remorse, you are a cold-blooded killer putting on an act and you still deserve the death penalty. It's basically the same during the appeal process. If you show remorse, it is the same as an admission of guilt and with an admission of guilt and with the way the courts are going these days a person can expect to be executed even more quickly and with extreme prejudice.
I also think of David's family; the sorrow and pain I caused them. I wish there was away I could change things but nothing I can say or do will bring David back to life. "I'm sorry" sounds so shallow, and yet it is all I can say. I pray that God will help ease their pain and grief.
I cannot change the way the Vantassle family feels about me but I can change my ways; not I, but God whose love and mercy surpasses all understanding or knowledge. There are a couple of verses of scripture found in Lamentations 3:21-23 that I would like to share with you. "But this I recall, therefore have I hope and expectation. It is of the Lord's mercy and loving kindness that we are consumed, because His tender compassion fall not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is your stability and faithfulness." That's wonderful scripture. It tells me of a loving Father who is always willing to help us. No matter what we do, God is ready to forgive. All we have to do is open our hearts to Him. God is not partial or prejudice; He will accept all that call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are many people in this world who think we people on death row are beyond salvation because society has rejected us and condemned us to die. In my opinion, the jaded view the general public has of us on death row can be attributed to the biased and sensationalistic media coverage that capitol cases receive. I can assure you that we here on death row are no different from any other human being on the face of the earth. We laugh when we are happy, we cry when we are sad, we experience heartaches, loneliness, and yes, even remorse.
There are those who will read this article and say that I am a fool and that I have signed my death warrant. That is something only God knows. What I know is this: God's word tells me in I John 1:6 that if we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. So, for me to continue to maintain my innocence in the murder of David Vantassle is the same as walking in darkness, because my whole defense in my appeals is based on a lie and it would be wrong for me to continue to live this lie. If I have sealed my fate with this testimony, so be it. I would rather die professing my faith and belief in Christ than to die and be eternally separated from God. There comes a time in everyone's life when he must make a choice, either to accept Christ or to reject Him. You have to decide which is more important to you - your standing with man or your standing with God. Regardless of what you believe, there is a God, there is a heaven and there is a hell and we will all, without exception, stand before God one day and be held accountable for the things we have done in this life. The decision we must make to stand before God as righteous, washed in the blood of Christ, or stand before God as a sinner and be cast into the lake of fire. The Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:28, "And fear not them which can kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell."
This article is not a spur of the moment deal. I gave it a lot of thought and prayer. I do not have a death wish. No one wants to die and I believe no one deserves death, but all deserve mercy.
I praise God always that I do not have to depend on the courts' mercy to have life. For God is the giver of life through His son, Jesus Christ, and His mercy endures forever. I praise God every day that He gave me this chance to accept salvation through Christ Jesus.
As I stated earlier, I do not have a death wish, nor is this article a plea for mercy or forgiveness. This is simply a testimony of the change that the power of God can work in a man. This I believe, that whatever the outcome of my situation, I cannot lose, for I believe Jesus when He told His disciples in John 11:25-26, "I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.