Saturday, November 19, 2005

No Convincing Reason -- The Execution of Elias Syriani

On November 7, 2005, the four children of Elias Syriani appeared on Larry King's show on CNN. Their story: 15 years ago their father Elias Syriani murdered their mother, Teresa, by stabbing her repeatedly with a screwdriver. One of the children, John, witnessed it. Syriani was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. After lengthy appeals his execution date was finally set for November 18, 2005. The four children appealed to Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina to commute the death and in the run-up to the meeting with Easley the four children appeared by remote hook up on Larry King's show.

The interview was heart-breaking. The four children, now adults, sat side by side on a couch -- all on the verge of tears -- while Larry conducted one of the clumsiest interviews he has ever done. Here are some excerpts to give you the feeling of the interview:

ROSE SYRIANI: We're just right now, living day by day, just trying to do what we can to stop this from happening. We're just begging that this does not carried out. And again, I mean, I said this is four lives. Four lives that will be destroyed.

I mean, this is going to devastate us. And this is something that was a gift from my mother and a gift from God. I mean, my mother doesn't want us to fear, to hate. You know, we've been grieving for all this time. I know this is from her. And there's not a day that goes by that we don't think about her. And now for the past two years, we've been able to move on without feeling such grief. And we're just hoping that the governor will please look at this as a unique case and we're able to regain our past.

I mean, we have memories that my father is able to share with us. We don't get to see him very often, but my sister Janet, every day, she runs to the mailbox to see. He's able to watch over us, as much as he can. He'll send my brother a letter and he'll tell him, your sister is having a hard time in school, watch over her. I know we have limited time, but there's so many beautiful stories.

LARRY KING: Janet, what is it like when you talk to your father?

JANET SYRIANI: I have a father-daughter relationship now. He calls me his baby. You know? I have that emotional side that I've been wanting for so long. And like my sister said, you know, I was having problems with school. And just everyday life, you know. And he would write me letters and tell me that I was going to make it and I was going to make his dream come true.


LARRY KING: Sarah, will your main argument at the clemency hearing be, we forgive him, therefore the state of North Carolina should forgive him?

BARBARI: I wouldn't go that far. I'm just hoping that more than anything that Governor Easley will look at these four lives and realize that it is us that is going to suffer.

My father has come to terms with his fate and what could happen to him. And the only fear that he has is that his children's hearts are going to break once again. And he's right, that is exactly what will happen.

I mean, it took us so long to come this far. You know, from hate and anger to forgiveness and love. It is just the most powerful thing that has entered our lives.

And just so much good has come out of it. I mean, we're all different people now and could live our lives whole and in peace and we just feel...


On November 10 the four children met with Governor Easley.

On November 17 the Governor announced his decision to deny clemency, on the following basis:

"After careful review of the facts and circumstances of this crime and conviction, I find no convincing reason to grant clemency and overturn the unanimous jury verdict affirmed by the state and federal courts,"


On Friday, November 18, at 2:00 a.m. Elias Syriani was put to death by lethal injection. See the graphic account of the execution at,

"No convincing reason," said the Governor.


Anonymous said...

Hello Ed, this is Janet Syriani. I came across your page and saw what you did. I want to thank you for supporting us and feeling our pain. We felt that this was definitely wrong, but we are living each day stronger. I just wanted to say thank you. And that my family and I appreciate what you wrote and shared. God Bless You and Your Family!

Ed Stadum said...

Janet, Thank you for your kind words. I was so moved by your family's story as a learned about it first on Larry King that I had to write about it. I wanted to say some more serious things about what I think about Mike Easley, but there has been enough bitterness in this story already so I held back. I was especially touched by your description on the Larry King program of your new-found relationship with your father. It must have terribly important to you. I am a father myself with a wonderful daughter and I marvel that you were able to finally re-establish a loving relationship with your father. I hope that the lives of yourself, your sisters and your brother were not destroyed in fact and that all four of you have gone to find meaning and value in your lives, notwithstanding, or maybe by virtue of, the terrible experiences you have had. I send my best wishes to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work. It very impressive. Enjoyed the visit!

Sojourners for Abolition and Reconciliation said...

There's now a documentary about the Syriani's story, "Love Lived on Death Row." What those adult children were able to do is something we can all do well to learn from. Info on the film is available at

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