Last week in a federal courtroom, a weeping mother begged jurors to spare the life of her convicted son. It's a scene I've witnessed too many times before.

A few feet away, another mother wept. Her child was already dead, killed by the son of the woman on the witness stand.Not far away at the defense table sat Orlando Hall, who had been found guilty of kidnapping and killing 16-year-old Lisa Rene a year ago. She was kidnapped by her brother's drug dealers, raped, bludgeoned with the shovel used to dig her grave, doused with gasoline and buried alive.

All week long, friends who know my stand on capital punishment had come up to me and said basically the same thing: "Now what do you think we should do with this . . .? If anybody deserves the death penalty, surely this scumbag does."

A reporter covering the trial walked up to me Thursday, shook his head and said: "Come on, Bob Ray. What would YOU do with this guy?"

I didn't answer.

I couldn't argue with the names they called Hall, and I agree with the prosecutor that this crime was, indeed, one of the most "heinous, cruel and depraved" acts of violence I've ever heard about.

It's still hard for me to imagine that anyone could subject a young girl to this torture.

Another friend suggested that the only fair punishment for Hall would be to do to him some of what he had done to Rene, including burying him alive.

It is this kind of case that truly tests the beliefs of those who have fought long and hard against the death penalty.

We are often accused of never thinking of the victims and their families, always coddling criminals instead.

I can assure you, I have thought much of the Rene family members, who last week had to relive their relative's suffering as the gruesome testimony came from the witness stand.

I can't help but also think of Hall's relatives, whose pain is also great.

"Yeah, but their son is still alive," someone noted.

"For now," I replied, fully anticipating that the jury would return the death sentence. They did Monday afternoon.

I must agree that if "anybody" deserves the death penalty, Hall does. But you must understand, I will never believe anyone does "deserve" the death penalty.

No matter how gruesome the crime or how much pain I feel for the victims and their families, I cannot and will not make exceptions. To do so would mean that I have given in to the popular position even though I know it to be terribly wrong.

I may be a lone voice in the wilderness, but as long as I have a voice, I shall continue to speak out against the savagery of capital punishment.