Friends place lengthy obituary for executed murderer

Friends of Joshua Bishop, who was executed last month, wanted him to be remembered as more than just murderer so they placed lengthy obituaries in two newspapers describing his “Dickensian childhood” and the positive things he did once he began his life on Death Row.

“Just like when you lose any other friend, none of us wanted the news of the execution to be the last word about Josh,” said Sara Gerwig-Moore, a Mercer Law School professor who was part of Bishop’s legal team. “He was so much more than the worst thing he has ever done. He was more to us than someone who committed a horrible crime.”

Lengthy obituaries ran last Sunday in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and in the Macon Telegraph. There was a funeral Mass for Bishop on Tuesday in Conyers and his ashes were interred at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County. There also will be an ecumenical memorial service Sunday night in Macon.

Bishop was put to death for the 1994 murder of Leverett Morrison in a dispute over the keys to Morrison's Jeep.

Both obituaries begin, “Josh Bishop, 41, was executed by the State of Georgia and died on March 31, 2016. His last words were ones of repentance and love.”

Gerwig-Moore said friends raised about $6,000 to pay for the obituaries and the services by placing pleas on a GoFundMe page.

The obituaries also asked that donations in Bishop’s name be made to the Methodist Home for Children and Youth, where he sometimes lived because his alcoholic mother was often homeless and abusive.

“He really wanted his story to reach kids who were in trouble and at risk,” Gerwig-Moore said.

Bishop was the third man Georgia has executed this year. A fourth man, Kenneth Fults, was put to death Tuesday and a fifth, Daniel Anthony Lucas, is scheduled for lethal injection on April 27.

The obituaries focused on the troubled parts of Bishop's life that his advocates had hoped would persuade the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his death sentence to life in prison. The Parole Board declined to grant him clemency the morning of his death.

“Josh lived a Dickensian childhood in the modern era,” his obituary said. “He grew up under bridges in Milledgeville, Georgia, in group homes and foster care, often hungry or afraid. … Unlike the street urchins of the Dickens stories, however, Josh was never saved by a kindly, wealthy gentleman—or even by the State agencies charged with protecting abused children. Instead, he fell into drug and alcohol abuse and at age 19 made horrible mistakes that were not otherwise in his character. His addiction, and what came of it, cost him his life, and he wanted youth growing up in similar circumstances to learn from his story.”