Aug 18, 2009

capital murder case

Fifteen years ago I served as an alternate juror on a capital murder trial. The killing took place in my home town. The trial lasted a long time, and my kids were 10 and 14. It was a very emotionally draining time for me...sitting in the courtroom every day and then running to catch the kid's baseball games or get them to practice. I also remember my husband was traveling on business a lot during that time. I sought counsel from my pastor to try to sort out how I really felt about the death penalty. When it was all over, I didn't have to cast a vote because I was an alternate and no jurors had been removed or dropped off the case. But I had to be there and sit through it all right up to the end. And of course I had to make up my mind as well based on the facts of the case and the law.

My younger son saw this article in the paper this week and recognized it as the case I had served on. http://www.fallsnewspress.com/news/article/4647849
Remember he was only 10 at the time! We have certainly not talked about this over the years. It bothers me that it made such an impression on him at such a young age that he never forgot the name of the convicted man.

Fifteen years is about the normal amount of time it takes to carry out the death sentence in Ohio. That leaves lots of time for appeals and making sure there were no errors in the case. But it sure seems like a long time for the family of the victim to wait for justice for their loved one.

I can't imagine that this man will receive any kind of clemency, but I feel no joy or satisfaction that he is scheduled to be executed in about two months. I can't help but wonder what his thinking has been over the past 15 years. Is he sorry? Has he ever contacted the victim's family? He was a next door neighbor!

And how does the victim's family feel? They were known to be a Christian family. Have they been able to forgive? Could anyone? How has this affected them for the past 15 years?

I can only pray that the grace of God might be applied to all involved, including the jurors, everyday citizens, who had to listen day after day to graphic details and then make the decision. Now that the time of the execution seems eminent, that grace is needed perhaps now more than ever. I know I need it.


12 comments:

smiles4u said...

I go back and forth on how I feel about the death penalty. It's easy for me to say something against it when it's not my loved one that has been taken away from me in such a brutal way. In cases in which it is so brutal and 100% without a doubt that they are truly guilty, then I tend to support it. But, I'm always thinking, what if their wrong? What if, this person really is innocent and they put an innocent person to death?

It's easy for me to think that if it were me that I would come to eventually forgive the person since I believe so strongly in forgiveness and grace BUT I haven't walked in those shoes. Until I do, I guess I won't really know. I, like you, need grace every day.

Jacquelyn said...

thanks for commenting. You are so right...that it is so easy for us to have strong opinions until we are the ones wearing the shoes...I do think it is possible to eventually forgive, and yet support the sentence being carried out. I'm thinking this is most likely the way the victim's family is feeling, and how I would probably feel. But then I think of my grandchildren...if something terrible ever happened to them. Would I truly ever be able to forgive. Oh God help us all!

They call me Deb said...

It's so difficult for me - to the point where I won't make a judgment against someone who's accused of a crime, because I don't know their heart. With today's skilled attorneys, the facts that are revealed and/or kept from the jurors, the persuasive arguments, etc. I just don't see how anyone can judge the guilt or innocence of someone.
I tend to stick to the 1 Cor. 5 Scripture that asks, "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."
I don't at all diminish what horrific crimes and criminals do to innocent people and how families greatly suffer at the hand of violent acts. I pray for them in their loss and deep sorrow. But I also feel such a sadness and benevolence for those who created the crime. That while they await the execution of their sentence - they'd truly turn to their hearts to Christ and receive forgiveness for their sins. After all... which sin is greater - that of murder or that of gossip; that of rape or that of lying?
I know that all sounds very self-righteous and I certainly don't mean it to... but I pray that if any crime was committed against any member of my family, I'd quickly find the forgiveness that only God could bring to my heart, for the one who committed the crime. For I believe in forgiving the criminal, healing might begin it's work.
May God draw this man (in your blog) to Himself and soften his heart toward true repentance and forgiveness before his last days. And may He continue to hold, strengthen, and love this family who suffered at the hand of violence.
Good & thought provoking blog Jacquelyn!!!
**hugs**
Deb

Jacquelyn said...

Thanks Deb for your thoughtful remarks too. I think as believers, perhaps we struggle the most over these things. I remember there was that girl in Texas who was executed for murder who so obviously became a born again Christian and helped so many people while awaiting her execution. I found myself hoping and praying her sentence would somehow be commuted to "life"...And while we try to be so careful in reserving our judgments, we have our civic duty to deal with...believe me I would never ASK to serve it in this way! I have a dear friend who is in her 80's whose son has been in federal prison in LA as long as I've known her...30 years...serving a life sentence for murder. I have other friends whose son served time and just recently got out for another crime...so I know first hand the suffering of the families of the perpetrators. Sin is everywhere around us and only causes suffering and anguish in the end. Thank God for the prison ministries that we have in this country and the good things that God has done through them. I felt like I was "risking" to put this post on, but I'm trying to be "real" and not just record the "good" side of life! I am still struggling with these questions myself, and like I said, I find no joy in the fact that this man's execution date is coming up. I know that through the power of Jesus Christ, hearts are changed...and that includes those whose lives eventually end because of a death penalty. That is one good thing I see in the amount of time it takes for the penalty to be carried out, that perhaps those on death row have a real chance to sincerely repent and be saved. The minute the State takes away their earthly life, they are in the very presence of God.

Andy said...

Deb,

The fact that we cannot ultimately dig deep into the hidden motivations of people's hearts to discover the roots of whatever they do does not mean that we cannot and should not bring about justice to the degree that it is possible for us to do so. I'm not saying it's easy; I'm just saying that "judge not!" is often a slogan taken out of context and blindly applied to a lot of situations where the clear facts can be discovered and acted upon---as in the case of many a murder trial.

Mom,

I'm a little surprised that you're putting this out there. I know you were just an alternate, but it's the INTERNET. Be careful!

Andy

Rose said...

Scripture tells us we are to obey the laws of the land. I believe in mercy because we have a merciful God, but I also believe in justice. The victim isn't given a choice and in the case of murder they don't have the chance to "get right with God." Yet we allow rapists and murders years and years that victims don't get. Scripture also tell us that tomorrow is promised to no one which means we should live each day as it may be our last. That applies to everyone, victims and perputrators alike. Don't get me wrong, I don't find joy in anyone dying,no matter who it is. But I do believe that God gave us guidelines for living, governing countries and it's people and we are to uphold those laws. People make choices everyday and with those choices come consequences, good or bad. I don't think we should harbor hatred for those who commit crimes, we should forgive them, just as God fogave David for his sins with Bathsheba. However, David paid a price for his sins, even though they were forgiven. Scripture says the sword never left David's house. The point is, we may forgive someone but that doesn't mean they should escape the punishment that is due according to the laws of the land.

Jacquelyn said...

I hope we will all still love each other after I opened this can of worms! I do appreciate all the comments... During the trial I did feel the need, as I said, to seek spiritual counsel to be sure I wasn't just running on emotions...and even after the trial and verdict I felt the right thing was done. Now that the execution date is set and is close, I still feel the same way, but it is with great sorrow for the sin as well as the innocent people who have been hurt. I hope that the guilty party has taken advantage of the 15 years of grace and has settled his account with the Lord.

They call me Deb said...

Andy,
I really appreciated the heart-felt way your mom wrote this blog.
I believe your defense of her is wonderfully admirable, but I think that your response to me is kind of a 'case-in-point' example of what I was talking about.
You don't know me - you made a judgment on what you read and 'how' you read what I wrote. Based on that judgment, you automatically assumed that I must be one of those who misuse the 'judge not' slogan.
I'm not.
I know the meaning behind the Scripture and I am very familiar with the way many neglect their Christian duties by tolerating everything and everyone in the 'love of God'.
Sin is sin. Wrong is wrong. It all affects the heart of God and it all has it's punishment and consequences (sometimes for generations).
My point wasn't to condemn your mom at all. I was sharing that "I" struggle with this one - to the point that "I" will not judge someone outside the church - especially in today's justice systems where innocent people are often convicted and true criminals often go free. I don't know the life or hearts of 'criminals' any more than you know me by the way you perceive my few written words here on this screen.
I believe your mom did what she felt called to do, and I appreciate and love her heart for sharing this all in the eloquent way she did. And I appreciate your coming to her defense. I'm not sure why you felt she needed defending. but I'll watch my comments a bit more carefully from now on.
And yes Jacquelyn, I still love you as my sister-in-Christ. Always my friend.

Rose said...

Jacquelyn, there is no way this would ever affect my thoughts towards you or my friend Deb. We should be able to express our views and differences without fearing the loss of friendship. HUGS!!!

Jacquelyn said...

Whoa everybody...this is one of the main problems with electronic communication. We are not able to see facial expressions, hear voice inflections, and see other body language that we pick up in face to face communication. And of course we don't have much "history" with people we are getting to know, so they don't know our hearts or personalities all that well.

For example, I honestly did think Andy's comments were a bit edgy to Deb, and I read them over and over to be sure I wasn't missing something. It bothered me all day and I actually was going to come home from grocery shopping and ask him if he would mind rewriting it with a more "pastoral" tone. (Could you, Andy?) But I did not pick up at all that Andy was coming to my defense. In fact, I felt rather chastised! And on that score I also wanted to talk further with him and get a clearer picture of what he is thinking. I just didn't get the chance before I saw Deb's response.

In Andy's defense, he knows I am new at blogging and also that I am not very techy, and he tries to help me do a better job, which I do very much appreciate. And he is a very respectful son who I am very proud of.


Deb, in no way did I take your comments to me as condemnation. You remind me very much of a very old friend who has been a mentor over the years (from what I can glean from your personality on the blogs!) I do think that Andy quite possibly "missed" that you were speaking of your own personal opinion and assessment of the way our court system runs, with what is and is not allowed into evidence, and all the other things that go on, and how all of that affects YOUR ability to be able to judge someone. As far as I know, in a capital murder case for example where the death penalty is allowed, I believe we are still free to say at the onset that we could not vote for that, and we would not be chosen as a juror in the case. After I had the talk with my pastor, I was able to proceed with a clear (though burdened) conscience. But I can accept the opinions of those who could not do so.

Lastly, most of us are writing comments in a hurry--that's just the way life is--and I am learning to factor that in when I read things...because I know there are times when I myself write things in haste where I might say it differently if I took more time to think through it. Most (but not all!) of the people I communicate with on the internet are Christians and so I think there is an added grace that is needed at times. Because I am by nature a person who likes to "fix" things (sometimes its right, sometimes its wrong!) I hope that Andy & Deb will have a meeting of the minds...but if not, I know you both love the Lord and seek to be led by His Spirit.

To Andy, the reason I posted this in the first place is because I felt like I wasn't being a completely "honest" person when I only blog about the fun and happy things that are going on in my life. I was feeling one dimensional and I guess I have a "need" for people to "know" the "real" me. I struggle from time to time as everyone does, and as you know, I have a hard time with Christians who always wear a "I am victorious" sign and cannot admit they might need support or help from time to time. I do try to consider internet safety issues...as far as being a juror on this case, I guess I'm thinking it is public record, is it not?

I want to thank Rose for saying "we should be able to express our views and differences without fearing the loss of friendship." Thank you, as I'm feeling a bit shaky right now!

Andy said...

Mom,

Yeah-my concern was just your safety.

I know exactly what you mean about how blogs project a very sanitized version of who we actually are; Ellie has been lamenting this herself lately, and we've been discussing different ways to help counteract that tendency.

I also appreciate you wanting to make your comment box a peaceful place.

Dear Deb,

I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. I wasn't defending mom. I just thought I'd put my $0.02 in. It sounds like we all agree on this. It's an awful situation all around, and only the Lord has the ability to turn all things for good. Here's trusting him that he's doing that in this and similar situations.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thank you all. Everything you all have said, we have thought the same thing. We meaning the victim's family. Yes, I am a family member that has the same struggles. I do not wish this upon anyone. We have cried and prayed over this for 15 years. With only less than a month until his execution date, I pray that God will give me his grace to forgive. It was God's will to put certain people in my path today when I(we) need them the most. Jacquelyn, Thank you!