Thursday, June 26, 2008

Innocent until proven guilty--then what?

Many of you, my friends, know that one of my best friends stands accused of a brutal murder in northern lower Michigan. Out of respect for his family, and the family of the victim, I won't name names or link to news stories or describe the crime or anything like that -- there has been plenty of news about this in Michigan. I grieve for the victim, someone who I have met a few times, and I grieve for the victim's family. Nobody should have to have a loved one killed and abused in that manner. I also grieve for my friend's family, who will probably all but abandon him this time, as they are rightfully sick of him getting into trouble.

Things don't look good for my friend. I can't say if he did or did not commit the crime -- I simply don't know. Some of our friends, at times, have questioned his mental state or perhaps questioned if he has or has had a chemical dependency of some sort. But, since I have known him, he has always been a good friend to me. We've gone on business trips together, we've drank beer together, we've gone gambling together (he's lots of fun at the blackjack table). He's had words of comfort and prayer when my wife and I lost our son. In fact, right about the time the murder allegedly occurred, my dad had a heart attack and he called frequently to make sure that he and my family was OK.

He has been in trouble in the past, the most recent experience being about five or six years ago. He was set up to take the fall for a particular crime and languished for nine months in jail before the correct perpetrator was caught. I was one of the few people who would take his collect calls from jail, and he and I would write to each other. He always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and can't seem to stay out of trouble.

I am a firm believer in the fact that we are innocent until proven guilty in this country. I will wait to judge him until the verdict comes down. I will say that the evidence that has been released doesn't look very good for him. As much as I want to believe that he didn't have anything to do with the crime, I have to admit that it seems possible, if not likely, that he did. The question I am posing to myself is, if he is proven guilty, will I turn my back on him because he is a monster for doing what he [allegedly] did? Because whoever committed this crime (my friend or someone else) definitely is a monster that needs to be put away.

I don't know the answer to that question. Yet.

I'd like to think that I could no more turn my back on him than I could my own brother (if I had one). Because he is a brother to me. We are all brothers and sisters. We all need to forgive. His life is not over -- the rest of it could be lived out in a concrete and metal room provided by the state of Michigan, but it won't be over (Michigan does not have the death penalty). Guilty or not, if I had a brother, I could not imagine him having to live out the next 30-50 years in the misery of a jail cell, whether he deserved it or not. But all is not lost for his soul. I don’t know much about the Bible but I do recall a story about David (the same one that killed Goliath) and BathSheba and Nathan. The gist of the story was that if you commit a sin, you will be forgiven by God but must still face punishment on Earth. He can still get to heaven, but he needs to face his earth punishment first.

Would my faith be strong enough to pray for him and his soul, to help him seek forgiveness from God, and to visit him (if I am allowed) in his misery, while all the while knowing what he [allegedly] did? Then, will I be able to accept that I am a hypocrite, who believes that criminals like that deserve to rot in a bath of battery acid while being forced to watch reruns of The Brady Bunch and Judge Judy until they check out and catch the non-stop express train to Hell?

This is what is tripping up my mind right now.

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