Many of us are afraid. That has become clear to me in recent weeks. We are afraid of confronting the past. We are afraid of talking about difficult things, like broken systems and race. And most of all, it seems we are afraid of being wrong.
Since watching “The Last Defense”- a three-part ABC docu-series produced by Academy Award winner, Viola Davis, and Julius Tennon, I have been deeply troubled and committed to engaging in community dialogue about criminal justice reform, racial bias, and the moral contradiction of the death penalty.
Some are eager to join the conversation, while many others won’t return my calls or emails.
I get it.
These are deep waters, and what if we put ourselves ‘out there’ to challenge whatever powers that be- only to be disappointed or humiliated by the outcome? What if we spend our time, energy and resources advocating for a man who really is guilty? What if the DNA test comes back and excludes anyone but Julius?
What if we are wrong?
I can risk being wrong… as long as I am right about the principles…and I am right about the principles.
I believe everyone- guilty or innocent- has a right in America to Due Process of Law. I believe anyone accused and charged with a crime has a right to a fair trial with competent counsel. I believe that the American criminal justice system has an obligation of due diligence, transparency and high ethical standards.
I believe that a jury of one’s peers should be representative of the accused person. That a black man, such as Julius Jones, should have more than two ethnic minorities weighing the facts of the case. I believe that when people show us who they are, we should believe them the first time. Therefore, a juror who refers to a black defendant as “nigger” is racially biased, and should not be allowed to continue on the jury.
I believe that God is the Creator of all life. That governments will never be holy enough to rightly decide who lives and who dies, especially when we cannot discern whether we are motivated by justice or revenge. I am pro-life “from the womb to the grave”. I believe as long as there is life, there is a chance for God to work. I believe in the Jesus who saved an adulterous woman from the death penalty. And the Jesus who called a stinking man named Lazarus from the tomb.
Lastly, I believe that we cannot walk by faith without taking risks. That nothing good is ever accomplished on Planet Earth without a few brave souls who are willing to look foolish for the sake of the Common Good. So, I am not afraid, because I know what I believe. I know that principles of mercy and justice are true and right.
Hollywood has unearthed a 20-year-old death row case here in Oklahoma City. There will be many opportunities to engage, ask questions, and decide what you believe during #Justice4Julius Month in November. I hope you will have the courage.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid? ~Psalm 27:1
Love+ Mercy +Justice,