We have to forgive to be forgiven

Let him who is without sin, throw the first stone.

As most of you know, I was a death penalty lawyer for many years. I discovered that no matter how many people my clients killed or how depraved their acts, there was something vulnerable, something human about them with which I could connect. Sometimes it took awhile to find it. Who are you is a wiser question to ask than why did you do it. Patience, openness and a willingness to listen without judging the answers are invaluable skills. Many clients told me that I was the first person in their lives who showed a genuine and nonjudgmental interest in getting to know them. They told me that answering my questions helped them to discover themselves. I know this to be true: Even though people may commit evil acts, no one is evil.

When we demonize others, we demonize ourselves.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people during a Bible study meeting in the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is white and they were black. He entered the church with murder in mind and asked to attend the meeting. They welcomed him.

Last night, Lester Holt of NBC News interviewed Felicia Sanders, who was present and survived the shooting, together with her 11-year-old granddaughter. Her 26-year-old son, Tywanza, died while attempting to shield Susie, an elderly relative, with his body.

In a matter of seconds, a moment of quiet prayer turned into a massacre.

“We were just about to say the prayer to be released,” said Felicia Sanders, one of three people who survived when a gunman opened fire during Bible study at her Charleston, South Carolina, church on June 17.

“He caught us with our eyes closed. I never told nobody this.”

Roof allegedly committed the murders to retaliate against blacks to redress crimes that blacks had committed against whites. No, he did not know whether anyone he killed had committed any of those crimes.

This crime is difficult to comprehend and I am not aware of any evidence that Roof was psychotic or delusional when he opened fire.

I was struck by the friends and family members of the victims who appeared at Roof’s initial appearance in court and told him that they forgave him, despite their overwhelming grief.

Under similar circumstances, I believe most people would want revenge.

Felicia Sanders is an extraordinary human being. She said one more thing that all of us should take to heart and never forget.

“We must forgive to be forgiven.”

Prosecutors announced earlier this week that they intend to seek the death penalty if the jury convicts Mr. Roof of murder.

Felicia Sanders disagrees with that decision. She wants him to live a long time in prison and reflect on what he did and why he did it.


11 Responses to We have to forgive to be forgiven

  1. GB says:

    The thought that occurs to me is that Dylan Roof was likely driven by the same impulses that caused Germany under Hitler to commit genocide against the Jewish population. It is probably an irrational hatred probably driven by an irrational fear. I suspect far-right racist groups had some influence on Roof. All the above is just guesswork based on the general circumstances, I don’t know the evidence in this case.

    • Malisha says:

      Thing is, do I get to kill somebody because I’m scared? OK, let’s say a woman has been subjected to various kinds of battering at the hands of abusive men or drunks or whoever. Then she goes out on a date and at a certain point, gets (understandably) scared of the guy. Can she just up and kill him?

      African Americans have every right to be frightened of white people, police officers, people carrying confederate flags, etc., etc., etc., etc. Can they just kill folks because they are afraid?

      If you’re scared, OK. If you’re armed and dangerous, and you happen to get scared, you’re still not allowed to kill anybody.

      • GB says:

        The answer is clearly no. He was not under any immediate threat.

        I would say Roof likely had a kind of “political insanity”, which in law is no excuse.

        I see murders as falling broadly into a two main categories – murder for or in the pursuit of personal gain ( typically monetary or sexual ), and irrational ( but not necessarily legally insane ) acts, Roof falls in the latter category.

        I think the death penalty is a wrong for all crimes for many reasons, but I think if the motive was monetary gain, it is more easily justified on the grounds of deterrrence. Someone acting irrationally is never going to be deterred.

  2. Xena says:

    “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

    I confess to changing the words of what is commonly called the Lord’s prayer because of the evil that people do. Instead, I pray,

    “And forgive us our trespasses and teach us how to forgive those who trespass against us.”

    • Malisha says:

      Justice would demand that Fogen screws up and fatally shoots his damn self while trying to do a hero thing for the next sequel of the national reality show: “Fogen is Important.”

  3. Malisha says:

    The death sentence case against Roof is a political minefield. There should be no death penalty. Our society has no right to put anyone to death. And now, our society has no actual appropriate METHOD to put anyone to death, because no rational, right-minded people will participate in even manufacturing the means.

  4. I agree with Felicia Sanders – he should live a long life.

  5. ed nelson says:

    and particularly it is laudable, that you exhibit something,…. sympathy/empathy for those who have been… condemned to death/life with out parole.
    I was just figuring the different ways to kill yerself if you are in a box/padded cell, for the rest of your life, how could you cut that short? It would be a weird question in times past, but not anymore, because, sorry Charlie, (you/one… ) might be in that box.

    I am in favor of something in between Capital punishment and interminal incarceration: I would put my money on, let’s have something that those in jail, and those in the gneral population can avail to: Assisted Scuicide.

    No I don’t want to tell any of guys to do that!! I just mean… if all you are looking at is about more years in a dungeon… you might not want to keep it up, you are looking to stopp it, and

    Assisted Suicide

    Assisted Suicide

  6. ed nelson says:

    Fred, this post is great, it shows that, somebody does know that the perpertrators, could be the next door neighbor/your sister!!

    You break new ground here with this post Proffessor Fred!

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