This Thursday, court will resume and probably conclude in the case against the young man who allegedly killed our son.
In January, we heard the evidence against the accused on charges of failure to give assistance (hit and run) and of public mischief (lying to police about the events in order to cover up the crime). But on the final day of court, the accused didn’t show up. He was arrested ten days later, which postponed the final arguments and verdict until April 2. He has been in custody ever since.
None of this gives us joy or satisfaction. Not the stomach-clenching apprehension of the looming court date. Not the nauseating presentation of evidence that included detailed descriptions of our boy’s fatal injuries. And no, not the humiliating shame of the young man charged in this crime.
Initially, we had come to court fully aware that no judgment of the court could reverse time to bring Paul back. We knew the possibilities: Even though the prosecution had told us they had a very strong case, there could still be surprises. We understood that the accused was not facing the more serious charge of criminal negligence causing death because of insufficient evidence. But we arrived in court January 13 trusting justice, at least on a human level, would be done.
At Paul’s funeral in 2012, our pastor mentioned that we had told him we bore no hatred or bitterness toward the person responsible for Paul’s death. A few weeks later when I told a friend what charges were being laid in the case, she seemed surprised and said, “I thought you were going to forgive the guy.”
Jesus commanded us “not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:39) He was telling us not to seek personal vengeance. What happened to Paul was a criminal offense. As family, we do not have the jurisdiction or authority to pardon a crime. But we do have the responsibility to guard our hearts from anger or hatred which Jesus equated with murder. (Matthew 5:22)
And so we arrived at court that winter day holding forgiveness in our hearts, conscious of the frailty and sinfulness of our own hearts. It was a forgiveness that would be tested during the court proceedings and through the coming months.
With one thing we could rest content.
“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” ~Genesis 18:25