Extraordinary Forgiveness

This Lenten season the Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) invites you to contemplate the themes of justice and mercy through the special series “Extraordinary Forgiveness.” For every remaining week of Lent, CMN will share a powerful story of an individual whose life has been touched by violence and injustice but who has sought to overcome anger to walk in the light of God’s love and mercy. We hope the faith and spirit of these courageous people inspire you in your own Lenten journey. Visit CMN’s website to learn more.

CMN Lenten Journey 2016
Words of Forgiveness and Love

Imagine you are in solitary confinement on Death Row. 23 hours a day in a prison cell so small you can extend your hands and touch each side. You walk 6 paces front to back. You get breakfast at 2 am in the morning and it is terrible. The hour you are allowed out you are by yourself in a caged “rec yard” which is only a slab of concrete.

You are treated like a caged animal. You are not allowed to touch another human, the only touch being the cold steel from the handcuffs when the guards move you around. And you know that where you are is the last place you will be before you die.

Now imagine you are on Death Row for a crime you didn’t commit. You try to hope but you know it’s going to be an uphill battle to prove your innocence. You see fellow inmates who you became close to be taken to the death chamber. You look out the tiny slit of a window at the very top of the cell and you wonder where God is. You pray and pray.

This is the situation my client, Alfred Dewayne Brown, found himself from 2003 until 2015. Dewayne was convicted of capital murder and was scheduled to die by lethal injection. But he was innocent. I worked on his case pro bono, that is without a fee, because I believed in him and his case. After eight years of work, Dewayne was exonerated when evidence that proved his alibi was found in the home garage of a police detective who worked on the case. Dewayne was released on June 8, 2015.

Outside the jail, Dewayne preached a message of love and forgiveness rather than hate. He said that he understood why the police and DA did what they did even though it was not right. He said that you can’t always trust everyone but you can “always love everyone.” He ended by saying he had no hate in his heart and wanted to move forward with his life and be with his family.

I had plenty of hate in my heart for what the criminal justice system did to Dewayne. They took 12 years of his life. I would pray about my anger but it remained there. But when Dewayne said what he said when he walked out of jail he changed my life. Words of forgiveness and love will always be more powerful than words of hate, even in extreme circumstances like Dewayne’s. So I now wake up peaceful just like my client.

Brian Stolarz, Esq.
LeClair Ryan
Alexandria, Virginia

Published in: on March 2, 2016 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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