I worked for more than six years investigating a murder case because I believe the eight young men sentenced to 35 years to life in 1985 are innocent. I discovered new evidence that has finally led to a recent court hearing that could exonerate the men. What I have learned throughout this journey is what is possible when you put your faith in God instead of editors, police officers, fellow reporters–human beings.
Throughout my involvement with the case, my devoted cohort has been Mary Overton, the mother of one of the young men incarcerated on this murder. Mary organized a mother’s group and kept in touch with all the parents. She also kept the facts of the case in her head. Early on I earned that Mary is a very spiritual woman.
Mary and I would have “coincidences.” God would give us identical messages in different ways. It was uncanny, but I came to expect it and eventually was not at all be stunned by it. The most recent “coincidence” began in April, as I prepared to attend a hearing–finally–in which the Innocence Project was asking that Mary’s son and the 7 other men convicted of the murder be exonerated.
On Easter at my church, members of the congregation each picked a flower when a basket was passed around. Attached to the flower was a message. My message said: I will go before you, and level the mountains.–Isa. 45:2 I was ecstatic. I expected to attend the court hearing and this was the perfect message to carry in my pocketbook, a reminder that justice would not depend on me, the police or the judge but on God, who could level mountains.
I was supposed to leave that week for the court hearing in Washington, DC, but a lawyer called to inform me I might be called as a witness and therefore, I could not sit in on the hearing. I was disappointed, but I long ago accepted that in this case I just had to do what I was called to do and that God would let me know what that was. So I turned my attention to a workshop at church that I originally thought I was going to miss; now I could attend.
At the workshop Michelle O’Donnell spoke about God’s mercy. She took her topic from The Book of Isaiah. When I bought a book she had written, she offered to autograph it but first said, “Let me give you a scripture that is coming to me for you.” The scripture: Isaiah 43:19. I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don’t you recognize it? I will clear a way in the desert. I will make rivers on dry land.
For me, this was further proof that God was about to extend his mercy. Because Isaiah kept coming up, I told my sister, “I think I need to study The Book of Isaih.” I sat down one morning to read the Bible but before I did, I read the Daily Word. It was Tuesday, April 25, 2012. The word was “Guidance: Confident and assured, I trust my inner guidance.” I thought of how I found new evidence in the murder case, of how I listened to my intuition and a voice I came to call “the voice of God” and how this voice led me to the evidence. Then I looked at the bottom of the page of the Daily Word and found that the verse for the day was Isaiah 42:16: I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them.
I opened my Bible to read and it fell open to a place where I had set a marker months before. It was, of course, The Book of Isaiah.
When I finally walked into the court to testify many old, bad emotions surfaced. I felt the hatred people had for one another, the sorrow for the victim, the anger of the victim’s family, my own emotions about the horrible treatment of the men in imprisoned for something they did not do. By the time I headed home, I was an emotional mess.
I called my cohort Mary Overton. She had not been able to attend court the day I was there. We talked as I drove. We knew that the case rested with the judge now and that it is expected he will decide by August whether or not the men will be free. When I asked Mary how she was doing, she said, “I’m okay. I believe the guys are coming home.” And she offered me her evidence. “I don’t know where this came from,” she said, “but something told me to study The Book of Isaiah, verse 44.” (It says in part, I will pour my cspirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.)
I told Mary my story. We laughed, as we have so many times. We both agreed that we feel that we are now in the time of God’s mercy and we expect Him to extend this mercy to the guys, six of whom remain in prison.
I hung up, put on a Marvin Sapp CD and cried for the next hour as I drove down the highway. It was a good and wonderful cry, a cry for joy and the goodness of God; a cry for knowing where the truth really comes from. When I finished, it was as if the sky in my heart had opened and the sun shone again, burning away all anxiety, all doubt, all fears. I have concluded it does not matter what the judge is thinking; God has spoken.
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