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Opinion | To forgive or play God

By Thursday evening, July 28, another soul will be killed by the state of Alabama.

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My pastor talked about forgiveness in a meeting earlier this week. He said it was one indication that a believer is trying to be like Jesus.

I also see forgiveness as a healing exercise. Clearing the mind and heart of toxins.

It’s a choice to move past a hurt or an injustice. Relinquishing the opportunity for retribution.

Like, for example, pleading for the State of Alabama to stay the execution of a convicted killer.

That’s what the family of Faith Hall wanted. They felt so strongly about it that they reached out to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Don’t kill the man who killed our loved one. Let him die a natural death in prison. Executing him won’t bring her back.

Joe Nathan James Jr. is the convicted killer in question. He was found guilty of murdering Ms. Hall in 1999.

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She was 26 years old and the mother of two children. Ms. Hall and James had dated briefly. He reportedly had stalked and harassed her for months before their final encounter.

Terryln, one of the Hall children, was about six years on that fateful day. She told the Associated Press how she and other members of her family decided to oppose James’ execution.

“We thought about it and prayed about it,” she said. “We found it in ourselves to forgive him for what he did.”

This level of forgiveness is hard to fathom. It defies conventional logic. But among us believers, the consensus is that it is worth pursuing.

That doesn’t mean I understand it, though. So, I continue to marvel at the miracle the Halls are showing us.

There’s one other thing I don’t understand. Why do state officials think Alabama has a more compelling interest in killing James than the Hall family does?

I raise this point because that’s what Attorney General Marshall reportedly said in his letter to Gov. Ivey. The execution must proceed, according to Marshall, because “it is our obligation to ensure that justice is done for the people of Alabama.”

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To be clear, the only way to provide justice to the people of Alabama is to kill James? Aren’t the Hall family counted among the people of Alabama? Shouldn’t what they want count more than the rest of us since they were directly affected by the murder?

There are 5,660 people who are serving some type of life sentence in Alabama prisons – life without parole, life with parole or 50-plus years, which is called virtual life. My guess is that one more wouldn’t overly burden the system.

Not that I’m in denial about the heinous nature of James’ crime. Stalking and killing an ex-lover is evil.

And I’ll also admit this: If James had killed my mother, I probably would hate him and want to see him dead.

Terryln Hall apparently understands this struggle.

“I did hate him,” she told the Associated Press. “I did. As I got older and realized, you can’t walk around with hate in your heart. I can’t pass it down to my kids and have them walk around with hate in their hearts.”

Confronting her hate eventually led Ms. Hall to forgiveness. Not so for the State of Alabama.

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“My staff and I have researched all the records and all the facts,” Gov. Ivey said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. “There’s no reason to change the procedure or modify the outcome. The execution will go forward.”

So by Thursday evening, July 28, another soul will be killed by the State of Alabama at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. Because the Governor could find no reasonnot to – no reason, perhaps, except the one she’s chosen to ignore.

“I know it may sound crazy,” Terryln Hall said. “Like, you really want this man to live? But I just feel like we can’t play God.”

Amen.

David Person is a media personality and consultant who has been working in the Huntsville market since 1986 as a talk show host, columnist, and director/producer. David co-hosts the podcast Alabama Politics This Week.

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