The verdict is in. Conrad Murray has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of pop legend Michael Jackson.
Halfway across the nation, a stay of execution has been granted to Hank Skinner, sentenced to death for a 1993 triple murder involving his girlfriend and her two adult sons. The stay is temporary while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decides whether or not a new state DNA law, SB122, signed by Gov. Rick Perry, applies in Skinner's case.
Breaking news this week is the scandal at Penn State. Yet to be determined is who knew what when and what they did with that information. Known to be true today is that eight boys lost, at minimum, their innocence.
And within the McCook, Nebraska, city limits, family and friends of the late Dave Moreau are still waiting for his killer, not only to be named, but found and brought to justice.
Michael Jackson was the cute little guy with the high voice who completed the Jackson 5 back in the '60s. I took only cursory notice of his career through the years -- which isn't a reflection of his talent, which was legendary, but of my own disinterest. I am no one's "greatest fan." I enjoy good music. I enjoy good books. I enjoy good movies. But that's as far as it goes. (I got over my "star-struck" stage as soon as I realized Davey Jones didn't know I was alive and wouldn't care if he did.)
Today, Michael Jackson inspires a profound sadness in my heart. I fear our culture's adulation contributed to his downfall; he could not live up to that level of idolatry -- no man can. In his attempt to do so, he became a tortured soul who came to a tragic end. Courtroom testimony demonstrates that he had plenty of help reaching that end, and I dare say not just at the hands of Conrad Murray.
Yes, Michael Jackson's life matters. And not because of his name.
He was created in the image of God.
He was loved by God from first thought.
He was mourned as his life spiraled further and further out of control.
And he was mourned when he met his end.
In 1995, Hank Skinner was convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby and her two developmentally disabled sons, Elwin "Scooter" Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20.
Skinner has maintained his innocence and has petitioned the courts repeatedly to allow DNA testing on all of the evidence collected at the scene of the murders. It is important to note that the stay, issued Monday, Nov. 7, does not guarantee that the DNA tests will be done. At least Texas now has time to rethink that "express lane" mentality Ron White touts in his Blue Collar Comedy Tour schtick.
Twila Busby matters. Her sons' lives matter. So, too, does Hank Skinner. Each were created in the image of God. Each were loved by God from first thought. Each were mourned when someone took their lives or their freedom from them.
At Penn State, it looks like there is plenty of guilt to go around. When the full truth emerges, more than one man will bear the weight of the harm done, not only to the eight young boys, but to their own hearts, darkened by their silence, darkened by their complicity.
Each of them matter. Each were created in the image of God. Each were loved by God from first thought. And as darkness descended on each heart, the dimming light of innocence was mourned.
It matters. Everyone impacted matters. Hank Skinner. Twila Busby. Her sons. Those young boys matter as do those who concealed or covered up the crimes against them. Dave Moreau matters.
Dave helped Danny and me move into our home in 2001. He and Danny had worked together on a couple of "side jobs" over the years and Danny knew he was a man of integrity as well as a hard worker. Fortunately for us, Dave was willing to take the job for what we could afford to pay. He stayed until the job was well and truly finished, unfailingly kind and polite in spite of our short tempers, frayed by trying to do too much in too little time. I will always remember him with a smile.
For the most part, Dave lived in the midst of a community that scarcely noticed that he drew breath. Did our indifference contribute to his demise? Dave searched for a place and a purpose among us and one night, as his search continued, his life came to a tragic end.
Dave was created in the image of God.
Dave was loved by God from first thought.
He was mourned as he went from place to place, seemingly unaware of his place in God's heart, and he was mourned when his life was taken from him on July 18, 2004.
God hates murder and loves justice. However, if there is anything he hates more than murder, it may well be to see the innocent punished in place of the guilty. In establishing the Law, he set strict guidelines in place to prevent that very thing from happening, requiring the testimony of two or three witnesses in every matter. And woe to those who falsely imprison or accuse, because according to the Law, the penalty for bearing false witness was to be the same as the penalty to be meted out to the one falsely accused. (Deuteronomy 19:15-19)
I don't know if Hank Skinner is guilty. I don't know if Conrad Murray deserves the sentence that will be meted out following his conviction, or who else in that long, sad story deserves a similar fate. Although it is impossible to restore innocence, we need to understand that there are times in our lives when we are called to do the right thing, even when doing so bears a high cost, and at Penn State too many failed. I do not know who struck Dave Moreau after Dave allegedly celebrated a rare financial windfall at the neighborhood watering hole, taking his life and what was left of his "winnings."
Conrad Murray knows. So, too, does Hank Skinner. As does Dave's murderer. As do those involved in the Penn State scandal. And they're not alone. God knows. And he alone judges rightly. And he who judges rightly knows when we have turned a blind eye to sin, thereby becoming complicit in it.
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Genesis 4:9 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.