A Long Good Friday
I think Christ must be especially sorrowful over all those those who wrongly killed or were killed in his name. Some of those killed or were killed in famous wars, some burned or were burned as famous heretics. But others were entangled in more strange and singular circumstances. The case that has been haunting me this week could be an episode of New York’s Law & Order. But it is real life in Indiana.
This past Monday, the Indiana Court of Appeals sat at Notre Dame Law School, hearing the case of Lawson v. State. Latisha Lawson was convicted of murder, and various lesser counts, for killing her two year old son in the course of exorcising a specific demon from his body. Rather than reporting this to the authorities, and giving her son a proper burial, she waited (for months) for him to be resurrected. She slept in the bed next to him for at least a month, and then hauled his body around in a container and a sack. (You can find the briefs here.)
There are some troubling features of the situation. It’s not entirely obvious to me from the briefs, for example, that she really intended to kill the child, or foresaw his death (she might have just been intending to give him the olive oil and vinegar combination in order to make him expel the demon by vomiting.) If she did intend to kill him so that Jesus would raise him, well most of us would say, “that’s insane.” The trouble is, however, that the legal definition of insanity is far narrower than our common sense definition.
At any rate, Lawson was convicted after a jury trial, and sentenced to over fifty years in prison. It is extremely difficult to overturn a jury verdict, and while it happens a lot on television, it’s rarely done in real life. Why? In part because the jury has the opportunity to assess the credibility of the witnesses, including the defendants, in person–not merely on paper, as happens in an appellate appeal.
As I said, the case haunts me, especially today. We human beings are so broken, so sinful, and so in need of redemption.
So please say a prayer for Latisha and her children, as you go about your Triduum.