This past week my heart was warmed and saddened at the same time by a story in the Miami Herald about a man who had been set free after being incarcerated for twenty four years for a crime he didn’t commit. Crotzer is not the first, and hopefully would not be the last. Technology, via DNA testing, has made it possible for someone’s innocence or guilt to be proven years after a crime was committed. So today Crotzer and many others are free as a result of this, as well as the untiring efforts of their defense lawyers and the New York-based Innocence Project.
Many people rejoice at this turn of events, but for Crotzer and others like him who lost a big chunk of their lives, the road to true freedom is littered with obstacles. Diaz, a man freed after twenty six years, hardly ever leaves his house. His wife remarried, and he now lives with his daughter and her family. Crotzer, on the other hand, would like to find a job. But what skills does he have to live and work in the twenty first century? When he was released he had to be taught how to use a cell phone and how to swipe a card to open a hotel door, according to the Herald. A lot has taken place in twenty-four years.
However, two things struck me most about this story. The first is that Crotzer said he had no bitterness against anyone for robbing him of twenty-four years of his life. To suffer what he suffered and not be bitter is almost unbelievable. It’s almost like Jesus asking God to forgive the Roman soldiers for crucifying Him. How many of us could be like that? I don’t know if I could.
The other thing that struck me is that Crotzer’s mother passed away four years prior to his release. Crotzer said that is the one thing he regretted. And I believe that mother must have been praying all the while she waited for something to happen. Never underestimate the power of prayer. You might not live to see the answer, but the answer will come if you persist in prayer.
So let us send up a prayer of thanksgiving for Crotzer and the others, let us pray for the defense lawyers and the Innocence Project. Most of all, let us pray that the deadline, set for July of this year in Florida, for cases to be retried based on DNA evidence will be removed completely so that more innocent victims could be set free.