Kim Henderson – Courtroom laments

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, March 3rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson attended a criminal trial recently. And she has some sober reflections on the experience.

KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Last week in Magnolia, Mississippi,  convicted killer Cory Godbolt got the death penalty. Four times. 

It was a dramatic trial with sequestered jurors and 11 days of testimony. Sitting there among reporters, I had a notepad and a front-row seat to the proceedings. But the part I’ll remember most is what happened during the sentencing phase of this capital murder trial—the victim-impact statements.   

That’s when family members who sit silent while others plead their case finally get a chance to speak. It’s when victims get a voice.  

First up was a wife. She described her slain deputy husband as a singer who greeted each day with lines from “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” She said there’s a 13-year-old at her house who wishes he could hear his dad sing that again. Just once. 

Backed by a big screen photo of the smiling uniformed deputy, her words stirred a young lawman at the end of my row to bow his head and weep.

That wife was followed by her mother-in-law. This lady recalled how the deputy’s sister went through with her wedding just two days after her brother was buried. He was supposed to walk her down the aisle. And since he was an ordained minister, he was supposed to do the marrying part, too. The mother went on to say she’s had to move from the town where she was born, the town where she raised her children, to escape the memories. 

Next, parents told about losing their 18-year-old son, a football player the college scouts were courting. His prom picture flashed across the screen while the dad told jurors that his family’s laughs don’t last as long now. He says some things they must accept, but they just don’t know how to yet. 

The impact statements continued with a proud momma remembering an 11-year-old who danced and drew. 

Then a grandmother who misses riding to church with her grandson told about him sounding out hard words in his Sunday School lesson. 

And last on the stand was a young woman who could hardly talk for crying. She’s motherless and missing the encouraging texts she got each morning. “Now, I can’t call her,” she sobbed. “I can’t talk to her.”  

So these brave family members summed up two-and-a-half years of pain in two hours. They tried to put into words the effects of what prosecutors called an “especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel crime.” In the process, they cried. They questioned. They lamented.

In fact, their victim-impact statements expressed the woes of a fallen world, much like the lines of a psalm of lament. The grief, the injustice, the confusion, the despair. But Biblical lament doesn’t stop there. It finds its way to God. 

One of the family members at the trial expressed this to a “T” when she had her turn on the stand. She admitted she didn’t think could make it after her daughter’s murder. Then she told the courtroom she turned to Jesus, and He helped her.

May her impact statement bear much fruit. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

Pike County Courthouse in Magnolia, Mississippi ( Commons/Jimmy Emerson, DVM)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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