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Monday, February 26, 2007
February 4, 2007
Diversity lies at the very matrix of all creation. From the protons and neutrons that are the composition of molecules, the billions of cells that form the human body, to the many planets and stars that comprise our solar system, diversity teaches us the value of order, coalescence and balance.
The term "diversity" embodies the adage, "The sum is greater than its parts." It is a reminder that we live in a pluralistic society, and that we each possess unique qualities; the ingredients for a melting pot of greatness.
Diversity denotes change and progression. It recognizes the variations in all things and is a symbol of mutual respect and understanding. Its powerful influence opens eyes, and topples walls. It inspires us to read, critique and appreciate the world more closely.
Through diversity myriad ideas are borne. The formulation of the most important cures and solutions to society's ills have spawned from the minds of diverse people and thoughts. All great nations are governed by cabinets and councils comprised of individuals from various backgrounds and experiences.
Diversity is a concept with boundless possibilities. It is a universal principle that should be taught to every child from birth and made an indelible part of their lives. It nourishes critical thinking, stirs up excitement, and creates bonds.
When we are children we play with other children and make no distinction between our peers. We view them with a pure heart and recognize they are human like us. During this time our intentions and feelings about others are innocent and pure.
It isn't until our young fertile minds become polluted with prejudice and emphasis on the differences between people by the influences of others that we abandon our innocence and embrace destructive views of other human beings. We totally forget that we should share the earth we were given the opportunity to live on, and we should enjoy it together rather than try to hoard the gifts of life.
One of the most important events and examples of diversity that occurred in the nation's history was the abolishment of slavery. Slavery was one of the worst forms of cruelty and evils to manifest in the country. It destroyed lives and damaged the psyche of generations.
The end of slavery was the beginning of diverse changes that swept the country. If not for the end of slavery it would still be ravishing the country today and we would still live in a segregated society.
No civilized society can thrive without diversity. It will only become increasingly degenerate over time and be the cause of its own demise. There are societies who have plummeted into the annals of history due to their refusal to embrace diversity and celebrate the differences that are a natural part of our lives. Arrogance and false senses of superiority have torn to shreds the moral fabric of great nations.
I view the absence of diversity in our lives as akin to the absence of sustenance. It contravenes the very concept of animation and destroys the human spirit. The presence of diversity, on the other hand, represents a life-sustaining force and the perpetuity of life.
Diversity is essential for people to appreciate the contributions made by every human being in the world regardless of their origin, beliefs or way of life. Once properly understood and employed it can transform the entire world and renew its collective mind with progressive thoughts, thereby making it a better place.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
A member of Latinos Unidos, in 2001 Elena produced a documentary film entitled Los Repatriados: Exiles from the Promised Land, about the depression-era deportation of Mexicans from Michigan. She also recently founded a new Latino Workers Center in Detroit, the Centro Obrero.
During Elena's visit with Efren she pledged to assist him, as well as his family and supporters, by joining The Injustice Must End (TIME) committee and combining their efforts to get justice for Efren. The visit went very well and was productive for all those present. Efren and Elena took a photograph during the visit which appears in this post.
On February 4, 2007 Elena disseminated an e-mail to her extensive list of e-mail contacts stating the following:
I wish to direct you to the web site of Efren Paredes, Jr., from St. Joseph, Michigan, who was sentenced to three life terms at age 15. I have joined his family in their efforts to get him a new trial or a commutation this year, in 2007. There are several reasons I am assisting in this effort, but I ask you to read the materials and sign his online petition.
Please share this information with your lists who may be willing to help get this young man out of prison. We will all benefit from his freedom. He is a valuable asset to those of us in the human rights struggle. Read some of his writings and see the person he is.
Regardless of these facts, Efren has been wrongly incarcerated as a child and is now 33-years-old. He has been in prison for 18 years and his family and friends have not give up on him. We, in the rest of the state, are being asked by Efren and his family to add our voices and resources to this case.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Detroit Committee to Free Efren Paredes, Jr.
Please read Efren's web site at http://www.4efren.com/ and sign his online petition at www.petitionspot.com/petitions/4Efren.
On February 8, 2007 Elena dispatched an e-mail to Efren's family informing them of her intention to gather 1,000 signatures between now and March 15 to submit along with a commutation to Governor Granholm's office requesting Efren's release. She chose March 15 because it is the day Efren commences his 18th year of incarceration.
Elena will be fervently working during the next month to gather the necessary signatures in the Detroit area at various meetings and functions she will be attending. We are grateful for Elena's efforts and wish her much success with her with these endeavors. Please support Elena and our campaign to restore Efren's much deserved freedom.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
House of Representatives Judiciary Committee
December 1, 1998
My name is Alan M. Dershowitz and I have been teaching criminal law at Harvard Law School for 35 years. I have also participated in the litigation — especially at the appellate level — of hundreds of federal and state cases, many of them involving perjury and the making of false statements. I have edited a casebook on criminal law and have written 10 books and hundreds of articles dealing with subjects relating to the issues before this committee. It is an honor to have been asked to share my experience and expertise with you all here today.
For nearly a quarter century, I have been teaching, lecturing and writing about the corrosive influences of perjury in our legal system, especially when committed by those whose job it is to enforce the law, and ignored — or even legitimized — by those whose responsibilities it is to check those who enforce the law.
On the basis of my academic and professional experience, I believe that no felony is committed more frequently in this country than the genre of perjury and false statements. Perjury during civil depositions and trials is so endemic that a respected appellate judge once observed that "experienced lawyers say that, in large cities, scarcely a trial occurs in which some witness does not lie." He quoted a wag to the effect that cases often are decided "according to the preponderance of perjury." Filing false tax returns and other documents under pains and penalties of perjury is so rampant that everyone acknowledges that only a tiny fraction of offenders can be prosecuted. Making false statements to a law enforcement official is so commonplace that the Justice Department guidelines provide for prosecution of only some categories of this daily crime. Perjury at criminal trials is so common that whenever a defendant testifies and is found guilty, he has presumptively committed perjury. Police perjury in criminal cases — particularly in the context of searches and other exclusionary rule issues — is so pervasive that the former police chief of San Jose and Kansas City has estimated that "hundreds of thousands of law-enforcement officers commit felony perjury every year testifying about drug arrests" alone.
In comparison with their frequency, it is likely that false statement crimes are among the most underprosecuted in this country. Though state and federal statutes carry stringent penalties for perjury, few perjurers ever actually are subjected to those penalties. As prosecutor E. Michael McCann has concluded, "Outside of income tax evasion, perjury is…probably the most underprosecuted crime in America." Moreover, there is evidence that false statements are among the most selectively prosecuted of all crimes, and that the criteria for selectivity bears little relationship to the willfulness or frequency of the lies, the certainty of the evidence or any other neutral criteria relating to the elements of perjury or other false statement crimes. Professor Richard H. Underwood, the Spears-Gilbert Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky's law school, writes that:
more often, the [perjury] law has been invoked for revenge, or for the purpose of realizing some political end (the very base reason that lies are sometimes told!), or for the purpose of nabbing a criminal who might otherwise be difficult to nab, or, dare I say it, for the purpose of gaining some tactical advantage. Proving that perjury was committed, or that a "false statement" or a "false claim" was made, may be an easier, or a more palatable, brief for the prosecution.
Historically, false statements generally have admitted of considerable variations in degree. The core concept of perjury was that of "bearing false witness," a biblical term that consisted in accusing another of crime.
Clearly, the most heinous brand of lying is the giving of false testimony that results in the imprisonment or even execution of an innocent person. Less egregious, but still quite serious, is false testimony that results in the conviction of a person who committed the criminal conduct, but whose rights were violated in a manner that would preclude conviction if the police were to testify truthfully. There are many other points on this continuum, ranging from making false statements about income or expenses to testifying falsely in civil trials. The least culpable genre of false statements are those that deny embarrassing personal conduct of marginal relevance to the matter at issue in the legal proceeding.
Much of the public debate about President Clinton and possible perjury appears to ignore the following important lessons of history:
1. that the overwhelming majority of individuals who make false statements under oath are not prosecuted;
2. that those who are prosecuted generally fall into some special category of culpability or are victims of selective prosecution; and,
3. that the false statements of which President Clinton is accused fall at the most marginal end of the least culpable genre of this continuum of offenses and would never even be considered for prosecution in the routine case involving an ordinary defendant.
My interest in the corrosive effects of perjury began in the early1970s when I represented — on a pro bono basis — a young man who was both a member of and a government informer against the Jewish Defense League. He was accused of making a bomb that caused the death of a woman, but he swore that a particular policeman, who had been assigned to be his handler, had made him certain promises in exchange for his information. The policeman categorically denied making any promises, but my client had — unbeknownst to the policeman — surreptitiously taped many of his conversations with the policeman. The tapes proved beyond any doubt that the policeman had committed repeated perjury, and all charges were dropped against my client. But the policeman was never charged with perjury. Instead he was promoted.
The following year, I represented, on appeal, a lawyer accused of corruption. The major witness against him was a policeman who acknowledged at trial that he himself had committed three crimes while serving as a police officer. He denied that he had committed more than these three crimes. It was subsequently learned that he had, in fact, committed hundreds of additional crimes, including some he specifically denied under oath. He too was never prosecuted for perjury, because a young Assistant U.S. Attorney, named Rudolph Giuliani, led a campaign against prosecuting this admitted perjurer. Shortly afterward, the policeman explained:
Cops are almost taught how to commit perjury when they are in the Police Academy. Perjury to a policeman — and to a lawyer, by the way — is not a big deal. Whether they are giving out speeding tickets or parking tickets, they're almost always lying. But very few cops lie about the actual facts of a case. They may stretch an incident or whatever to fit it into the framework of the law based on what they consider a silly law of the Supreme Court.
Nor is the evidence of police perjury merely anecdotal. Numerous commission reports have found rampant abuses in police departments throughout the country. All objective reports point to a pervasive problem of police lying, and tolerance of the lying by prosecutors and judges, all in the name of convicting the factually guilty whose rights may have been violated and whose convictions might be endangered by the exclusionary rule.
As the Mollen Commission reported:
The practice of police falsification in connection with such arrests is so common in certain precincts that it has spawned its own word: "testilying." . . . Officers also commit falsification to serve what they perceive to be "legitimate" law enforcement ends — and for ends that many honest and corrupt officers alike stubbornly defend as correct. In their view, regardless of the legality of the arrest, the defendant is in fact guilty and ought to be arrested.
Even more troubling, in the Mollen Commission's view, "the evidence suggests that the . . . commanding officer not only tolerated, but encouraged, this unlawful practice." The commission provided several examples of perjured cover stories that had been suggested to a young officer by his supervisor:
Scenarios were, were you going to say (a) that you observed what appeared to be a drug transaction; (b) you observed a bulge in the defendant's waistband; or (c) you were informed by a male black, unidentified at this time, that at the location there were drug sales.
QUESTION: So, in other words, what the lieutenant was telling you is "Here's your choice of false predicates for the arrest."
OFFICER: That's correct. Pick which one you're going to use.
Nor was this practice limited to police supervisors. As the Mollen Commission reported:
Several former and current prosecutors acknowledged — "off the record" — that perjury and falsification are serious problems in law enforcement that, though not condoned, are ignored. The form this tolerance takes, however, is subtle, which makes accountability in this area especially difficult.
The epidemic is conceded even among the highest ranks of law enforcement. For example, William F. Bratton, who has headed the police departments of New York City and Boston, has confirmed that "testilying" is a "real problem that needs to be addressed." He also placed some of the responsibility squarely at the feet of prosecutors:
When a prosecutor is really determined to win, the trial prep procedure may skirt along the edge of coercing or leading the police witness. In this way, some impressionable young cops learn to tailor their testimony to the requirements of the law.
Many judges who listen to or review police testimony on a regular basis privately agree with Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who publicly stated: "It is an open secret long shared by prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges that perjury is widespread among law enforcement officers," and that the reason for it is that "the exclusionary rule . . . sets up a great incentive for . . . police to lie to avoid letting someone they think is guilty, or they know is guilty, go free." Or, as Judge Irving Younger explained, "Every lawyer who practices in the criminal courts knows that police perjury is commonplace."
As these judges attest, this could not happen without active complicity of many prosecutors and judges. Yet there is little apparent concern to remedy that serious abuse of the oath to tell the truth — even among those who now claim to be so concerned with the corrosive influences of perjury on our legal system. The sad reality appears to be that most people care about perjury only when they disapprove of the substance of the lie or of the person who is lying.
A perfect example of selective morality regarding perjury occurred when President George Bush pardoned former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in 1992, even though physical records proved that Weinberger had lied in connection with his testimony regarding knowledge of Iran arms sales. Not only was there no great outcry against pardoning an indicted perjurer, some of the same people who insist that President Clinton not be allowed to "get away" with lying were perfectly prepared to see Weinberger "get away" with perjury. Senator Bob Dole of Kansas spoke for many when he called the pardon a "Christmas Eve act of courage and compassion."
The real issue is not the handful of convicted perjurers appearing before this committee, but the hundreds of thousands of perjurers who are never prosecuted, many for extremely serious and calculated acts of perjury designed to undercut constitutional rights of unpopular defendants.
If we really want to reduce the corrosive effects of perjury on our legal system, the place to begin is at or near the top of the perjury hierarchy. If instead we continue deliberately to blind ourselves to pervasive police perjury and other equally dangerous forms of lying under oath and focus on a politically charged tangential lie in the lowest category of possible perjury (hiding embarrassing facts only marginally relevant to a dismissed civil case), we would be reaffirming the dangerous message that perjury will continue to be a selectively prosecuted crime reserved for political or other agenda-driven purposes.
A Republican aide to this committee was quoted by The New York Times as follows:
"In the hearing, we'll be looking at perjury and its consequences, and whether it is tenable for a nation to have two different standards for lying under oath; one for the President and one for everyone else."
On the basis of my research and experiences, I am convinced that if President Clinton were an ordinary citizen, he would not be prosecuted for his allegedly false statements, which were made in a civil deposition about a collateral sexual matter later found inadmissible in a case eventually dismissed and then settled. If President Clinton were ever to be prosecuted or impeached for perjury on the basis of the currently available evidence, it would indeed represent an improper double standard: a selectively harsher one for the president (and perhaps a handful of other victims of selective prosecution) and the usual laxer one for everyone else.
1. Jerome Frank, Courts On Trial 85 (1949).
2. Many such defendants now have years added on to their sentences under the federal guidelines, which add points for perjury at trial.
3. Joseph D. McNamara, Has the Drug War Created an Officer Liars' Club?, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11, 1996, at M1.
4. From Mark Curriden, The Lies Have It, A.B.A. J., May 1995, at 71, quoted in Lisa C. Harris, Perjury Defeats Justice, 42 Wayne L. Rev. 1755, 1768-69 (1996) (footnote omitted). See also Hon.Sonia Sotomayor & Nicole A. Gordon, Returning Majesty to the Law and Politics: A Modern Approach, 30 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 35, 51 n.52 (1996) ("Perjury cases are not often pursued, and perhaps should be given greater consideration by prosecuting attorneys as a means of enhancing the credibility of the trial system generally."); Fred Cohen, Police Perjury: An Interview With Martin Garbus, 8 Crim. L. Bull. 363, 367 (1972), quoted in Christopher Slobogin, Testilying: Police Perjury and What to Do About It, 67 U. Colo. L. Rev. 1037, 1060 n.13 (1996) ("…no trial lawyer that I know will argue that police perjury is nonexistent or sporadic.")
5. Richard H. Underwood, Perjury: An Anthology, 13 Ariz. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 307, 379 (1996).
6. See, e.g., Richard H. Underwood, False Witness: A Lawyer's History of the Law of Perjury, 10 Ariz. J. Int'l & Comp. L. 215,252 n.157 (1993).
7. See, e.g., Underwood, id. at 223 and accompanying note 37.
8. See Dershowitz, The Best Defense 67 (1982). The chief of detectives of New York wrote a book about this case in which he confirmed these facts. See Albert Seedman, Chief! (1974).
9. See Dershowitz, The Best Defense, supra note 8, at 377. This was confirmed in a book entitled Prince of the City (and a motion picture of the same name), whose contents were approved by the policeman. See Robert Daley, Prince of the City (1978).
10. Commission to Investigate Allegations of Police Corruption and the Anti-Corruption Practices of the Police Department, Milton Mollen, Chair; July 7, 1994, at 36 [hereinafter Mollen Report]. The report then went on to describe how officers reported a litany of manufactured tales. For example, when officers unlawfully stop and search a vehicle because they believe it contains drugs or guns, officers will falsely claim in police reports and under oath that the car ran a red light (or committed some other traffic violation) and that they subsequently saw contraband in the car in plain view. To conceal an unlawful search of an individual who officers believe is carrying drugs or a gun, they will falsely assert that they saw a bulge in the person's pocket or saw drugs and money changing hands. To justify unlawfully entering an apartment where officers believe narcotics or cash can be found, they pretend to have information from an unidentified civilian informant. Id. at 38.
11. Mollen Report, supra note 10, at 41.
12. Mollen Report, supra note 10, at 42.
13. Boston Globe, November 15, 1995, at 1.
14. Stuart Taylor, Jr., For the Record, American Lawyer, Oct. 1995, at 72.
15. Irving Younger, The Perjury Routine, The Nation, May 8, 1967, at 596-97.
16. Elaine Sciolino, On the Question of Pardons, Dole has Taken Both Sides, The New York Times, 16 Oct. 1996, at A15.
17. Eric Schmitt, Panel Considers Perjury and Its Consequences, The New York Times, Nov. 28, 1998, at A13.
Friday, February 2, 2007
by Efren Paredes, Jr.
News of Rick's Death
I first heard about the death of Rick Tetzlaff the morning following his murder at Vineland Foods. I learned about his death from a police officer named Dennis Padgett who was investigating the crime. It was Padgett's job to interview people who worked with Rick at Vineland Foods the evening he was murdered in search of information that may help solve the crime.
I was one of several people who worked with Rick the evening of his unfortunate death, Wednesday, March 8, 1989. I also received a ride home from him that night after work. Rick did this as a favor to my family and me because I stayed longer to work that evening to sort bottles at his request. Business at the store had been very busy that day due to it being double coupon day and I was unable to finish all my job duties at the regular time.
I was not scheduled to work at Vineland Foods that day. The only reason I did work was because Rick called me at home that afternoon and asked me to. One of the other grocery baggers hurt himself and they needed someone to work in his stead. I was the person who Rick asked to work. I was probably the person Rick chose to call because I was always willing to work extra days if I was not going to be participating in school-related activities that afternoon/evening.
The news of Rick's death stunned me. I was initially in disbelief because I had just worked with, spoken to, and received a ride home from Rick the previous evening. I was awakened early by Officer Padgett's call to our home that morning telling me of Rick's death the night before. Minutes after the phone call he arrived at our home to ask me if I saw anything suspicious at the store that evening or knew anything about what may have occurred.
After realizing both the reality and gravity of what Officer Padgett told me regarding Rick's death I remember thinking to myself, "That could have been me murdered that night. What if the crime had occurred while I was present. I, too, could have been killed." These were recurring thoughts I had. I recall that thought overwhelming me one night. I cried because it seemed that no one other than me could really relate to this.
I dismissed these thoughts by reasoning that people did not experience the same things I did. They did not work with Rick the evening he was murdered. They did not receive a ride home from him that night. They did not hear him say, "I'll see you tomorrow."
I also did not want to be perceived as acting like a child. I did not receive counseling and no one asked me if I wanted to visit a counselor. I later learned that school officials were asked to watch me and other students from the school who were rumored to be involved in the Vineland Foods crime soon after the crime occurred (i.e., Eric Mui, Alex Mui, Jason Williamson, and Steve Miller). They were also made aware that I worked at Vineland Foods the night of the murder. Despite having this information school officials recklessly and irresponsibly made no effort to offer me counseling or see if I needed any help.
As a consequence of no one being concerned if I received counseling or dealing with the traumatic experience of believing that I had possibly just escaped death the night Rick was murdered, my natural 15-year-old mentality at the time was, "Maybe what I am feeling and thinking is abnormal. Get over it."
Thoughts About Rick
Rick was a genuinely good person. He was always kind and respectful, and I viewed him as a positive role model. He always treated me fairly and did not treat me any differently because I was the only minority employed at Vineland Foods, or the fact that I was the youngest employee there. Of the three managers I interacted with at Vineland Foods, to me Rick was the most professional and easiest to communicate with. When I had questions about my work schedule or complaints I felt most comfortable discussing them with him as opposed to others.
We both played soccer and often joked about playing against each other one day. Rick attended Indiana University. It was my dream to one day attend Notre Dame University to study law. I recall how proud Rick was to wear an Indiana University ring he owned. The reason I remember this particularly well is that the ring served as a constant reminder to me that if I continued to do well in school and sports I, too, could one day proudly wear a similar ring from the college I attended.
I often discussed my school activities with Rick because at times I had to ask for my schedule to be adjusted to accommodate certain school or sports activities. He was always supportive of me and arranged my work schedule so my work and school activities did not conflict with each other. Rick encouraged me to do well in school and strive to be successful.
I remember occasionally talking to Rick about girls I liked at school or was communicating with. I would ask him things that normal teenagers would ask an older male about relationships with girls my age and he would give me feedback to questions I presented. If I had a problem or wanted advice about a subject I could go to Rick for assistance. I can not recall one occasion that Rick ever refused to assist me when I asked, if he was able to do so.
It was these qualities about Rick that frequently made me revisit the question, "Why did someone (or more than one person) murder Rick?" He never told me he was having problems with anyone, nor did he give me any reason to believe that anything in his life had escalated to the point of violence. Rick was not a violent person. He was able to diffuse potentially volatile situations and he was a good communicator. I could not imagine why someone would heinously murder him. Rick had a family and I know he did not do anything to anyone to warrant being robbed of his life and family like he was. It was a senseless, unjustifiable murder.
Heart Goes Out to Rick's Family
I felt terrible for Rick's family about his death and still do. They lost a wonderful son, brother, husband, and father for no reason. I will never be able to fully grasp or imagine the pain they endured at the time of his death, or the pain they continue to suffer as a consequence. I prayed for their family then and I continue to do so regularly. I pray that God bless them with comfort and the strength to cope with Rick's tragic loss.
When I was arrested and accused of Rick's death I was amazed that someone would believe I was guilty of committing his murder. What disturbed me the most was people's eagerness to vilify me and say false and hurtful things about me. It was as if they wanted me to be guilty. They sought to transform me from an honor student, athlete, and good worker into the inversion of each. I would be lied about in the media, and then I would subsequently be convicted twice; first in the court of public opinion, next in a court of law.
One of the things that was the subject of much adverse criticism was the fact that I showed little or no emotion during court proceedings. The media wrote about this, my preliminary examination and trial judges both referenced it, the prosecutor spoke about it, and Rick's family wrote about it in their victim impact statements.
What no one knew at the time was that my trial attorney, Andrew Burch, expressly instructed me not to show emotion during court proceedings. His rationale for this was that if people saw me show emotion it could be mis-perceived and interpreted negatively. It became clear after my conviction that hiding my emotions of fear, mental anguish, anger, and confusion about what was taking place was detrimental to my case.
Unfortunately by then it was too late to correct the damage done.
Sixteen years after my conviction Burch wrote a letter admitting that he instructed me to exhibit no emotion during court proceedings. He also admitted that this strategy had an adverse affect on my trial. That letter is available for viewing upon request.
At the sentencing phase of my trial, judge Zoe Burkholz read impact statements written by Rick's family. The letters contained harsh statements about me, and they requested I receive the most severe punishment allowed by the law — life in prison.
Despite these letters to the court I never became angry with Rick's family. I knew they were experiencing deep pain and I sympathized with them. I knew they were provided false and misleading information about me by the police and prosecutor. I also knew they were being barraged by incessant adverse media coverage.
The Principles of Righteousness
I will continue to pray for Rick and his family. I will persist asking that God bless Rick's family with peace of mind and the strength to be well. I will also continue to ask that people respect their privacy and not do anything to cause them discomfort.
Rick's family wanted justice to be done, and they thought justice was done. Unfortunately it was not. They were presented a semblance of justice that turned out to be a miscarriage of justice.
Sincere believers in Christ must earnestly seek to live their lives in a manner that is pleasing to God. This implies that we must incorporate God's laws and words into our daily lives. "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God's sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified." (Holy Bible, Romans 2:13) I am obliged to strive to become one with God. I endeavor to do that daily and also work to inspire others to do so as well.
To act against the will of God is tantamount to rejecting God. I will not stray from the path of righteousness, nor will I compromise my faith. Although I have lost 17 years of my life as a consequence of an egregious case of injustice, and received an onslaught of vicious verbal attacks, I remain committed to the reality that God will never forsake the faithful. I believe that justice in my case will one day be served.
My faith continues to be tested in great measure. I will, however, remain steadfast in my faith and not be overcome by unrighteousness. The tests I continue to endure continue to draw me closer towards God each day. This will remain constant.
I am a firm believer in God and what the Bible instructs concerning mercy, judging others, and speaking evil against others.
"Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself[.]" (Holy Bible, Romans 2:1)
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Holy Bible, Matthew 7:1-2)
"For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." (Holy Bible, James 2:13)
"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?" (Holy Bible, James 4:11-12)
I have never, nor will I ever, be angry with, or express ill feelings toward Rick's family. "[A]nger does not produce God's righteousness." (Holy Bible, James 1:20) I forgave them then for their words against me and I continue to forgive them.
"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Holy Bible, Matthew 6:14-15)
"Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." (Holy Bible, Mark 11:25)
The failure to forgive others is a form of self-righteousness. It is a sin itself, and until others are forgiven, we will not be forgiven. We deprive ourselves of blessings from God when we employ a callous, recalcitrant attitude towards other human beings. Jesus said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you[.]" (Holy Bible, Matthew 7:12) This is such an important commandment that he added, "this sums up the Law and the Prophets."
(This writing was authored by Efren Paredes, Jr. on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006.)