The Governor's Pardon

"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:19, 20

John Henry Smith sat on death row for nearly a quarter century awaiting his execution.  The inmates in regular population, and the prison guards, often referred to John as a "walking dead man" as the date of his death by electric chair drew near.

On the eve of his execution, John ordered and consumed his last meal, a king's feast which consisted of a huge Porterhouse steak; Maine lobster tails; corn on the cob; a baked potato with sour cream and chives, and broccoli spears.  After visiting with Chaplain Hall, John looked over at his favorite prison guard Bobby Ray - a personal friend - who had come to say good-bye and to escort him to the electric chair.

"It's time."  Bobby Ray wasn't much with words on such a solemn and sad occasion.  John stood up and put his hands behind his back and Bobby cuffed him, being careful to place the cuffs just above the Jesus on the cross and the word "Forgiven" tattooed on his wrists.

As the three of them left his cell to begin the long walk down the dark corridor of death row to the appointed place, they were startled by the sound of the unit door bursting open behind them.  They turned to see the deputy warden running helter-skelter towards them. "Wait a minute John!  I've got a message from the governor for you!"  he gasped out, trying to catch his breath.  "What is it?"  John wondered aloud as Bobby Ray took the Fedex out of the warden's hand and passed it to the chaplain. Chaplain Hall opened the letter, cleared his throat and read deliberately, straining his eyes in the dim light:

September 15, 1991
Joe "Ned" Burgess, III, Governor
The State of Mississippi

Re:  Petition for Formal Review for Clemency in the Matter of the State of Mississippi v. John Henry Aaron Smith

"Dear Mr. Smith,

The Code of Mississippi gives statutory authority to the governor's office, upon petition by the inmate's legal counsel, to order a discretionary review of a prisoner's death sentence once the appellate process has been exhausted. Said review is neither a vouchsafe of the merits of a particular case nor a guarantee of any further action by this office.   As you are aware this office granted your petition for a formal review.  The review process began last month and was completed just this morning.

On the basis of the aforementioned review, with unanimous recommendations from your defense counsel, the state's attorney, the state board of parole and pardons, and the state Attorney General, by the authority invested in me by the state of Mississippi, I have hereby ordered (1) an emergency stay of execution of the state's order to carry out the sentence of death; and (2) full clemency to the petitioner herein named.  A secondary order to reduce petitioner's sentence to time served and grant writ of habeas corpus will follow speedily.

Congratulations, John.  You're a free man.


Ned Burgess, Governor


John Allen Green, Warden

Allen Victor Lundquist, Esquire

Victoria Greyson, Esquire

Dawson Harkness, Attorney General"

Bobby Ray bear hugged John and squeezed him tightly like a rag doll.  "John Henry!  You're not going to the chair! You're free man!  Free!!"

John could hardly believe his ears.  "Chaplain, is it true?"

"Apparently so John.  The Lord is good!"

Tears of joy began to fall as the reality hit John.  "I'm free!  No, I'm frrreeeee!  Haahaa yes Lord! Thank you!  Thank you!!"

The governor's last minute letter to John reminds me of God so freely granting us clemency, pardoning us of all our sins and setting us free from the wages of sin - death - through the free gift of his Son Jesus Christ.  Like John, we were all guilty as charged and were sitting on death row.  But by faith we pray to God the Father in the name of his Son Jesus and ask him to pardon us from sin and give us new life.  And the Father freely pardons all who call on the name of Jesus and by faith receive the the forgiveness of our sins through his shed blood.  We died to the law and by faith are crucified with Christ.  Yet we live, because the Savior died and rose again, and lives in us.  Praise God for his marvelous pardon and full salvation through Christ Jesus!


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