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Baptist pastor whose father was shot and partially paralyzed believes ‘Rehabilitation is always possible’

Michael R. Duncan, a pastor at Eminence Baptist Church in Eminence, Ky, believes rehabilitation is always possible: he's witnessed it in the man who shot and paralyzed his father.

Michael R. Duncan, a pastor at Eminence Baptist Church in Eminence, Ky., believes rehabilitation is always possible: he's witnessing it in the man who shot and partially paralyzed his father.

Michael R. Duncan, pastor at the Eminence Baptist Church in Eminence, Ky., shares his thoughts on the recent sentencing of Cecil New to life in prison for the 2007 kidnapping and murder of 4-year-old Ivan Cano. (During the sentencing, Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman said the the death penalty was not harsh enough for New: “Death is easy,” she said. “Living outside of death row, in general population, in fear of prison justice every day is a hell more suited to you, Mr. New, than living under the protective guise of death row.”)

Having never been a supporter of the death penalty, I was pleased to read this morning that Mr. New received life without parole. I was not so pleased to read the judge’s comments. While Mr. New may not be open to rehabilitation, to say, “There’s not one cell in your body, Cecil New, that can be rehabilitated, not one,” as the judge did, was a bit over top. While understandable given the heinous nature of his crime, such comments ought not to come from the bench.

In a Missouri prison, there is a man, Mr. Patterson, serving life without parole the killing of his wife and and life for the shooting of my father that left him near death and partially paralyzed for the remainder of his life. Months after the shooting, I watched my father take Mr. Patterson’s hand and forgive him. For the past decade, Mr. Patterson and I have exchanged Christmas cards and notes a few times each year. He will never exit prison, but he is a different and better man than he was. Rehabilitation is always possible…and were we the “Christian nation” we claim to be, we would know such to be the case.

For more information on Rev. Duncan’s thoughts about the man who shot his father, please read “A Shattered Dawn Redeemed.”

Photo: Courtesy Michael R. Duncan

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