Cornelius Dupree is a free man after having spent 30 years in a Texas prison. A DNA test has shown he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. A jury of 12, however, had been convinced of his guilt 30 years ago.
Judgment is always tricky for us humans. We can never have perfect or complete knowledge. It is an inevitable flaw in any earthly justice system. We understand this problem; yet, we also understand that society requires some form of a justice system. Why are we so prone to forget our own limitations?
This morning at the gym I overheard two gentlemen discussing a situation where some city workers were not doing their job, and how their union told the city that they could not be fired. I have no idea whether this story was anything more than an urban legend, but as I was listening, I couldn’t help but think, “I bet there’s more to this story.”
It has become sport for us to take some snippet of information and launch into a full blown analysis and judgment. It’s curious how these judgments almost always support one of our own deeply held notions. This sport is fed by the many people in the media who earn their wage by setting this process in motion.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns, “‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7:1-2, NRSV). And when a woman was caught in adultery and was about to be receive the punishment of stoning, he suggested, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV).
Whether one is a believer in a supreme being or not, one must acknowledge the limits to our knowledge. Such an acknowledgment should lead to humility in passing judgment. Today Cornelius Dupree is enjoying his freedom. We should consider with sobriety how many other innocents remain imprisoned in our society.