When someone is sentenced to death, mostly, many see them as the worst scum of humanity that needs to be done away with. However, lots of things change while people are on death row, and many killers become super-remorseful while some victims’ anger gives way for pity and mercy. In 2011, the execution of the post 911 shootings Mark Stroman attracted attention since one of the people he nearly killed was the one leading the campaign against his execution. It wasn’t the first time a victim requested the government to forgive a death row inmate, though. Here is a look at the most inspiring stories of people on death row getting forgiven by victims.
Marietta Jaeger and David Meirhoffer
The Serial Killer David Meirhoffer committed suicide in his cell in 1974, just hours after confessing to the murder of four people, including three children, one of them Susan Jaeger, the seven-year-old daughter of Marietta Jaeger. Marietta said she felt like strangling her daughter’s kidnapper with her bare hands at first but later decided that she would forgive whoever it was. The serial killer called the victim’s mother exactly one year after the kidnapping, and the police were able to narrow down the description to David Meirhoffer.
Her forgiveness seems to have broken the man, but she told him that she genuinely forgave him. After he committed suicide, Marrietta consoled his mother, and the two were bonded by the loss of their children. Marietta and David’s mother accompanied each other to their children’s graves every year after the suicide. She is also one of the most vocal anti-death penalty activists in the world, having preached forgiveness and reconciliation at many universities and even the UN Human Rights Council.
Brandt Jean and Amber Guyger
Cases of white police officers shooting black people, especially in Texas, rarely have the word forgiveness in them. In September 2018, a Dallas Off-duty cop, Amber Guyger, entered the apartment of Botham Jean and shot him dead. She claimed that she mistook Mr. Jean’s apartment for her own apartment, which was right below that, and that the victim was a burglar.
She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a sentence that most people considered too lenient, but not Brandt Jean, the victim’s brother. He said in court that he forgave her and asked the judge if he could hug Amber. Videos of their tight hug and sobbing before the former officer went to prison made rounds online. Brandt said he hoped Amber would find Christ during her time in prison.
In the wake of the 911 attacks, Mark Stroman lost himself and started hunting down anyone he considered Arab to kill them. One of those men was Rais Bhuyian, a naturalized Bangladeshi-American who worked at a petrol station shop in Texas. He shot Rais at point-blank range in the face leading to loss of sight to one eye, extreme damage to his face, among other disabilities. Rais played dead until Stroman left before crawling out to a nearby barbershop to ask for help. Stroman went ahead to kill two more people, a Pakistani American and an Indian man.
For the murders and the attempted murder, he was sentenced to death, a sentence that was carried out on July 20, 2011. In the nine years, the man was on death row, he became remorseful and regretted his actions saying he was only an uneducated idiot when he committed them. Rais, the only survivor of his hate crimes, became the leader of the fight to prevent Stroman from being killed. He mobilized the relatives of the other victims and requested the murderer to be spared because he believed that killing him would not change anything. He said hate crime would not be eradicated by killing Stroman, but Texas executed Stroman anyway.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide remains one of the worst stains on humanity from the 20th century. Hutus and Tutsis, the two largest communities in Rwanda, went to war against each other, and neighbours turned on neighbours, and the result was too tragic to explain. Then came the reconciliation face where former neighbours had to go back to their homes and, in some cases, live next to the people that killed their loved ones. One man named Jean Claude decided to take the forgiveness story to a whole new level. He set up a foundation in his village and sponsored the son of the man that killed his dad. He now cares for the son of his dad’s murderer as his own son.
Matt Swatzell And Erik Fitzgerald
Firefighters have a tough lifestyle considering the long shifts they have to endure, sometimes staying awake for 48 hours straight. Matt Swatzell was driving from one such shift on the morning of October 2, 2006, when he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into June Fitzgerald’s car. She was pregnant at the time and had her 19-month old daughter with her in the car. The daughter survived, but the pregnant mother and her unborn child passed. Recovery was hard for both Swatzell and Pastor Erik Fitzgerald, the victim’s husband. The bereaved husband decided to take a leap of faith and start meeting with Swatzell to hear his side of the story. The two bonded after regular meetings and even became friends. Fitzgerald was among the witnesses in court that asked for a reduced sentence for Swatzell, and the two are now buddies.
The Saint On Death Row
Weird as it sounds, that name is the title of one of the most read books about forgiveness on the planet today. It is the story of Dominique Jerome Green, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Andrew Lastrapes. Mr Lastrapes died during a robbery gone wrong in which Dominique was involved, although he and the witness from the scene insisted that he didn’t pull the trigger to kill the man. Texas executed him in 2004 anyway. The crime happened while Green was just 18.
During his time on Death Row, Dominique started an initiative of helping other people like him to get off death row and preaching forgiveness. He was even visited by bishop Desmond Tutu, head of the commission for reconciliation after Apartheid in South Africa. Mr Green’s reformation on death row touched so many people that he became a celebrity. He was forgiven by the victim’s wife and his children. Andre Lastrapes, the victim’s son, was on the frontline in cursing the justice system and the state of Texas at Mr Green’s execution in 2004.
Donnie Edward Johnson and Cynthia Vaughn
The state of Tennessee executed Donn Edward Johnson on May 16, 2019, 34 years after sentencing him to death for killing his wife Connie Johnson in 1984. During the 34 years on death, Donnie found God and became an elder of the Seventh Day Adventist church in prison. He preached to other prisoners and became an ambassador of what he called the act of Christian forgiveness.
In April 2019, weeks before his execution, the governor of Tennessee received a visit from Cynthia Vaughn, the victim’s daughter requesting him to commute Donnie’s sentence to Life without Parole. Cynthia said she had found the ability to live and love after forgiving her mother’s killer and would be happy if the state did the same. The governor refused, and Donnie died singing “Soon and very soon…,”
Barbara Mangi and Patrick Ford
According to Barbara Mangi, When you have raised your child, and now to the prime age of 25, then they get murdered by a total stranger, thinking about forgiveness alone feels like betraying their memory. That was her situation with Patrick Ford, the man that strangled and killed her daughter Dana Mangi in his apartment in Aug 2007. The man confessed to first-degree murder but mentally ill and was sentenced to 35 years in Illinois. He expressed remorse at his sentencing and even wrote a letter to the victim’s mother from prison. After years of grieving, Barbara and her husband forgave Patrick. Barbara even wrote a book about her long journey to peace and the forgiveness of her daughter’s killer.
Eva Mozes Kor
Forgiving couldn’t be defined any better than the sweet actions of the Auschwitz survivor Eva Mozes Kor. She was only 10 when she was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was used as a human Guinea Pig by the evil Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. She was meant to die a few days before the Soviet army stormed Auschwitz because Mengele had declared her useless.
She never understood what happened to her at the camp after she was finally freed until she sought an audience with one of the Nazi doctors who served at the camp. In the act of forgiveness, Eva wrote a letter for forgiveness to that doctor as a gift which she said was also a gift to herself. She started a museum in memory of all the victims of Josef Mengele’s experiments and also became an activist for forgiveness around the world. She died in 2019, aged 85.
Candice Mana and Eugene De Kock
De Kock was the leader of the C10 police unit in South Africa, which was tasked with arresting and killing anti-Apartheid activists in the Apartheid government. He was released from prison in 2019 to the shock of many, but Candice Mama, one of his most famous victims, forgave him. De Kock was also known as Prime Evil because of the way he tortured and killed his victims. He actually burned Candice’s dad alive after torturing him.
Candice Mama, named one of the most influential women in the world by Vogue magazine, went to meet De Kock in 2014 alongside her mother and got to ask his questions about how and why he killed her dad. After listening to him, she forgave the man and even gave him a hug. At the time of his sentencing, De Kock was considered one of the evilest men in the world, and the 212 years he was given wasn’t enough for some.