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Forgiveness and Justice

Estes, Jerry N
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Crime Victims Report 7 (November/December): 70.

Jerry Estes is the District Attorney General for several counties in Tennessee. In this article he reflects on the relationship between forgiveness and justice through the prism of one specific case. The case began with a murder that remained unsolved for more than twenty years. A break occurred in the case when an offender incarcerated at a prison in another state confessed to the murder many years before. The inmate at first confessed this information only to a minister in the prison. According to Estes, the inmate was told that confession to God was sufficient and that God forgave him. Estes, however, argues that, while confession to God was good, the pastoral advice to the inmate was wrong. The inmate also needed to make a public confession to the authorities; this would serve the needs for healing for the inmate himself and for the victim’s loved ones. It would also better serve the concept of justice. This, as it happened, the inmate did on his own initiative despite the pastoral advice he received, and thus the case was resolved for the authorities and victim’s survivors in Tennessee.


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