Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Convicted Murderer {And Grace}

Once again the suburb in which I live has made the news for something other than city-related issues. I recently blogged about the news story of a former teacher being arrested. This time the news is reporting that one of the convicted murderers that Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, pardoned last month has moved to Alabaster. In 1993 David Gatlin shot and killed his estranged wife. And according to news reports, he now lives just a few miles from me.

Yet, I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid that he's going to run out in the streets waving a gun, or walk into the school buildings firing shots, or walk up to a neighbor's house and murder someone, or participate in a drive-by shooting. I'm not worried about any of those things.


Because I know what it is to be given a second chance. I know that we all are capable of anything, even though most of think we'd never commit such a heinous crime. But given the wrong set of circumstances, unless we fully trust and rely on God {and let's face it...most of us give in to our flesh much more often than we like to admit}, we're capable of doing horrific things we never imagined. Yes, even committing murder.

I don't know why Barbour chose to pardon this man, but obviously, it was undeserved. After all, he was serving a life sentence. But what I do know is that undeserved second chances often have a way of humbling us. They make us keenly aware of our guilt, and humbly thankful for the grace bestowed upon us. It's when we take grace for granted, thinking we deserve it, that it becomes commonplace to us. I have no clue what Gatlin thinks about his second chance. I can merely filter his story through the lens of my own, and I imagine him being humbled every time his freedom crosses his mind.

I'd like to believe our community would at least give him a chance before condemning him. I'd like to believe that our community would like to see him succeed. I'd like to believe our community would encourage him to thrive in his newfound freedom.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that will be the case because fear prefers people to live in shackles rather than in freedom and love.

Note: I am in no way belittling the pain of the victim's family, or their desire to see justice in its completion.


  1. Your last sentence is thought provoking: "Fear prefers people to live in shackles rather than in freedom and love."

    And it's true, what you're expressing here, that we have no idea what life could push us to. I understand what you are saying.


    Make sure you read it all.
    Now, How would you feel if this happened to your best friend, sister, mother....

  3. People have painted Tammy as if she were cheating, running around, etc. They had been seperated for MONTHS. She became pregnant and didn't want her child to be exposed to the lifestyle he led. I think history proved her to be correct as he is proving us correct now.

  4. Brianne - Thanks for your comments!

    Anonymous and Anonymous - I totally understand what you're saying. I did read the article before writing. And, of course, my post wasn't about what happened between the two of them before the crime. There's never a reason for what he did. All that said, people can and do change. I'm simply suggesting that since he has been pardoned and is now free (something we can do nothing about), why not encourage him to get it right this time? Grace is freeing and allows us to love and encourage even those we might view as monsters. They're people too...and God loves even the worst of sinners. I know...because He redeemed and healed my story. I can assure you that many people would put a guard up around me if they knew my past...because people like to dwell on the past instead of seeing how Jesus changes people. Thanks for your comments.

  5. I know David Gatlin, and I know that God set him free. It should be noted that he did not apply for the Governor's Mansion but was chosen out of 20,000 inmates based on his prison record.

    There is so much of His story that is not being told....good things. I will make sure that he reads this blog; it will encourage him.

    Here is a scripture that proclaims that God not only forgives prisoners but will set them free:

    Psalms 68:6 God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out those which are bound with chains..."
    Incidentally, that scripture was written by another David who also was a murderer...King David. God forgave him and he was a man after God's own heart.

    People who want justice usually only want it for others and not themselves. Justice is getting what you deserve and we all deserve hell. Mercy is not getting what you deserve....but grace is getting what you don't deserve.

    All of us who have turned to Christ have received a full pardon we did not deserve...yet many do not want to extend this to others.

    1. Anonymous-Sorry I'm just now responding...I just saw your comment. I love the story of King David's life and redemption. The gift of mercy and grace is my story too. Your comments ring true...unfortunately, I think so many people don't understand their own need for grace so they don't know how to extend it to someone else. I hope Mr. Gatlin is receiving encouragement instead of fear from the people of Alabaster.

      p.s. You might enjoy watching this grace-story video of a member of my church...

  6. Here here is an update on David. He is working at a faith based transitional home that helps prisoners who are coming out of prison adjust and find jobs. He is in full time prison ministry.

    1. Thank you so much for the update! I often wonder about him. What an amazing story he has to tell!! Grace upon grace. God is faithful!