Sunday, January 29, 2012

"A Secret Hope" is now available as an eBook!

I am excited to announce that my wife, Renee's, first book, A Secret Hope, is now available for download as an eBook at as well as Barnes & Noble and For the next two weeks, the introductory price will be a measly $.99. Then, in about two weeks, it will sell for $2.99. So this is your chance to get her book on your e-reader. (If you don't have an e-reader, you can get either a Kindle app or Nook app to download to your iPhone, Droid, iPad, Tablet, or your computer.)

Now, before you download the book, let me clue you in that it is historical fiction, set in 5th century Ireland. Renee did EXTENSIVE research on her subject (she could probably go out on the lecture circuit talking  about life and religion in 5th century Ireland). You can rest assured that "A Secret Hope" is historically accurate down to every detail, and according book editors and publishers, it is WELL-WRITTEN. I read an early manuscript of this book several years ago on our flight to Ireland and even then, before it went through many revisions and edits, I thought that this book would make a great movie! 

A Secret Hope centers on a girl, Ciara, who for most of her young life has hidden a secret that means death if it’s discovered. She is studying to become a Druidess but she is starting to doubt the power of the gods that she serves. In ancient Ireland, these gods had to be constantly appeased, and woe to the man or woman who offended them. 

Renee's book "Secret Hope" on
Tom Johnston's Kindle. Thanks Tom!
When Patrick brought the Gospel to Ireland the idea of one God was revolutionary. Even more so was the notion of a God who sought His people and longed to do good for them.

It is a historical fact that the High King's druid received a prophecy about a strange man who would come from across the sea, bringing knowledge of a foreign God who would displace their own pagan gods.

One day in a dream, Ciara receives what she thinks is a line of poetry. But it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, who has given her the same first line of the druid's prophecy about Patrick.
Download "A Secret Hope" for $.99 and if you like it, write a review at either or Also, spread the word and let others in your sphere of influence know about this book. Also, once you read A Secret Hope and get hooked, you need to knwo that there is a sequel, "Fury of Dragons" which Renee has written and it will be published as an eBook in about two months. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Innocence Project: Fixing a Broken Justice System One Exoneration at a Time

Let me finish up my posts on our BROKEN criminal justice system by spotlighting the Innocence Project and their most recent victory. While I am not a big fan of lawyers (especially the ambulance chasing ones which advertise for clients who may have mesothelioma or may have taken a particular drug once upon a time) I am truly grateful for this group of  lawyers in the Innocence Project who unselfishly give their time and resources to bringing justice to many who have been wrongfully imprisoned.

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy org. dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

There have been 289 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.
• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in35 states; since 2000, there have been 222 exonerations.
• 17 of the 289 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.
• The average length of time served by exonerees is 13.5 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,800.
• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.
Races of the 289 exonerees:
180 African Americans
82 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
4 whose race is unknown
• The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 139 of the DNA exoneration cases.
• Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.

• In more than 25 percent of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation (the study, conducted in 1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by FBI labs).

• About half of the people exonerated through DNA testing have been financially compensated. 27 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to compensate people who were wrongfully incarcerated. Awards under these statutes vary from state to state.

• 22 percent of cases closed by the Innocence Project since 2004 were closed because of lost or missing evidence.

• About 80 percent of wrongful conviction cases overturned through DNA testing were single perpetrator crimes. Nearly 75 percent of the single perpetrator crimes involved eyewitness misidentifications, and about 75 percent of them were non-homicide cases. In about half of the single perpetrator cases, the real perpetrator has been identified.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Convictions
These DNA exoneration cases have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systemic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed. For more than 15 years, the Innocence Project has worked to pinpoint these trends.

Eyewitness Misidentification Testimony was a factor in nearly 75 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions.

At least 40 percent of these eyewitness identifications involved a cross racial identification (race data is currently only available on the victim, not for non-victim eyewitnesses). Studies have shown that people are less able to recognize faces of a different race than their own. These suggested reforms are embraced by leading criminal justice organizations and have been adopted in the states of New Jersey and North Carolina, large cities like Minneapolis and Seattle, and many smaller jurisdictions.

False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of cases. In 35 percent of false confession or admission cases, the defendant was 18 years old or younger and/or developmentally disabled. Twenty-two of the first 265 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they did not commit.

The Innocence Project encourages police departments to electronically record all custodial interrogations in their entirety in order to prevent coercion and to provide an accurate record of the proceedings. More than 500 jurisdictions have voluntarily adopted policies to record interrogations. State supreme courts have taken action in Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia require the taping of interrogations in homicide cases. 

Informants contributed to wrongful convictions in 19 percent of cases. Whenever informant testimony is used, the Innocence Project recommends that the judge instruct the jury that most informant testimony is unreliable as it may be offered in return for deals, special treatment, or the dropping of charges. Prosecutors should also reveal any incentive the informant might receive, and all communication between prosecutors and informants should be recorded. 

To read more, go to Also, read John Grisham's The Innocent Man, his legal non-fiction thriller about murder and injustice in a small town.

                                            Chris Ochoa was proven innocent by DNA testing in 2002
                                            after spending 12 yrs in Texas prisons for a murder he 
                                            didn't commit.

                                             Steven Barnes was freed on Nov. 23, 2008 after spending
                                             nearly 20 yrs in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

                                                           Julia Ormand: Innocence Project PSA

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The book that changed my view on capital punishment

As I stated in my last post, it was the book "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham which changed my stance on capital punishment. For me, it was an epiphany. I began to realize that in many places here in the U.S., we have a corrupt justice system which really goes out of its way to deny justice to those who are poor and innocent. We have too many District Attorneys who are trying to make a name for themselves, or just want to close the book on a case so it will make them look even more successful, winning another conviction, and ridding our streets of the criminal element. Would that were always the case, because all too often, they rid our streets and neighborhoods of innocent men and women. 

I'll let you read this review posted by Charles Hamilton Sr., former executive director of Northwest Teen Challenge, and then I leave you with some parting thoughts.
The Innocent Man is John Grisham's only non-fiction book. He says he chose to write it because it was a compelling story about a man on death row, sentenced to die for a murder he did not commit. The man, Ron Williamson, signed a contract with the Oakland A's and thought his life was going to be set as a major league baseball player.
After some setbacks at the farm system level, Ron came back to his hometown of Ada, Oklahoma, a failure. Embarrassed at not making it in the big leagues, he began to hang out in bars and drink heavily. It's in this setting where he met a young waitress named Debbie Carter.
When Debbie's body turns up in her apartment having been brutally raped and murdered, Ron is charged with the crime. 
 After five years of looking for Debbie's killer and nothing but dead-ends, the authorities arrest Ron Williamson and his friend, Dennis Fritz, for her murder. 
Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz celebrating
their release from prison.
One small detail seems to elude the police and prosecutors: The fact that Ron Williamson is  innocent. Both men are tried and found guilty as the prosecutors use junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snithches to convict them. Fritz was given a life sentence, while Ron was sent to death row.

Grisham goes on to tell of Ron's struggles with mental health and the horrible conditions of his tenure in prison while on death row. So often while reading this book, you find yourself appalled by the tactics used by the authorities to manipulate any attempt at justice and the roadblocks that purposely erect to keep Ron incarcerated on death row.

There is a feeling of pending futility sitting in a cell awaiting your death for something you didn't do. You want to scream loudly for someone, anyone, to come to your rescue and stop the painful anxiety driving you to madness as each day brings you closer to the date of your final demise. I found myself pulling for Ron to receive true justice and be released from prison so he could begin to put the broken pieces of his life together again.

John Grisham does a worthy job of presenting Ron's life and struggles. He reports the findings of the case as they happened and at the same time interjects the emotional deprivation experienced by the family as they prayed for Ron's release. 
I wanted to see the men who railroaded Ron onto death row through their false testimonies and manipulation of evidence thrown in jail or disbarred from any future involvementin pursuing his continued incarceration dealt with by the law, either themselves thrown in jail or disbarred from any future involvement in the criminal justice system. There is no adequate compensation for taking a person's life away from them. You cannot buy back one hour of your youth once it has been stolen from you by an unjust judicial system. 
I still support capital punishment. I still believe that God's covenant with Noah is Genesis 9:6 is an everlasting covenant that is still in effect today (as far as God is concerned). But now, I support the death penalty only in those cases where there is clear DNA evidence linking the murderer or rapist with the victim(s). 

In my next and final post on this subject, I will briefly discuss some of the shortcomings of current 
DNA access laws as well as spotlight some individuals who were unjustly incarcerated and have been given justice and freedom thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project. I am thankful for the tireless and dedicated efforts of the lawyers who work for the Innocence Project all across this country. In a real sense, they are encountering Jesus and showing "pure, undefiled religion" which includes visiting those in prison. How high of a priority is that in most of our churches today? 

And how, might you ask, do these secular (and in many cases, unbelieving) lawyers encounter Jesus? Read these verses from Matthew....

Matthew 25:34-40 (GW)
34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.
35 I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home.
36 I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'
37 “Then the people who have God's approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'
40 “The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant {they seemed}, you did for me.'

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Does God support capital punishment?

After the great flood where God destroys the human race in judgment, God makes a covenant with Noah and in this covenant, he says "....I will demand the life of any person who kills another person. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, because in the image of God, God made humans." And then, God seals the covenant with a rainbow and says that this covenant is an everlasting covenant for all future generations (Genesis 9:4-6).

                                       Human Life is Sacred

Today, hundreds of years later, we are now an enlightened people; we have thrown off the restraints of God's laws and in our wisdom and sophistication as an educated people, we claim to value all life. But in reality, we are covenant-breakers and today we devalue life more than any other time in U.S. history:

The revered spotted owl
  • Between 39-52 million unborn babies have been aborted here in the U.S. since 1973 (Roe v. Wade).
  • We devalue life by our failure to enforce capital punishment. We live in a day when murderers and rapists spend less time in prison than a drug dealer.
  • We care more about saving the life of a baby eagle, whale, dolphin, or spotted owl than with saving the life of an unborn child. As much as I love dogs and cats and have three rescued pets in my house, I'm afraid that we care more about abused and abandoned pets than we do about abused and abandoned children. It doesn't have to be and either-or proposition. We can care for both, but I fear we place greater concern on the well-being of endangered species when the most endangered species of all is the unborn child.

I used to be a strong proponent of capital punishment

For most of my life, I was an strong proponent of capital punishment. You often hear the phony argument that capital punishment is no deterrent to crime, but we'll never know because we seldom see capital punishment enacted. However, after reading the book, "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham, my faith and trust in the U.S. judicial system was turned on its head.

The accuser, Crystal Mangum and her accomplice,
Durham District Attorney, Mike Nifong
Around this same time, the 3 lacrosse players from Duke Univ. were accused of rape and judged by over 40 Duke professors as well as the administration to be guilty, even before the evidence was presented. We later learned that the District Attorney, Michael Nifong, had withheld evidence and testimony which would have exonerated  these young men. But sadly, we live in a day here in America where you are NO LONGER innocent until proven guilty, but now you are presumed to be GUILTY until you can prove your innocence. BTW, the North Carolina D.A., Michael  Nifong has been disbarred from ever practicing law. He got off easy. He should be behind bars.

Just an aside: I am personally amazed that parents would send their sons to Duke Univ. or any North Carolina school because there have been other instances of young men being railroaded into prison sentences on phony, trumped up charges. In all likelihood, a white college-age male  has a greater chance  of being incarcerated in North Carolina on phony charges than in Idaho, Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Utah, Nevada, etc.

I personally know of one young man who spent almost 10 yrs. in a North Carolina prison based on false testimony and lies and collusion between the so-called witnesses,  the prosecutor, the police and the alleged victim. Finally after spending all their money on lawyers, his parents eventually convinced a judge to re-open the case and upon further examination, the state "discovered" that there was NO hard evidence to convict this young man of rape, and that his accuser had a record of lying under oath.

It's a oxymoron to call oneself "pro-choice" because most who are "pro-choice" NEVER choose life for the unborn child. They usually endorse abortion, and yet at the same time, they don't support capital punshment, even in cases where there is undisputed DNA evidence.

God established the high value of human life when he made covenant with Noah, and that covenant is still in effect today. It hasn't gone "out of style." God says "Whoever sheds human blood, his blood shall also be shed." I can't see God giving a "pass" to Nazis who were complicit in the deaths of over 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. By that same token, I can't see God giving a "pass" to abortionists who are responsible for killing unborn children every single day. Here in America, we have conducted our own holocaust for the past 40 yrs. 
Isaiah 5:20-21 (GW)
20 How horrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness into light and light into darkness, who turn what is bitter into something sweet and what is sweet into something bitter.
21 How horrible it will be for those who think they are wise and consider themselves to be clever. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Imagine this: You're being sued for attempting to build a home on your own property.

John Adams wrote: "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."

Mike and Chantell Sackett on their Idaho property
Today homeowners, farmers and businesses are subjected to a host of government restrictions and prohibitions that reduce the use and value of their properties, including laws relating to wetlands and endangered species. YOUR RIGHTS as a property owner are in jeopardy thanks to your federal government! This is how the Eco-statists (like Obama and his minion, Lisa Jackson of the EPA) restrict our right to use our private property for whatever purpose we deem necessary or desirable. 

For your consideration, I offer up exhibit A: Sackett v. EPA.

Peter Bella writing in the Washington Times: 
Imagine this: You buy a vacant lot in a residential subdivision across the road from a small lake.  The lot is zoned for residential building.  It is surrounded by other homes and homes being built.  You submit your plans and blueprints and receive a building permit. You start grading the property to build a home.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps. of Engineers show up and accuse you of building on a “wetland”.  The EPA issues what is known as a “compliance order”.  You must stop all building.  You must restore the land to its natural state.  You must replace and plant trees.  You must place a fence around the land and maintain the property in a pristine condition.

You have no right to a pre-enforcement challenge of the order.  You must comply with the order or be sued by the EPA and face fines between 35-75 thousand dollars per day.

“Unlike other regulations and enforcement orders, the EPA under clean air and water laws can issue an order without giving the recipient a chance to challenge it in court before the agency initiates a lawsuit for noncompliance.” (IBT)

You are punished by being forced to spend money to correct an unproven accusation of a violation of the law- no probable cause or preponderance of the evidence.  No way for you to prove or argue your case until the EPA decides to sue you.   
This is at the heart of Sackett v. EPA. The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments on this case Tuesday.  A decision is expected by June.  The case started in 2007 when the “compliance order” was issued.  The case is based on very complicated, some say senseless, enforcement policies and procedures governing the Clean Water Act. 

Check out this video to hear the Sackett's story in their own words.

Tuesday, Nov. 6, can't come soon enough.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Who is on your list of "most admired men or women"? Here's my number one pick for "most admired".....

Late last month, Gallup published their list of "Most admired men for 2011." Barack Obama was number one on the list which was enough to cause me to question the validity of the entire list. But number four on the list was the Rev. Billy Graham. There have been years when he held the number one spot, but for 2011, to come in at number four is still quite an accomplishment! There are many young people, and those under 30 who probably don't even know anything about Billy Graham. If you are one of them, let me bring you up to speed with this incredible man of God who, long before the days of satellite television and the internet, preached the gospel to more people around the world than any other human being.

Record crowd in attendance at L.A. Billy Graham Crusade
My first encounter with Billy Graham came when I was 14 years old. My church youth group decided to attend his L.A. Crusade which was being held at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Initially, my interest lay in the fact of seeing the Coliseum filled with 70 or 80,000 people since I had never been in a room with more than a couple hundred people. But, as you might have guessed, I got more than I bargained for. God was speaking to me through Billy Graham and for the first time, I was hearing about Jesus Christ and the good news that I could be forgiven of my sins and have a relationship with God.

On the fourth night, Youth Night, God was calling me to himself. How did I know this? During Billy's message that night when he preached on David and Goliath, my heart was pounding so hard and loud that I surely thought anyone around me could hear it. Later that evening, along with about 3,000 others, I went forward to surrender my will to God's along with seeking his forgiveness for my sins and asking Him to change my life. That was way back in 1963. To put this in perspective, this was the same year that JFK was assassinated and the Beatles arrived on the scene.

Since that night, I continue to live my life as a follower of Jesus Christ, and Billy Graham continued to preach the Gospel to millions worldwide until his retirement in 2005. In 2008, it was estimated that over the course of his lifetime, he preached to over 2.2 billion people in person, on TV, radio and movies.

BillyGraham in now 92 yrs. old. For some reason, I think this will be the year that God takes him home. The young man that I remember seeing in L.A.Times photos doing an early morning run along Santa Monica Beach is now confined to a wheelchair, suffering from Parkinson's disease. His voice is weak, no longer strong and vibrant as it once was when he preached to thousands.

Here's what I want you to know about Billy Graham. In an age of hypocrites and evangelistic scandals, he was the real deal. He was a man who walked the talk. He would never allow himself to be alone in a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex. He was always aware of his weaknesses and set safeguards in place to protect himself and his ministry from succumbing to temptation.

Another evidence of his integrity came in the early 1950s when NBC offered Billy a $5 million dollar, 5-year contract for a weekly series, but he turned it down to honor his pre-arranged commitments to conduct crusades around the world. Also, in 1950 when Billy and his associates formed the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc. headquartered in Minneapolis, they set in place several layers of accountability to assure that there would be no co-mingling of funds. Billy was paid a modest salary and never ever used ministry funds as his personal ATM. Anyone donating money to Billy Graham could rest assured that their gift would be used for the sole purpose of preaching the gospel.

In the early 1950s, Billy Graham was on the cutting edge of racial integration long before it became a "fashionable liberal cause." He tore down the ropes that had been erected in his crusade tents and auditoriums to separate whites from blacks. He also refused to speak in some auditoriums where they imposed segregation. He opposed the KKK and even paid the bail to secure Martin Luther King's release from jail. For someone born and raised in the south, this was huge, and very risky on his part, but he kept appealing to a colorblind God.

During the Cold War, he was the first evangelist to do mass evangelism in Eastern Europe as well as the Soviet Union. In 1973, he held a crusade in South Africa where he openly denounced apartheid. On Sept. 22, 1991, he held largest crusade in the U.S. with over 250,000 in attendance at Central Park in NYC.

I have included a couple of videos of Billy Graham, one is from the same L.A. Crusade where I first heard him and came to Jesus. That same crusade set a record attendance for the Los Angeles Coliseum which still stands today.

The days of mass evangelism in a stadium are over, but there is still a need for men and women who have a passion for the Good News and who walk the talk, not seeking to please men but to please God. For me personally, Billy Graham is number one on my list of "Most Admired" men of the 20th century.

How about you? Who is on your list of "most admired people"? What qualities in them do you admire and why? Let me know who makes YOUR list of "most admired."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Why do the nations rage? And who are they "raging" against?

As we embark on 2012, the question that needs to be asked is: "Why do the nations rage?" What nations you ask? And who are they "raging" against?

I'm referring to Psalm 2:1-3 (GW) 
1 Why do the nations gather together? Why do their people devise useless plots?
2 Kings take their stands. Rulers make plans together against the LORD and against his Messiah by saying,
3 “Let's break apart their chains and shake off their ropes.”
In 2012, we face greater turmoil and instability in our world than at any time in recent memory:

  • Iran launched two long-range missiles this week and in recent days has threatened to shut the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world's oil is shipped. All reports indicate that within a year, probably this year, Iraq will have a nuclear weapon. I wonder what they'll do with that? Watch for Israel to bomb Iran this year which will probably create a major Middle East conflict which will no doubt draw the 
U.S.into its web. Also, watch for oil prices to skyrocket as we are punished" for siding with Israel in this conflict.
  • North Korea: New leader and everything is up for grabs as far as whether North Korea will keep a low profile in utter darkness or if they will make some noise and do some saber-rattling, something they do every time they need some $$$ from the U.S. and S. Korea.
  • Egypt: The Arab Spring is now a cold winter with the Muslim Brotherhood pushing its way to fill the power vacuum. This means greater instability in the region and increased fears and concern for Israel.
  • Syria, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan and Russia all present potential problems as they jockey for power and align against Israel and the U.S.
Who are these nations "raging" against? They are raging against the Lord--against God Almighty. They are raging against His authority and sovereignty. They are aligned against God's Anointed who is Jesus, the Messiah. They are also aligned against Israel, the apple of God's eye.

Psalm 33:8-11 reminds us that God is in control of the nations:
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
What God says will certainly come to pass. Psalm 2:4 says that God sits in heaven and laughs at the nations and holds them in derision. The prophet Isaiah said that "All the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are accounted as the dust on the scales."

So here is the take away from all this: The Good News is that even when our State Department is "clueless" (which is so often the case), our God is not. He has determined the boundaries for every nation and knows how long each leader will be in command, and how long each nation will survive. There is no decision made by any nation that catches God by surprise.

Just as God told Moses what Pharaoh would do and that he would let the children of Israel go, as well as telling him beforehand that the Egyptian people would want to heap all their possessions upon the Israelites as they were leaving Egypt. God knows exactly which nations invent, produce and develop.

He knows all about the monetary crisis in Europe and knows exactly how it will pan out. He regulates uprisings and revolutions. Yes, God is sovereign over every nation and people group on this planet, as well as over the climate. He is not worried about global warming and knows that we can't destroy this planet by our own efforts. As the Apostle Paul declared in Acts 17:24, He is "Lord of heaven and earth."

So regardless of what happens this year, know this: God is in control. Nothing is going to catch Him by surprise. He is accomplishing His will and good pleasure in nations and people, in you and me.