Not Face of a Rapist; Face of a Hero

Where will you find the face of a hero? In prison facing life incarceration for refusing to lie.

I know this is not exactly a political post. Or maybe it is slightly. The idea that people who are convicted of a crime and completely serve their sentence can still be incarcerated forever for refusing to agree that they are guilty seems insane. We are bombarded with news about people who were executed or faced execution on a false verdict. While those get all the attention, the problems aren’t in the death penalty but in the justice system. So on what basis do we have a right to inflict life incarceration on people who don’t admit their guilt after they have finished their sentence?

But that’s not the reason I am writing about this story in the Washington Post: “Governor pardons Va. man in prison 29 years in case of mistaken identity.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Wednesday granted an absolute pardon to a convicted sex offender, ending a decades-long campaign by an imprisoned man whose claims of innocence were eventually joined by prosecutors and police.

Final proof that Michael Kenneth McAlister, 58, was wrongly convicted came when another man — a serial rapist who bore an uncanny resemblance to McAlister — recently confessed to the 1986 attempted rape and kidnapping in Richmond, the governor said.

The unconditional pardon wipes away a prosecution that has haunted officials familiar with the investigation for decades, and came days before McAlister faced what his attorneys called the “Kafka-esque prospect” of being locked away for years more under a Virginia law that allows the civil commitment of sexual predators after they complete their criminal sentences.

Here is a man who spent 29 years in prison for his face (and because our justice system disregards the Bible and allows the accused to be convicted on the basis of only one eyewitness). He had the face of the rapist. And he was going to face a lifetime sentence without parole because he would not lie.

His face is the face of a hero.

This Aug. 22, 2013 photo provided by the Virginia Deptment of Corrections shows Michael Kenneth McAlister. Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, pardoned a Virginia man who has spent 29 years in prison for an attempted rape that authorities now say he did not commit. (Virginia Deptment of Corrections via AP)
This Aug. 22, 2013 photo provided by the Virginia Deptment of Corrections shows Michael Kenneth McAlister. Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, pardoned a Virginia man who has spent 29 years in prison for an attempted rape that authorities now say he did not commit. (Virginia Deptment of Corrections via AP)

This man could easily have died in captivity unsung, but thanks to a confession by the real attacker, we get to recognize the kind of guy who holds onto his integrity despite facing lifetime confinement.

You don’t find this kind of person in the White House. You won’t find him in the high offices in the Pentagon. You won’t find him in any governor’s mansion.

[See also, “Hero Cop and Hero Bystander.”]

You find him in prison. You find him denying the will and testimony of all civilization lined up against him.

All he had to do was pretend to be guilty and his life would have become much easier. But he refused.

People are human when they decide that this guy made the right choice, and then pray they will make it too if they are faced with such a trial.