CRIME AND PUNISHMENT–These FIRST two words form the foundation of our criminal justice system. When crimes are committed and a perpetrator is charged, other words become important: presumption of innocence, constitutional rights, and fairness.
In Judge Kechia S. Davis’ courtroom, another word was the theme for the day: forgiveness. Yes, Barbara Ekes, the mother of a wonderful young man, told the judge that she did not want the man who, with his vehicle, killed her son twenty years ago, to spend another day in prison. Mrs. Eckes told Judge Davis that she prayed every day that she would live long enough to see Douglas Layton, Jr. free.
Mrs. Eckes told the Judge and Doug Layton that she wanted him to be released.
She said, “My son was not a saint, but he was a good man. I want Doug released so that he can have an opportunity to live a life that would honor my son and his memory….My son has not been present to help take care of me, but I want Doug to be able to take care of his mother.”
In preparing for the hearing, Mrs. Eckes waivered on whether she wanted to testify in court: her health is not good and getting around is difficult but her primary concern was seeing Doug. She wondered if she had really forgiven him and that if she saw him, would hard feelings overwhelm her. She almost did not come to the courthouse. It was going to be too much. But, she faced her fears; she told her daughter, Samantha, that she would accompany her to the courtroom. Tears flowed, but so did forgiveness.
Douglas told Mrs. Eckes and Samantha, who lost a beloved brother, how sorry he was for causing the death of their son and brother. He asked if he could hug her and Mrs. Ekes acquiesced. Thus, in Judge Davis’ courtroom, a man convicted of murder embraced the mother of his victim, a moment of healing, evidence of the fullness of her forgiveness.
Before the hearing, two mothers embraced: the mother who lost her son forever and the mother who lost her son for two decades. Thanks to Barbara Eckes, who even advocated without success to the Alabama Board of Pardons & Paroles for Doug’s parole, Mrs. Layton will have her son returned.
There is now closure for Mrs. Eckes and freedom for Doug Layton to prove that he, as he said, is not the man he was when he ran over this special young man who had his whole life ahead of him.
Mrs. Eckes’ prayers have now been answered: Doug Layton is redeemed.
Doug Layton is FREE.