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Cold Case: Brenda Banaski Missing Teen

On March 11, 2005, Alabama's Equal Justice Initiative won a reversal and new trial for death row prisoner Shonda Johnson, who had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.


I have corresponded with Shonda and her family for near eight years. Since her case was overturned and a new trial ordered or her release, the system has kept her in a county jail with her case mired in concrete. When law enforcement refuses to obey their own law, do you have any trouble grasping the underlying lawlessness currently running amok in our nation?

To put a human side on this story I want you to know that I have a photo of Kristopher taken while he was a young teen, in my office file on Shonda. Have you ever thought about the families of women in prison, often there due to husband/boyfriend betrayal? Kristopher had some rough spots but God is touching his life and providing some 'handfuls on purpose' besides as the following email I received from Shonda's sister Christi shows:

"Just had to let you know that Shonda's son, Kristopher, graduates Friday night, and Shonda is getting to go!! We are SO excited. I have to pay $200 for officers to take her, but it will be worth it. She'll be in street clothes, and so will the officers. I think they're even using an unmarked car. Prayers are definitely being answered, so keep praying. “


If I were a rich man, but I'm not so I am hoping for some photos of this occasion. I was touched by 'street' clothes on Shonda and on the officers. Nice touch and good for Kristopher. I expect a few cheers when Kris walks across the stage.

A friend asked me, "Larry, why do you work with men and women on death row?" This question was framed in the concept of working only with people that will eventually end up as members of the church I pastor or in his case the one he pastors. To be sure I spend the bulk of my time working with local people and for certain the ones with a reasonable level of intelligence do in fact end up in the church I pastor!!!

I do believe condemned men and women can be saved as per the repentant thief crucified with Jesus, therefore I am sure that the sincere penitent who receives Christ will step from the gurney into the presence of the Lord. So in this sense my labor is not in vain in the Lord. And though the story is too long, God in no uncertain terms opened the door to reach these men and women in the name of Christ.

Like I said, if I were a rich man this Friday….

Larry Lilly Copyright © 2006


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