By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
“For your lifeblood I will require a reckoning...from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” ~ Genesis 9:5-6
“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.” ~ Ecclesiastes 8:11
A Rhode Island fatherhas openly pledged to kill the man who murdered and ate his blond-haired, blue-eyed five-year old son in 1975.
As I will develop in this column, the problem here is injustice, and the solution, as always, is found in the Word of God. The biblical solution to this ghastly crime is simple: the murderer should have been executed when convicted in 1982.
Some surely will say this is barbaric. To which I reply, barbarism is allowing a man to murder and eat a five-year-old child and live to tell about it.
After killing and feasting on young Jason Foreman, Michael Woodmansee shellacked his jaw, his arm and leg bones, a few of his spine and rib bones, and his skull and kept them as trophies on his bedroom dresser.
The flesh had been removed from the bones by boiling them in lye.
The murder - Woodmansee killed Jason by plunging a kitchen knife into his chest - happened on the 25th birthday of the child’s own mother. (The mother died in 2000.) Woodmansee said that after he stabbed the boy, he kept checking for an hour “to see if he was really dead.”
John Foreman, the father of the boy, told a radio station on Monday he would kill this child-murderer “as aggressively and painfully as he killed my son” if authorities release him from prison early, as they plan to do this August.
The father accepted a plea bargain back in 1982, which was offered to spare the family the agony of the trial, and it’s a plea deal he now regrets. Woodmansee was convicted of the second-degree murder of young Jason and sentenced to 40 years in prison. But the deal allowed him to be released early for good behavior, and that release, 12 years early, is slated for as early as August.
Woodmansee’s motive? He just wanted to see “what it would be like to kill someone,” and later told prison psychiatrists that he also thought it would be fun. But he was not only a murderer but a cannibal, who recorded in his journal that he had eaten Jason’s body after killing him.
Woodmansee’s gruesome journal has been kept under lock and key to this day, because of its horrible contents, but Jason’s father was allowed to read it, and remembers one thing clearly: “he ate the flesh of my son.”
Woodmansee was only apprehended, seven years after the murder of young Jason, when he tried to strangle the local paperboy with a red bandanna and ended up confessing to the butchery of the young Foreman child. (For a detailed account of the case from the Providence Journal, go here.)
Says the father, “I do intend, if this man is released anywhere in my vicinity, or if I can find him after the fact, I do intend to kill this man. I cannot think, I cannot sleep. All I think about is trying to find a way to get to this man to kill him.”
Susan McGuirl, the state prosecutor who agreed to the plea deal in 1983, said, “Certainly there would not have been any anticipation of him getting out in 28 years.” What, she can’t count? Rhode Island’s penal system shaves 10 days or more a month off inmate sentences for good behavior, and she knew that when she made the deal.
What will happen in August? Who knows? Perhaps Woodmansee will be given a new identity to protect him from Mr. Foreman, which means more children will be exposed to this cannibal without neighbors and parents having a single solitary idea about the new resident in the neighborhood. This very thing was done in a notorious case in the UK, where child-killers were given new IDs to protect them from vigilantism.
The solution, once again, is found on the pages of the Book that serves as the foundation of western jurisprudence. The solution: a speedy and fair trial in murder cases, followed by a swift and sure execution.
Woodmansee should have been out of everybody’s misery 29 years ago, but the drift from our Judeo-Christian moorings has resulted in the infliction of additional anguish for the family of this victim. They are being victimized a second time, this time by a lenient and misguided justice system that lets cannibals walk free instead of swinging free at the end of a rope.
Paul makes it very clear in Romans 12 and 13 that the whole purpose of government is to execute justice, precisely to avoid vigilantism, precisely to prevent the chaos that results when people take the law into their own hands.
“Beloved,” Paul says in Romans 12:19, “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
And how does God take vengeance on those who deprive fellow citizens of their right to life, liberty and property? Through the authority God has given to civil government. (Ignore the unfortunate chapter break at the end of Romans 12.) Government, the Apostle says, “does not bear the sword (note: an instrument of lethal force) in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).
The whole purpose of God delegating his power of life and death to civil government is to see that justice is done, and in so doing to prevent the rise of vigilantism. Justice must be fair, it must be swift, and it must be sure. It must be seen to be justice, or we will encounter more instances like this one, in which men take justice into their own hands because God’s servants - civil authorities - will not do it for them.
This father knows that justice has not been done on behalf of his son. You know it, I know it, and everyone who reads about this tragic story knows it. Whose fault is that? The fault lies squarely at the feet of a justice system that failed to do its divine duty in 1982.
The ancient law code of many nations, including Israel, provided that, in death penalty cases, once guilt had been established “on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses” (Deut. 19:15), the oldest male relative of the victim would be granted permission to carry out the death sentence. The family would have the satisfaction of participating, under the authority of the state, in the execution of justice.
Right now, however, our legal system virtually excludes family members of the victims from the process. They are often only allowed to testify about the impact of the crime on their family in the penalty phase of the trial, and although they may be allowed to witness the execution, they will have no functional role in it. (This is not to argue that the father should have been allowed to throw the switch - that’s a discussion for another day.)
If a biblical model of justice had been followed in 1982, if Michael Woodmansee had been sentenced to death, justice would have been done and this family would not be forced to relive this nightmare all over again.
This father, of course, should not do what he is setting out to do. The Scriptures are clear that we are not to take matters of vengeance into our own hands. He must heed the words of Proverbs 29:26: “Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.”
That’s why God has established a justice system and given it delegated power to take the lives of people who take the lives of the innocent.
But if God’s servants will not do their job, the families of victims are going to start doing their job for them, and that is a recipe for anarchy, chaos and societal breakdown. It’s long past time to return our public policy to biblical principles of justice.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)