Part 2 of a 7-part series on Hannah Overton. Please pray, and please consider joining this Facebook page to find out how to write the governor of Texas and ask for clemency.
The plan had been to grab a latte after dinner before heading to the resort. I have to point out here that Corpus Christi, population 300,000, has two, count ’em, two Starbucks … whereas my little town of 30,000, situated as it is in the shadow of Seattle (otherwise known as the birthplace of Starbucks), has nine. For a time, we had ten, but that was back when someone thought it would be wise to place two in the same parking lot.
But while formulating our latte plan, Noreen said something about the weekly prayer gathering for Hannah.
“When is your prayer meeting?” I asked.
Rising above my jet lag and post-steak lethargy, I made a quick calculation. “Isn’t tonight Thursday?”
“Could we go?”
So we did. While driving to the church, I asked what I most wanted to know. How is Hannah? Why did they move her so far away? What is the status of the case?
Noreen took my questions one at a time and from her answers, a dark picture of Corpus Christi emerged. From my home now, two thousand miles away, I picture that beautiful place shrouded in a black cloud of deceit and corruption. Noreen told me about the flat-out lies the prosecutor told about Hannah. She told me about evidence that had been squelched, and something called the Brady Law, which, all by itself, should have overturned Hannah’s case. It seems when the prosecutor heard a not-so-welcomed deposition by a trusted doctor, that deposition got filed — without being shared with the defense attorney. I learned that just 2 or 3 such inconsistencies usually overturn a case, and that Hannah has 18 … yet she sits in prison.
By the time we pulled into the church parking lot, the image I held of the whole lot of them — judges, prosecutors, CPS workers — had sharpened. They were a gang of Goliaths, taunting us with their bellows. They were a court full of slobbery Jabba-the-Huts, gobbling justice to feed their fat bellies.
And there we stood: stoneless, and with no sword in sight.
We went inside. I saw Rod, Noreen’s husband (and the pastor), who I knew from our first trip to Israel. We’d joined the same tour then. My enduring memory of Rod (who is something of a daredevil — he surfed during Katrina) was of him convincing Matthew, another pastor on our tour, to skip the tram up to Masada and run up the hill instead. From my window on the tram, they were just two tiny desert dots, kicking up even tinier dust puffs as they raced us up the mountain.
After a quick tour of the building, we joined a group of people in the church’s coffee shop. Rod pulled out a guitar and we worshiped for awhile. And then the prayers began.
Nothing knits you to people like prayer. When one of the girls lifted Hannah before the throne, I nodded along with her. When one of the men began to choke up in the midst of his plea for strength, his tears filled my eyes. We asked God for refreshment, for comfort, for justice. I gave a silent plea for stones. But still, the sense of helplessness lingered.
And then, because I have a hard time keeping my eyes closed during prayer, I looked up and found myself counting the faces. Ten of us sat clustered at those coffee shop tables. Ten.
Ten. The word sunk in, and the Holy Spirit reminded me of something I’d tucked away long ago. Ten is the number of fullness, the number of completeness. In Judaism, you must have ten men in order to form a minyon, or a prayer quorum. God packed His law within ten commandments. Ten is enough … it’s enough.
We are a synagogue, Lord. And we who stand here with You are more than all who can come against us. Hear our prayers, Father.
We declare her innocent.
Header photo by Dan Wilson, tmdaily.com