Do You Believe in Second Chances?

In 2004, a man by the name of Willie Joe McAdams was put in jail for the attempted murder of Cedric Thomas. Because my search skills suck I was not able to find any information on the crime so I don’t know why McAdams wanted to kill Cedric but based on the little bit I did find, it may have had something to do with drugs (McAdams being on them rather than a drug deal gone wrong).

McAdams was sentenced to 40 years in prison but due to a clerical error was released on May 4, 2007 after serving only four years. (Yes, I know the math doesn’t work out quite right. The only thing I can think of is that the judge included time served.) However, that’s not the strange part. Instead of bolting off into the underground to avoid the law and perhaps make a new life for himself, McAdams hunts down his victim and…apologizes.

According to an article in the Houston Chronicle:

When McAdams was sentenced in 2004 to 40 years in prison for shooting Cedric Thomas in the head, Thomas thought it was a just punishment.

While enjoying himself at a bar during the Fourth of July weekend, Thomas was shocked when McAdams approached him, shook his hand and apologized.

“What if he still had malice in his heart and wanted to kill me,” said Thomas, who lost an eye in the March 2003 sports bar shooting.

Full article can be read here.

Thomas brings up a valid question. After all, we have all heard the horrifying tales of inmates being released from jail only to be returned because they committed a horrible crime. But in this case McAdams seemed to have gotten over his ill feelings towards Thomas. I wonder what happened to McAdams in those four years that turned him around? And what happens now that, it seems, he is a changed man?

It is a given that McAdams will go back to jail. After all, he did commit a crime and at the minimum he will have to serve 16 more years. Texas law requires that inmates complete at least half of the time before becoming eligible for parole. I am more interested in the human aspect. By his actions, McAdams has asked Thomas for forgiveness for his past mistakes. I wonder if Thomas is able and willing to give it. Will he learn from McAdams mistake and forgive and let go? Or will he too hold onto his anger and let it rule his life? And has McAdams’ actions changed, even a little bit, the public opinion that once a criminal always a criminal?

I believe people deserve second chances especially when they do something that proves that they have changed. We are all gloriously imperfect and we make mistakes and I don’t believe that we should punish ourself or each other for them for the entirety of our lives. The only time I tell people to talk to the hand is when they keep making the same mistakes over and over again. To me that means they either can not or will not change and therefore I need not waste my time.

It interests me also that many of the people in the comment section called McAdams an idiot for NOT running to a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the U.S. which only increases my respect for McAdams. He could have run but he didn’t. Instead he decided to own up to his mistake and try to make amends. I don’t think that’s stupid. I think it’s smart and courageous and I think that if more people followed McAdams’ example that some of the problems we experience as a society would be alleviated.

So what do you think? Do believe in second chances? Do you think he should have run? Could you forgive someone who tried to kill you?

4 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Second Chances?

  1. See? See? This, THIS is why you got the Thinking Blogger award (and why I’m going to nominate you again.)

    Seriously, this is wonderful. Well written and VERY thought provoking.

    I do believe in second chances. I even believe in third chances, under certain circumstances. I also belive you’re absolutely right when you said, “…if more people followed McAdams’ example that some of the problems we experience as a society would be alleviated.”

    AMEN, sister!

    What McAdams did was amazing. Not only did he not run away from the law, he asked forgivness. We need more people like him. I’m glad he didn’t run. I also believe he should not have to finish his sentence because of the way he acted. It sounds like he learned his lesson, and that’s what I think prison should be about.

    It should be a way for people to learn from their mistakes, and learn to not make them again. When they know they can live outside without getting in legal trouble, they should be able to leave. Of course, if they screw up again, then things will get tougher.

    Prison has a way of destroying all that is good in a person, and I honestly feel he has a lot of good in him. I’d hate to see that wasted.

    I could be wrong. It’s happened before.

    There are people hovering around me. I must go… can’t stop talking…

  2. I think people should have second chances. After all, we are all human and make mistakes. I don’t know about why he shot the guy, but it sounds like it was a crime of passion. Of course, that does not make it right, and I think due to the actions of apologizing to the guy and shaking his hand, that he felt real remorse, and served his time thinking about this problem the entire time. He probably already had it planned that when he got out that he would apologize, and I think that is very admirable and I agree with Karen that he should be allowed to stay free as due to his actions, he sounds like he would be an asset to society.

    He also sounds like a good canidate to do public speaking of what happened and why he felt the need to apologize and could include the horrors of prision life. Maybe he could save others from making the same mistake he did. Did you ever see that movie where a drunk teenager killed this guys wife and he wanted the courts to drop all charges against him and place him on probabtion (which the courts did) so that he could take this teenager to schools to tell his story? This was years ago, and still today, even though the probation period is over, they still continue to travel all over to alert students to this problem of drinking and driving. There is much to be said about the power of speech, and this guy could do the same.

    Just my thoughts.


  3. @ Ms. Karen,

    Yeah in my heart I agree that he shouldn’t have to do the rest of his time but realistically this isn’t the type of precedent that we really want to be setting. Our legal system is filled with people of the mentality ‘Well if he can do so can I’ and there are some people who can play a part really well that should NOT be on the streets.

    On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me that jail only makes people better criminals so I would hope that maybe they could send him to a facility that will offer him an opportunities to better himself, like education and work release etc. so that he can continue to feel like a human being who contributes to society.

    @ Katie,

    I’ve never heard of that story but what an excellent idea. Despite what the news will have us think, people do learn from the experiences of others. I think he really could save others from making the same mistake by talking about the detail surrounding the incident. It could also serve a source of healing for him as well.

    There are people who do good in this world and who are committed to making up for their past mistakes. I just wished we heard more about them rather than the horrible ne’er do wells that cast a long shadow over everyone.

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