Hickenlooper pardons Rev. Promise Lee for murder


The Rev. Promise Lee has been pardoned for second-degree murder. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Rev. Promise Lee has been pardoned for second-degree murder.
In the Dec. 26 issue of the Independent, we tell the story of a man's transformation. Here's the snapshot:

Forty-four years ago, when he was just 16, Promise Lee shot and killed 20-year-old Fort Carson soldier Daniel Hocking in a drug deal gone bad.

Since then, Lee, now 60, has become a pastor and the leader of his own church, Relevant Word Christian Cultural Center. He has led efforts to clean up his neighborhood and improve his world. He has spent countless hours mentoring troubled boys in the hopes of helping them avoid his mistakes.

He has, in other words, sought redemption. And this year, for the second time, he asked a Colorado governor to pardon him for his crime.

Pardons for murder are incredibly rare, and Promise faced a big challenge: Hocking's surviving family has not forgiven him and say he has not tried to contact them. (He claims he has.)
Nevertheless, on Dec. 21, Gov. John Hickenlooper granted Promise his pardon — with the condition that he still cannot possess firearms.  He writes in part:

This is an extremely serious crime, and I have not made this decision lightly. The family affected by your actions has suffered considerably over the years. If it were within my power to remove their pain today I would.

I made this decision because of the work you have done to transform your community. In particular, you have focused on youth growing up in difficult circumstances and helped them avoid the path you took as an adolescent. I believe your work can, and possibly has, saved lives. I grant this pardon in large part to enable you to access more people who can benefit from your work and, hopefully, transform their lives as you have.

You wrote in your letter that after serving your sentence, you became driven to make amends for the harm you had done. You have demonstrated that you made good on that commitment.

I hope this pardon will create additional opportunities for you. It is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will require hard work and dedication.

By continuing down this path, you will improve not only your life, but also the loves of your family and community members. Others who have experienced circumstances similar to yours will look to you for guidance and inspiration. Show them how it's done.
The Independent sent a message to the Hockings after the pardon to ensure they knew about it, and to pass along the governor's letter.

We also emailed Promise Lee for his response, and he sent along the following.

As a man of faith, I am, first and foremost, thankful to God for using my journey as a powerful demonstration of grace, mercy, redemption, and forgiveness.

I want to especially thank Governor Hickenlooper for his courage. There were many good people involved in the process, but it took audacious leadership from the top to grant this historic pardon.
I’m not sure the weight on my shoulders feels any lighter. I’m not sure it’s supposed to. More than anything, I feel humbled. This doesn’t erase the foolish decisions of my youth, but it recognizes the better man I’ve become.

I can never bring the life back that I took, which means my work will never be done. I will continue to dedicate my life to improving safety, health, education, and access to opportunity in my community. I will continue to be an agent of positive change.

These are the words I can offer right now to try to convey my gratitude for this Pardon. But, truly, I’ll spend the rest of my life showing appreciation through my work in the community helping others.

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