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Foy v. Florida Commission on Offender Review


This is a case about the right to forgive. This “Right to Forgive” is an admittedly novel First Amendment theory, but we believe in it wholeheartedly.  This case could also be characterized as a right to due process for crime victims case.

This right to forgive resides at the confluence of the free association and free exercise rights found in the First Amendment. Further, the Florida Constitution protects a crime victim’s rights, which must also include the right to forgive. The government deprived Plaintiff Teena Foy of her rights by barring her from any contact with her son.

Ms. Foy’s son was a drug addict who, while under the spell of this evil, committed heinous crimes against her. Foy’s maternal instincts and religious conviction eventually compelled her to find forgiveness for her son. Ms. Foy and her son are close now. Her son has been released from prison after 13 years, and both he and his mother were looking forward to being reunified.

Ms. Foy is of advanced age and ailing health. Her desire is to live out the rest of her life, however long that may be, with her son by her side and in her warm embrace. The government, however, has other plans. The government wishes to keep them separated, apparently because the bureaucracy, without any rational reason, has reflexively decided that her son should be kept from his so-called victim. This is even over the objections of this “victim.”  She is now victimized by an unthinking bureaucracy that wants to govern by the principle of “because we said so,” rather than wielding their power logically or reasonably. 

“Victim” status is not something Ms. Foy asked for. If the state wants to give you status as “victim” with benefits for that status, fine.  But what about when that status is punitive?  This status takes away her right to be with her son. 


The designation as a crime victim is intended to protect and empower Ms. Foy, not to deprive her of her family and limit her rights.  If Ms. Foy must have her rights limited by her status as a crime victim, then she wishes to shed that status and enjoy the same rights that she would have if she had no status at all. Because of her “victim” status, she has fewer rights than anyone else in the entire world to be with her son.  In fact, the only person on the planet with whom Mr. Foy may not associate is his own mother.  

This can not be how our law functions. The only thing victimizing her is the government’s intransigence in saying “rules is rules” and refusing to allow this family to be together.

Usually, a victim seeking vindication of their rights is seeking redress or retribution – and the state, purportedly acting on behalf of the victim and society, will often comply or assist. A forgiving victim should have rights too. Ms. Foy derives her feelings of compassion and forgiveness from her relationship with God and should be free to express them by associating with whomever she pleases – including her assailant. Under the current state of affairs, if Ms. Foy is on her deathbed and wishes to call her son to say goodbye, and her son knows that it is her calling, he can not even accept that call without violating the law and being sent back to prison. Ms. Foy has done nothing to warrant this punishment.

The state should not be permitted to deprive Ms. Foy of the right to speak to her son, to associate with her son, and to fully forgive her son. Ms. Foy is no longer her son’s victim. She is now the victim of a government acting illogically, unthinkingly, and uncaringly to deprive her of her rights as a citizen and as a crime victim. The Court must grant Ms. Foy her right to forgive.  

Marc Randazza


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