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What’s the deal with Psalms 51 and 38 in the Sabrina Limon trial?


With prosecutor Eric Smith in the foreground, Jonathan Hearn gestures as he testifies in the murder trial of his former lover Sabrina Limon.

In confessed murderer Jonathan Hearn’s mind, he’s a modern-day version of King David — the lusting adulterer from scripture who slept with one of his soldier’s wives, then had the husband killed to cover up his sins.

Hearn admitted to killing Robert Limon, the husband of his then-lover, Sabrina Limon, in August 2014. He’s testifying in Kern County Superior Court this week against Sabrina, who prosecutors allege conspired with Hearn to commit murder.

During Monday’s proceedings, a series of wiretapped recordings was played, including one where Hearn recommends a couple of psalms for Limon to read, something he described as “good rest for the soul.”

Hearn recommended Psalm 38 and Psalm 51.

Both passages reference the story of when King David lusted over Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who was one of David’s most devout soldiers. While Uriah was away, David and Bathsheba had an affair, resulting in Bathsheba's pregnancy. David had Uriah killed and married Bathsheba as a cover.

In the passages, David expresses the guilt he was feeling and was seeking God’s forgiveness.

Psalm 51: 1-2 opens, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

“David is a lot like you and I, Sabrina,” Hearn told Limon in a November 2014 phone call. “He made a lot of big mistakes and was someone who committed adultery … and went on to kill the guy. He went out of his way to cover up his sin.”

But Hearn made allowances for David. “God really likes him,” Hearn said. “He was one of God’s favorite people ever, and it has to do with God’s understanding.”

Hearn testified Monday that in Psalm 51 he found similarities between David and his case with Limon, “not exactly, but as it pertains to a lot of lust and adultery and a murder cover-up.”

The psalm, written by David, is a penitent, or apology for his sins — something Hearn admitted he and Limon “completely failed to do,” but that he found comfort in the psalms regardless.

“I guess I found some comfort in the fact that there was forgiveness,” Hearn said.

Deacon Michael Richard from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Bakersfield is very familiar with Psalm 51, which he said he prays with daily to seek God’s forgiveness.

"God knows where my heart is at, and so, I throw myself on his mercy seeking his forgiveness,” Richard said.

The psalm, Richard said, speaks to his need for relying on God’s mercy in life and is a piece he recommends regularly to anyone feeling convicted for their actions — not just murderers.

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