Monday, March 24, 2008

Planting seeds, one heart at a time

Day III of the VHAC tour featured three stops in Harrisburg and the first appearance by the Rev. Walter Everett of Murder Victims' Families of Human Rights. It's hard to give Walt's story justice in print, but I'll try.

Walt's 24-year-old son, Scott, was killed by a man who was high on drugs in 1987. As one might expect, Walt was devastated. And filled with rage. He was angry at the "faceless person" who killed his son. He was angry at the police whom he felt weren't giving the case enough attention. He was angry at the state's attorney who struck a plea bargain for involuntary manslaughter with a ten year sentence for the perpetrator.

But when Walt went to victims' families support groups, he saw people who were still angry 15, 20 years after the fact. He decided he didn't want to live with rage for the rest of his life.

And his life changed when Mike Carlucci, the man who killed Scott Everett, spoke in court. "I'm sorry I killed Scott Everett," Carlucci said the day he accepted his plea bargain. "I wish I could bring him back. Obviously, I can't.

"These must sound like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry."

(A great video on Walt and Mike is available here.)

On the one year anniversary of Scott's death, Walt wrote a letter to Mike and forgave him. Sometime after that, he visited Mike in prison. And after just three years in prison, Mike applied for early release. And Walt spoke at his parole hearing.

"Forgiveness has less to do with how you feel about the person than with how you want to feel yourself, to begin to heal," Walt says.

We stopped today in Harrisburg for three events. Our crowds were more intimate, but as I told the audience at Penn State Harrisburg, our friends in New Jersey told me that many of their events were with "eight people in the basement of Sisters of the Sacred Rosary." And they abolished the death penalty by doing that. We need each and every person we can find to move forward.

Death row exoneree Harold Wilson was with us today and will be for the rest of the week. I will have some photos to share soon. At the moment, I have the camera and Ashlee from PADP has the USB cord. But we'll have some photos up in the next few days. For now, I need rest.

Andy in Harrisburg

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