The Article is By SAM KUSIC, firstname.lastname@example.org and was originally published: Tuesday, February 17, 2009
"The Death Penalty: A voice of Experience" (This article is about a talk by Rev. Walter Everett.)
Technically, the Rev. Walter Everett's talk Monday evening at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was about the death penalty and about why it should be abolished.
But really it was about forgiveness, even in the face of the unforgivable.
Everett, who spoke to a standing-room-only audience in the Hadley Union Building as part of the university's Six O'Clock speaker series, is a member of a group called Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, which is seeking an end to the death penalty.
And he shared with the audience the story of himself and Mike Carlucci, a former drug addict who, in 1987, shot and killed Everett's 24-year-old son, Scott.
The death penalty was never on the table for Carlucci. In fact, he ultimately struck a plea bargain and served no more than five years on a manslaughter charge.
Even though Everett had always opposed the death penalty, he still wanted to see Carlucci go to prison for a long, long time.
But Everett said he came to realize that he couldn't live the rest of his life with the rage he felt and that he needed to let it go. But he didn't know how.
So he prayed. He asked God, ``How do I unload this anger?''
``I felt I was getting no answer at all,'' he said.
But when it came time for Carlucci's sentencing, Everett stood before the court and read a statement describing the impact his son's death had on him.
He doesn't remember what he said. But he remembers what Carlucci said when the judge asked if wanted to say anything.
``I'm sorry I killed Scott. These must seem like empty words to the Everetts, but I don't know what else to say.''
Everett said it was then that God showed him how. He said he heard something in Carlucci's words.
He went home and wondered how to respond.
So on the anniversary of his son's death, he sat down and wrote a letter to Carlucci. He told him about the rage and frustration and loneliness he was feeling and about how his family was being torn apart.
And after having said all that at the end of the letter, he told Carlucci that he forgave him.
``Those are the hardest words I've ever written in my life,'' he said.
Carlucci wrote back, and the two struck up a correspondence. Eventually Carlucci asked if Everett would visit him in prison.
He agreed, although reluctantly.
``I was being asked to do something not only by Mike but by God.''
Later, he would testify at a parole hearing, arguing for Carlucci's early release, which he was given.
And later still, he officiated at Carlucci's wedding.
Everett said that while there are some people who should never be let out of prison, Carlucci wasn't one of them. He said he has been able to make himself a better person.
``I can never forget what happened to Scott,'' Everett said. ``It has forever changed my life. But when I look at Mike, I don't see somebody who hurt Scott. I see somebody whose life has been changed by God. And I celebrate that.''
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