Dead Man Walking Capital Punishment Essay

Dead Man Walking Capital Punishment Essay-52
DEBBIE MORRIS: In my search for peace, I was looking for any way that I could to make things like they were before and the most obvious was the legal system. TIPPETT: Debbie Morris was furious when Sister Helen Prejean’s book became a best-seller and a movie because it was based in part on a compassionate portrayal of her abductor, Robert Lee Willie. TIPPETT: But you did still have these conflicted feelings about whether he should be put to death? MORRIS: The conflict really began when a date of execution was actually set for him. But in the weeks, the days leading up to it, I just began to feel a huge burden, a huge amount of anxiety. This is a common denominator, she says, whether they oppose the death penalty or favor it. I did it actually very selfishly because I was looking to feel better myself. The night that I realized that I needed to forgive Robert Lee Willie, he certainly didn’t benefit. He never knew that I forgave him, and it wouldn’t really have done him any good to know, you know, unless in some way that motivated him to see, you know, an ultimate good in somebody and be able to, you know, to turn to God and ask for his own forgiveness.

DEBBIE MORRIS: In my search for peace, I was looking for any way that I could to make things like they were before and the most obvious was the legal system. TIPPETT: Debbie Morris was furious when Sister Helen Prejean’s book became a best-seller and a movie because it was based in part on a compassionate portrayal of her abductor, Robert Lee Willie. TIPPETT: But you did still have these conflicted feelings about whether he should be put to death? MORRIS: The conflict really began when a date of execution was actually set for him. But in the weeks, the days leading up to it, I just began to feel a huge burden, a huge amount of anxiety. This is a common denominator, she says, whether they oppose the death penalty or favor it. I did it actually very selfishly because I was looking to feel better myself. The night that I realized that I needed to forgive Robert Lee Willie, he certainly didn’t benefit. He never knew that I forgave him, and it wouldn’t really have done him any good to know, you know, unless in some way that motivated him to see, you know, an ultimate good in somebody and be able to, you know, to turn to God and ask for his own forgiveness.By the time he was 21, Robert Willie had been in and out of prison dozens of times. This was something that I thought would never happen. And people would come up to me and say, you know, `Aren’t you so glad? But I asked her what forgiveness looks like when the person who hurt you never showed any remorse and how did she forgive a man who had already been executed? MORRIS: I think the first thing that I had to realize about forgiveness is that I didn’t do it for Robert Lee Willie. He didn’t get let off of any hook because I forgave him.Two decades after that experience, Debbie Morris wrote her own memoir entitled , but she did not rush to forgiveness. And it’s one thing to stand back and talk about it; it’s quite different when that date is actually set and you know that on this date, on December 28th, 1984, this person is going to cease to be alive. TIPPETT: And I believe that that day on which he died was a turning point for you, and I wonder if you would just take me through what you experienced on that day and that night on which Robert Willie died. MORRIS: It’s taken a while even for me to totally understand that. ’ You know, `Boy, that’s going to be a day to celebrate.’ And I just would sort of nod and say, `Yeah, I,’ you know, `I guess.’ And I kept wondering `What is wrong with me? Really, I guess, I let myself off the hook, and there was a sense of relief immediately that came with that. MORRIS: I think it means trading away the hate and being filled up with something better for me.

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It took a long time for me to begin to consider something like forgiveness. He had escaped from the local jail in the past when he was incarcerated there, and I was fearful that he would escape from jail again. I don’t exactly remember when the hate and the revenge stopped. TIPPETT: Was that while Robert Willie was still alive you were able to stop hating him? I think that some forgiveness is not done with the other person.But, you know, let it be your neighbor or your uncle, you know, your family member, your child. I bet that before this happened, I bet Robert Lee Willie’s mother was for the death penalty. We grew up in South Louisiana; Robert Lee Willie lived in a neighboring town. I would venture to guess that about 98 percent of the people in the community that Robert Lee Willie was from would say in a heartbeat that they were for the death penalty.When all of a sudden it was her child, she obviously changed her mind.The American public supports the principle of capital punishment, but there is a growing consensus among Jewish and Christian thinkers — across traditional liberal/conservative lines — that it should be abolished in this country or suspended while the system for imposing it is made more just.Reflections on justice, forgiveness, and the nature of God shed new light on America’s death penalty debate.When she was 16 years old, a young man named Robert Lee Willie abducted her and her boyfriend, Mark, raping her over a period of two days and shooting and torturing Mark. And I realized on the night of the execution that a big part of it was that I was beginning to panic and become desperate that when this man finally paid the greatest price that he could pay here on earth, his life, that I was going to wake up the next morning and still not be better. I had not called on the power of God to help me through this because I was too angry with God for not sparing me from the kidnapping and the rapes.She later led police to the remote area where Robert Willie had buried the body of another young woman. And I guess it was in desperation that when all else had failed, you know, and I had been through some really tough, tough times, drinking to try to kill the pain and, you know, and holding out on my hopes that, you know, that the legal system would finally cure me. I’m Krista Tippett, and this is from American Public Media.She spent several years as a teacher to children with behavioral problems. MORRIS: You know, these were the kids who had been kicked out of regular classes, and most of them had been kicked off their Little League teams, and, you know, they were about an inch away from being kicked out of the school altogether and, you know, my classroom was their last stop.And every morning, I would put my arms around them and hug them and say, you know, `Boy, am I glad you’re here today,’ you know?And so, you know, I can’t sit by and condone the way that we are doing executions in this country today. And I think that, you know, there are a lot of issues out there that because of the way the media covers them or, you know, because of the way people are asked, you know, you’re put into a category of “for” or “against.” You’re either for it or you’re against it.Do I think that it’s wrong and that the people who are involved are people who are for the death penalty, do I believe that they are out of God’s will? And when you are on the outside looking in, it’s easy to be for or against something.

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