Friday, September 21, 2012

Working in Montana

MVFHR board member Walt Everett is in Montana doing a series of speaking events organized by the Montana Abolition Coalition. Here's an excerpt from an article that ran as the top story in a local Montana newspaper with the headline "Death penalty opponents work to repeal statute":

Death penalty opponents last week stepped up their efforts to convince the Montana Legislature to repeal the state’s death penalty statute and replace it with life in prison without the possibility of parole.
An organization called Montana Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty issued a call to political conservatives in the Legislature to work on the repeal of the death penalty.
At the same time, the Montana Abolition Coalition for ending the death penalty brought Connecticut speaker and death penalty opponent Walter Everett to speak in several Montana towns, including Choteau.

The conservative political group made its statements following state District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock’s ruling last week that the protocols by which death row inmates are executed in Montana violate both state law and the Montana Constitution, the group said in a news release. The judge has ordered the Legislature and the Department of Corrections to change the rules for executing inmates.

“Conservatives dislike waste and inefficiency. That is why we should cast a critical eye when the state is involved with the business of executing people,” MTCCADAP Advisory Committee member Roy Brown of Billings said in the news release. “When it takes over 20 years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for extra legal fees and court costs, it is obvious that the process if full of waste and inefficiency.”


Everett, the pastor of the United Methodist Church in Hartford, Conn., began his journey to becoming a death penalty opponent in 1987, when a drugged out, hard luck man, Mike Carlucci, shot and killed Everett’s 24-year-old son, Scott, whose only transgression was that he had locked himself out of his apartment building in Bridgeport, Conn., and was pounding on the exterior door, in hopes that one of the first-floor tenants would hear him and let him in.

Carlucci, strung out on three days of drugs, came out of his apartment with a handgun, listened to Scott’s entreaties and then shot him. Scott died at the scene and Carlucci was arrested almost immediately.

Speaking to Choteau residents, Everett replayed those difficult days and months and recounted a journey that he never expected or wanted to take, but that with “God’s nudging” he is continuing to take.

In the wake of this personal journey, Everett has become an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. His work with the Murder Victims Families for Human Rights movements helped to convince the Connecticut state government earlier this year to repeal the death penalty there, becoming the fifth state nationwide in five years to repeal the death penalty.

Everett opened his program by asking those present to define their perception of the Christian God as one of forgiveness and mercy, not one of vengeance. He took listeners through a short foray into Old and New Testament scripture and ultimately made the position that God does not endorse revenge but instead calls upon his followers to forgive those who trespass against them.

Everett said he was well aware of Christianity’s emphasis on loving your neighbor and your God, but when his son was killed, he did not know how to go on.

He spent the next year trying to cope, falling into depression and losing his ability to reach out to his own parishioners. A support group for families who have lost loved ones to murder did not help. In fact, it highlighted to him that unless he took another path he could be filled with anger and grief for decades.

Everett and his family planned Scott’s funeral and contacted police for updates on the murder. They even talked to witnesses, gathering additional information that they tried, unsuccessfully to give to the police. “I festered in my anger,” Everett recalled.

Read the full article.

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