Multiply Justice

Can forgiveness play a role in criminal justice?

Conor McBride, who was convicted of shooting his girlfriend of three years when they were both 19. (CC Ryan Pfluger / NYT NC)

Conor McBride, who was convicted of shooting his girlfriend of three years when they were both 19. (CC Ryan Pfluger / NYT NC)

Paul Tullis writes for nytimes.com:

At 2:15 in the afternoon on March 28, 2010, Conor McBride, a tall, sandy-haired 19-year-old wearing jeans, a T-shirt and New Balance sneakers, walked into the Tallahassee Police Department and approached the desk in the main lobby. Gina Maddox, the officer on duty, noticed that he looked upset and asked him how she could help. “You need to arrest me,” McBride answered. “I just shot my fiancée in the head.” When Maddox, taken aback, didn’t respond right away, McBride added, “This is not a joke.”

… About an hour earlier, at his parents’ house, McBride shot Ann Margaret Grosmaire, his girlfriend of three years. Ann was a tall 19-year-old with long blond hair and, like McBride, a student at Tallahassee Community College. The couple had been fighting for 38 hours in person, by text message and over the phone. They fought about the mundane things that many couples might fight about, but instead of resolving their differences or shaking them off, they kept it up for two nights and two mornings, culminating in the moment that McBride shot Grosmaire, who was on her knees, in the face. Her last words were, “No, don’t!”

Friends couldn’t believe the news. Grosmaire was known as the empathetic listener of her group, the one in whom others would confide their problems, though she didn’t often reveal her own. McBride had been selected for a youth-leadership program through the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and was a top student at Leon County High School, where he and Grosmaire met. He had never been in any serious trouble. …

At the police station, Conor gave Montgomery the key to his parents’ house. He had left Ann, certain he had killed her, but she was still alive, though unresponsive, when the county sheriff’s deputies and police arrived.

That night, Andy Grosmaire, Ann’s father, stood beside his daughter’s bed in the intensive-care unit of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. The room was silent except for the rhythmic whoosh of the ventilator keeping her alive. Ann had some brainstem function, the doctors said, and although her parents, who are practicing Catholics, held out hope, it was clear to Andy that unless God did “wondrous things,” Ann would not survive her injuries. Ann’s mother, Kate, had gone home to try to get some sleep, so Andy was alone in the room, praying fervently over his daughter, “just listening,” he says, “for that first word that may come out.”

Ann’s face was covered in bandages, and she was intubated and unconscious, but Andy felt her say, “Forgive him.” His response was immediate. “No,” he said out loud. “No way. It’s impossible.” But Andy kept hearing his daughter’s voice: “Forgive him. Forgive him.”

Read the rest of this powerful story — and how a restorative justice process opened the door for redemption and restoration — by clicking here.
You can learn more about restorative justice by clicking here.

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