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Forgiving the Dead Man Walking by Debbie…
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Forgiving the Dead Man Walking

by Debbie Morris

Other authors: Gregg Lewis (Contributor)

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Morris tells her true story of being kidnapped and raped when she was 16, in Louisiana in 1978. One of her kidnappers was executed for his crimes in 1984, and this is her story of the incident and the road to forgiveness. The Sean Penn character in the movie Dead Man Walking was a composite of Morris's kidnapper and another man ministered to by Sister Helen Prejean, played by Susan Sarandon in the movie. Morris has a powerful message about the healing power of forgiveness. ( )
  hobbitprincess | Jul 25, 2013 |
This was written by, or on behalf of, Debbie Morris, one of the victims of Robert Willie, a death row inmate supported by Sister Helen Prejean, as recounted in her book Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account Of The Death Penalty In The United States. As such, I think anyone interested in Prejean's work will want to read it, and I recommend reading Michael Varnado's Victims of Dead Man Walking (also issued as Losing Faith) and Dead Family Walking: The Bourque Family Story of Dead Man Walking by D.D. Devinci for other points of view.

I read this book when it first came out, and I have pondered it for all the years since. As an account of enduring and surviving a grotesque crime, this is a very moving account. As a comment about dealing with such issues, I found it unsatisfying.

The first problem is the ambiguities of the relationship between Morris and Prejean. Let me say that I have considerable admiration for Prejean, certainly more than for most people on her side of the death issue. At least she doesn't dismiss the victims as irrelevant. This story is told as a memoir, so Morris attempts to recount her feelings at the time, which are not necessarily how she feels looking backward. Before she met Prejean, Morris tells us that she was extremely critical of her for accepting without question what Robert Willie told her. Her anger was quite justified. It wouldn't have been difficult for Prejean to find other accounts. But now that Morris and Prejean are such great friends, does this criticism still stand? Further, it becomes clear that Prejean has no qualms about lying through her teeth to further her claims. She said in her interviews prior to Willie's execution that he was remorseful, a changed man. Willie contradicted her in his own interviews. She admits to Morris that Willie wasn't, and probably wasn't capable of being remorseful. Neither she nor Morris seem to have dealt with this untruthfulness.

I am bewildered by Morris' remarks about forgiveness. Many people who write on the issue of forgiveness have the odd idea that if one hasn't forgiven someone, one thinks of them obsessively, eaten up with anger. I had a friend who was murdered; I certainly haven't forgiven the murderer. He received a sentence that satisfies my sense of justice and I have almost forgotten him. I often think lovingly of my friend, but the only time that I think of him is when someone brings up this forgiveness issue. One of the proponents of forgiveness insisted that I must have forgiven him in some sense, but I insisted that I am the arbiter of my own feelings - he is not forgiven one whit. Forgiveness can be just as active and require as much energy as anger.

I'm glad that Morris has learned to cope with what happened to her, but I don't understand it as forgiveness. If she had forgiven him before the trial, would she have refused to testify? If it doesn't affect the course of the law, then what does it mean? Salvation is between the individual soul and God, so that is no explanation either. These are familiar platitudes, which people throw out so unthinkingly, confident that they are self evident, that when they are challenged to explain, they often cannot.

Personally, I recommend Forgiving and Not Forgiving:: Why Sometimes It's Better Not to Forgive by Jeanne Safer as a nuanced look at anger and forgiveness. ( )
  juglicerr | Sep 27, 2007 |
Showing 2 of 2
This is a response to juglicerr's review.

"Further, it becomes clear that Prejean has no qualms about lying through her teeth to further her claims. She said in her interviews prior to Willie's execution that he was remorseful, a changed man. Willie contradicted her in his own interviews. She admits to Morris that Willie wasn't, and probably wasn't capable of being remorseful. Neither she nor Morris seem to have dealt with this untruthfulness. "

What are the sources that say this? Where are they?
added by VincentOMoh | editN/A, Vincent Mow
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Debbie Morrisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lewis, GreggContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0310231876, Paperback)

It was just another time of enjoying milkshakes and small talk. Neither Debbie Cuevas nor her boyfriend, Mark Brewster, gave much thought to the white pickup truck that had pulled up beside them on the riverfront. Until . . . a revolver thrust through the driver's window . . . a hand jerked Debbie's head back and a voice said, 'Don't do anything stupid' . . . and a quiet Friday evening abruptly became a nightmare. For the first time, here is the untold other half of Dead Man Walking, the movie that depicted killer Robert Willie's death-row relationship with spiritual advisor Helen Prejean. Now the woman whose testimony helped send Willie to the electric chair tells her side of the story--the side America hasn't heard. In gripping detail, Debbie Morris--formerly Debbie Cuevas--recounts her hours of terror . . . and her years of walking an agonizing road back to wholeness. More than a riveting narrative, here is an incredible tale of courage, faith, and forgiveness. In a world where all of us struggle sooner or later with unforgiveness, Debbie Morris is a living testimony to the grace we long for: grace that shines more brightly than we dare believe, bright enough to triumph over the darkest evil.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:27 -0400)

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