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  • It was a Thursday,

  • June the 23rd, 1994.

  • (Sighs)

  • \"Collect your belongings. You are free to go.

  • When escorted outside, go directly to your car.

  • Do not talk to reporters.\"

  • My head is spinning,

  • my heart is racing,

  • I can't get a breath.

  • I just want out of there.

  • When I get to my car,

  • I throw everything on the back,

  • and I just collapse into the driver's seat.

  • \"I can't do this.

  • I can't go home to my family

  • that I haven't seen in a week

  • and pretend to be happy.\"

  • Not even their love and support

  • could help me at this particular time.

  • We had just sentenced a man to death.

  • Now what?

  • Just go home and wash dishes?

  • You see, in Mississippi,

  • the death penalty is like a part of our unspoken culture.

  • The basic logic is, if you murder someone,

  • then you're going to receive the death penalty.

  • So when the jury selection process took place,

  • they asked me,

  • \"Could you,

  • if the evidence presented justified the death penalty,

  • could you deliver,

  • rationally and without reservations,

  • a penalty of death?\"

  • My answer was an astounding \"yes,\"

  • and I was selected as Juror Number 2.

  • The trial started.

  • From the evidence being presented

  • and from the pictures of the victim,

  • my first response was, \"Yes, this man is a monster,

  • and he deserves the death penalty.\"

  • For days, I sat and looked at his hands,

  • the ones that yielded the knife,

  • and against his pasty white skin,

  • his eyes ...

  • Well, he spent endless days in his cell,

  • no sunlight,

  • so his eyes were as black as his hair and his mustache.

  • He was very intimidating,

  • and there was absolutely no doubt in his guilt.

  • But regardless of his guilt,

  • as the days passed,

  • I began to see this monster

  • as a human being.

  • Something inside of me was changing that I just didn't understand.

  • I was beginning to question myself

  • as to whether or not I wanted to give this man the death penalty.

  • Jury deliberations began,

  • and the judge gave us jury instructions

  • and it was to be used as a tool

  • in how to reach a verdict.

  • Well, using this tool only led to one decision,

  • and that was the death penalty.

  • I felt backed into a corner.

  • My head and my heart were in conflict with each other,

  • and the thought of the death penalty

  • made me sick.

  • However, following the judge's instructions,

  • being a law-abiding person,

  • I gave up.

  • I gave up and voted along with the other 11 jurors.

  • And there it was:

  • our broken judicial system at work.

  • So here I am in my car,

  • and I'm wondering:

  • How is my life ever going to be the same?

  • My life was kids, work, church, ball games --

  • just your average, normal, everyday life.

  • Now everything felt trivial.

  • I was going down this rabbit hole.

  • The anger, the anxiety,

  • the guilt, the depression ...

  • it just clung to me.

  • I knew that my life had to resume,

  • so I sought counseling.

  • The counselor diagnosed me with PTSD

  • and told me that the best way to overcome the PTSD

  • was to talk about the trauma.

  • However, if I talked or tried to talk about the trauma

  • outside her office,

  • I was shut down.

  • No one wanted to hear about it.

  • He was just a murderer. Get over it.

  • It was then that I decided to become a silent survivor.

  • Twelve years later, 2006,

  • I learned that Bobby Wilcher had dropped all of his appeals,

  • and his execution date was approaching.

  • That was like a punch in the stomach.

  • All of those buried feelings just started coming back.

  • To try and find peace, I called Bobby's attorney, and I said,

  • \"Can I see Bobby before he's executed?\"

  • Driving to the penitentiary on the day of his execution,

  • in my mind,

  • Bobby was going to be manic.

  • But, surprisingly, he was very calm.

  • And for two hours, he and I sat there and talked about life,

  • and I got to ask him to forgive me for my hand in his death.

  • His words to me were:

  • \"You don't have to apologize.

  • You didn't put me here.

  • I did this myself.

  • But if it'll make you feel better,

  • I forgive you.\"

  • On my way home,

  • I stopped by a restaurant and bought a margarita.

  • (Laughter)

  • I don't think I could get one big enough --

  • (Laughter)

  • to try and calm down.

  • My phone rang.

  • It was Bobby's attorney.

  • Within two minutes of his execution,

  • they had given him a stay.

  • This stay gave me time

  • to reach out to Bobby.

  • And as crazy as it may sound,

  • we became friends.

  • Three months later,

  • he was executed by the State of Mississippi.

  • I'm here to tell you my story,

  • because it was precisely 22 years later

  • that I even wanted to open up enough to talk about it,

  • when a friend encouraged me.

  • \"Hey, perhaps you need to talk to the other jurors.

  • You've been through the same experience.\"

  • Uncertain of what I was after,

  • I did need to talk to them.

  • So I set out on my quest,

  • and I actually found most of them.

  • The first juror I met

  • thought that Bobby got what he deserved.

  • Another juror --

  • well, they just kind of regretted that it took so long

  • to carry the sentence out.

  • Then one juror, and I don't know what was wrong with him,

  • but he didn't remember anything about the trial.

  • (Laughter)

  • Well,

  • I'm thinking in my mind,

  • \"Jeez, is this the response I'm gonna get from everybody else?\"

  • Well, thank God for Allen.

  • Allen was a gentle soul.

  • And when I talked to him, he was genuinely upset

  • about our decision.

  • And he told me about the day that the devastation

  • really set in on him and hit him.

  • He was listening to the radio,

  • and the radio had a list of names of men to be executed

  • at Parchman Penitentiary.

  • He heard Bobby's name,

  • and he then truly realized what he had done.

  • And he said, \"You know, I had a responsibility in that man's death.\"

  • Now here it is, 20-something years later,

  • and Allen is still dealing with that issue.

  • And he's never told anyone about it, not even his wife.

  • He also told me

  • that if the State of Mississippi wanted to keep the death penalty,

  • then hey, they needed to provide counseling for the jurors.

  • Then the next juror I met was Jane.

  • Jane is now totally against the death penalty,

  • And there was Bill.

  • Bill said he had this crushing depression for weeks,

  • and when he went back to work,

  • his colleagues would say things to him like,

  • \"Hey, did you fry him?\"

  • To them, it was just a joke.

  • Then there was Jon.

  • Jon said his decision weighed on him,

  • and it burdened him daily.

  • The final juror that I spoke to was Ken.