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James Morgan, 55, taken in a hearing room on March 25 ​at ​the ​Florida Correctional Institution​, near the town of Starke. He's been behind bars ​since he was 16, or ​for 38 years. His ​"​scheduled release date​"​ is​ in​ 2094. Photo by Amy Linn.

Dying Inside

Teenage murderer James Morgan didn’t go the electric chair. But is his life worth living? In 1987, when I first interviewed James Morgan, he was on death row in Florida, sentenced to die in the electric chair for murdering a widow in a small town north of Palm Beach. He killed her when he was 16 years old. Local newspaper reporters struggled to find words for the crime: Heinous, grisly, and senseless didn’t do it justice. Nothing could describe what Morgan did to 66-year-old Gertrude Trbovich, a widow who lived on a narrow drive with homes on manicured lawns, flanked by hibiscus and palm trees. Morgan was evil, wicked, and vile, the prosecutor said at trial. Yes, he was young. But he was incapable of change and would never find a moral compass. People like him were a danger to society whether they were 40 years old, 60, or beyond. As of 2016, Morgan’s “expected release date” is set for 2094, when he’d be 134 years old. “Have you watched how he doesn’t move?” Morgan’s

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Marietta Jaeger (second from right) sits with several co-founders of the group Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing (left to right): SueZann Bosler, George White and Bill Pelke. Jaeger and her colleagues were attending a conference on Saturday at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to mark World Day Against the Death Penalty and to launch their speaking tour through Texas.

Forgiving Someone Who Kills Your Loved One Seems Impossible. Until It Isn’t

October 14, 2015   It was the perfect campsite, a place where the five kids in the Jaeger family could skip stones in a drifting river and wake up to views of the Montana Rockies. Marietta Jaeger and her husband, their three teenagers and two grade-schoolers in tow, had driven 2,000 miles from their suburban Detroit home to reach the spot at Missouri Headwaters State Park. The swath of land near the tiny Montana town of Three Forks gave way to the hardscrabble Horseshoe Hills, some 50 miles northwest of Bozeman. It was June 1973. The park was the first stop in a long-planned dream vacation, their first family camping trip. And everything was falling into place. They’d even snagged a prime site by the riverbank, complete with a picnic table under shade trees. When it was time for bed, the younger kids scrambled into a tent and cocooned themselves in sleeping bags. Heidi, 13, snugged in next to 7-year-old Susie, the coltish, brown-haired baby of the family, whose natural exuberance was balanced by a

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Freedom, Finally, After a Life in Prison

WHEN she was 15 years old, Paula Cooper and three high school classmates in Gary, Ind., decided to cut school and steal some money to play games at a local arcade. They drank some cheap wine, smoked some pot and walked to the nearby home of a 78-year-old Bible teacher, Ruth Pelke. They figured she might have a jar of money somewhere. The teenagers cajoled their way inside by telling Ms. Pelke that they were interested in Bible lessons. Once there, one of them hit her with a vase. Ms. Cooper stabbed Ms. Pelke 33 times with a butcher knife. The others stood watch, joined in the slaying or searched for cash. They left with $10 and took a joy ride in Ms. Pelke’s old Plymouth. Three girls received long prison sentences. Ms. Cooper pleaded guilty to murder and in 1986 was sentenced to die in the electric chair, becoming the youngest death-row inmate in Indiana history. What followed was extraordinary. Bill Pelke, the Bible teacher’s grandson, forgave Ms. Cooper for killing his beloved grandmother,

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