(Bernard is the father, Norman is the neighbor)
"Bernard looks at Abramson, who nods her head, encouraging. Bernard opens the small piece of paper he has folded into eighths and creased and unfolded and refolded 20 times in the last two hours. He reads haltingly at first, as he explains that he has met with Norman twice in the past, but his voice grows stronger as he continues. "I asked him about his feelings about taking my son's life, and he expressed remorse."
The commissioners look stunned.
Bernard hesitates only a fraction of a second before affirming that he believes Norman to be sincerely sorry. "So it is my intention to ask that Mr. Norman be granted parole and release today," he says. "I hope the board takes this into consideration and grants my family and Mr. Norman some relief."
Minutes later, as Bernard and Abramson are ushered out of the room, the speaker is turned off, and the two commissioners lean their heads in to talk to each other. When Norman comes into the room to sit where Bernard had been sitting, the commissioners flip on the speaker. "Can everyone hear?" they ask Bernard and Abramson, who are now sitting outside the room watching the proceedings through a glass window.
The commissioners grill Norman about the night of the crime, whether he had been drinking, whether he had ever done drugs, whether he had used drugs in prison, whether he had taken classes in prison, whether he had a place to stay if they released him, whether he thought he could get a job with the plumbing certificate he had earned, why he had shot at the kids.
Norman says what he has said all along, that he only meant to scare them by firing into the sky, that the window blind crashed down on his gun, that he lost control of his weapon, that it was an accident, that he never meant to hurt anybody. He was angry, he says, but he never should have reacted the way he did, and he is sorry.
The commissioners, still reeling from Bernard's statement, point out that the victim supports his parole. "I'm just about ready to pass out on the table," Blount says. "I've been here 19 years and have only heard a victim say this once before."
"This man has shown incredible mercy to you today," Commissioner Perry Sfikas says. "I don't know how you pay this back in the future." He shakes his head.
What if your roles were reversed, and he had shot your daughter? Blount demands. "Do you think you would be able to say the same thing?"
Norman is paralyzed by the question. Would he? Could he? Will his answers affect his chances of parole? He tries to imagine. Finally, he gives up, shaking his head and looking down at the cuffed hands in his lap: "Honestly, I don't know."
The commissioners send him out of the room. Three minutes later, they announce their decision: William Norman will be granted "delayed release," parole that will be granted in the next 18 months, after attendance at some required classes and six months of active work release.
"This concludes the parole hearing," Blount says.
As Norman leans forward to sign the parole document the commissioners have given him -- one hand awkwardly dragging its cuffed partner along the page -- he looks out through the booth's soundproof glass seeking Bernard's face.
"Thank you," he mouths.
Bernard gives a barely perceptible nod. And leaves the room.
Downstairs, the friendly corrections officer at the front desk, who had signed Bernard in and knew he was a victim testifying at a parole hearing, waves him out the door with a smile. "Hope everything went your way," she says.
"It did," Bernard says, snapped out of his reverie. And then again, more firmly, "It did."
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