When I got the call from Howard Zehr, I balked at the idea.

“In a capital case? He shot her in the head? No chance, Howard.”

Howard agreed, but encouraged me to speak with the young man’s mother and explain, from a restorative lawyer’s perspective, why it wouldn’t work.

“Go ahead and give her my number. But I don’t have anything good to tell her. What I do here with kids in Oakland is never going to happen in a capital case in Florida.”

Within the hour I was speaking with Conor’s warm and tenacious mother, Julie McBride, who tearfully told me how a few months earlier her nineteen-year-old honor student, planning to take his own life, shot his fiancée instead. Conor drove himself to the police station and confessed. She went on to explain that “everyone” wanted the case resolved through restorative...

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