Forgiveness stories are inspiring. Reading about the Cooney family is no exception. On Thursday, March 18th, 2010 a hearing took place in which the family of a Duluth murder victim begged for the mercy. The entire courtroom including the judge was riveted by what they heard.
The story began last July when Curtis Cooney was shot in the head and killed by a man named Philbert “Randy” Barnes who was firing a gun into a crowd of people. In January “Randy” Barnes was convicted of 2nd degree murder and 2nd degree attempted murder. This past Thursday the judge handed down the sentence. Both families were present. But before the judge spoke of his sentence the Cooney family wanted to speak.
Heidi Cooney, the victim’s mother began by saying “I was raised to be forgiving, and if you want others to forgive you you need to forgive.” Curtis Cooney’s sister began to cry commenting that she lost her best friend that night. The two of them had a very special bond. Then Curtis’s father reminded everyone that “If Curtis could be here today he would forgive you, and so do we.” Cooney Sr. asked the judge to show Barnes mercy.
The Barnes family was also present in the courtroom. The older brother, tearfully apologizing to the Cooney family begged for forgiveness. Then the judge acknowledged that what he heard was extraordinary and he would take into account all that was said. After a brief recess the judge announced the sentence. Barnes was to receive 14 years in jail for attempted murder and 29 years for murder to run concurrently. Judge Johnson told those in the courtroom that it was because of “the grace of the Cooney family” he elected to sentence Barnes concurrently. The court was moved by the fact that the Cooney family forgave Barnes and that it wasn’t looking for retribution. The judge felt that it was “extraordinary” in the way the murder victim’s family and the defendant’s family came together. Steven Bynum, Barnes brother walked over to Michael Cooney and shook his hand and rubbed his cheek. Bynum then expressed his thanks to the Cooney family for the “grace, love and compassion” they extended to his family.
Once outside the courtroom Cooney Sr. said “If you’re truly consumed with hate and bitterness, that hurts you more than anything else. Carrying around hate and rage is not good for a person. Once you forgive someone, the healing process can truly begin.”
Steven Bynum responded by saying “We want Curtis Cooney’s family to have peace and that they can go forward in the joy and love of the Lord, that’s the most important thing. . .The absolute love and mercy that the Cooney family has shown to our family is just unforgettable. . . The second most important thing is that my brother have the opportunity to rebuild his life again and to take stock in what has happened. The greatest honor that he could give to the Cooney family, to Curtis and to all of us that love and support him is that he build his life anew, that he find God, and that he takes that love and joy and extends it to others. Today was an example of the power of forgiveness and redemption and reconciliation.”
When reading this, what thoughts did you have? I would appreciate hearing them. If you have a forgiveness story you would like to share please submitted through my website www.dreileenborris.com. By sharing your stories and your struggles it will touch many other lives. You can learn more about how to forgive in “Finding Forgiveness: A 7 Step Program for Letting go of Anger and Bitterness” published by McGraw-Hill.