In 1981 the Florida Supreme Court commuted Sunny's sentence to life in prison and released her to the general prison population. Less that one year later, Sunny's parents were killed in a plane crash. That was the most difficult day of her life.
And so I slowly, hour by hour, half day by half day, climbed back up from the despair of losing my parents and really feeling alone in the world again. But then I remembered again that connection that I had found on death row. That I wasn't just this small lump of flesh to be imprisoned in a cell, that I was much more than that.
On May 4, 1990, after 15 years of incarceration, Sunny Jacob's husband, Jesse Defaro, was executed in the electric chair.
The anger was toxic for me. It would make me sick, sick at my soul, sick in my body, sick in my mind.
17 years after Sunny and Jesse were sentenced to death, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was given proof that witness testimony had been falsified. The results of Walter Rhodes' lie detector test were also falsified. Additional evidence that would have cleared Sunny and Jesse had been suppressed. On October 19, 1992 Sunny's conviction was overturned and she was released from prison.
When I went in, I was a mother with two young children, a daughter, and a wife. I was in my 20's. When I came out I was a widow, and an orphan, and a grandmother.
Sunny struggled with her loss, with her anger, and with her sense of betrayal. She was free but after suffering so many wounds, how could she go on with her life? How could the wounds be healed? How could she possibly forgive?
It would have been selfish for me to hold on to my anger. You see, I am entitled to it. I certainly earned it. I mean I have the right to that anger. Justified to have that anger. But it didn't serve me. I realized that, you see, we were given free will. It's not God, it's us. And once I took on my own responsibility, I didn't have to forgive God. I had to thank Him because He gave me the tools. It's up to me to find them, to recognize them. So if you are feeling sorry for yourself, it's hard to see past that. And the only way out of that is forgiveness, the only way out of that. There is no other way. The next question is well how long does it take. The rest of your life, that's how long it takes. And how long is that? It's every day.
Today, Sunny Jacobs is a grandmother, and yoga instructor living in Southern California. She spends her time speaking about reconciliation and teaching people how to forgive.
When we come back you'll meet the woman who at 16 was kidnapped and raped by Robert Lee Willey, the dead man walking.