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Copyright 2008 by Jodi Picoult

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Picoult, Jodi, 1966-

Change of heart: a novel / by Jodi Picoult.1st Atria Books hardcover ed.

p. cm.

1. MurderersFiction. 2. Transplantation of organs, tissues, etc.Fiction. 3.

RepentanceFiction. I. Title.


813'.54dc22 2007035721

ISBN-13: 978-0-7434-9674-2

ISBN-10: 0-7434-9674-4


With love, and too much admiration to fit on these pages

To my grandfather, Hal Friend, who has

always been brave enough to question what we believe . ..

And to my grandmother, Bess Friend,

who has never stopped believing in me.


Writing this book was its own form of miracle; it's very hard to

write about religion responsibly, and that means taking the time to

find the right people to answer your questions. For their time and

their knowledge, I must thank Lori Thompson, Rabbi Lina Zerbarini,

Father Peter Duganscik, Jon Saltzman, Katie Desmond, Claire

Demarais, and Pastor Ted Brayman. Marjorie Rose and Joan Collison

were willing to theorize about religion whenever I brought it

up. Elaine Pagels is a brilliant author herself and one of the smartest

women I've ever spoken withI chased her down and begged

her for a private tutorial on the Gnostic Gospels, one of her academic

specialties, and would hang up the phone after each conversation

with my mind buzzing and a thousand more questions

to exploresurely something the Gnostics would have heartily


Jennifer Sternick is still the attorney I'd want fighting for me,

no matter what, Chris Keating provides legal information for me

at blistering speed, and Chris Johnson's expertise on the appeals

process for death penalty cases was invaluable.

Thanks to the medical team that didn't mind when I asked

how to kill someone, instead of how to save themamong other

things: Dr. Paul Kispert, Dr. Elizabeth Martin, Dr. David Axelrod,

Dr. Vijay Thadani, Dr. Jeffrey Parsonnet, Dr. Mary Kay Wolfson,

Barb Danson, James Belanger. Jacquelyn Mitchard isn't a doc, but

a wonderful writer who gave me the nuts and bolts of LD kids.

And a special thank-you to Dr. Jenna Hirsch, who was so generous

with her knowledge of cardiac surgery.

Thanks to Sindy Buzzell, and Kurt Feuer, for their individual

expertise. Getting to death row was a significant challenge. My

New Hampshire law enforcement contacts included Police Chief

Nick Giaccone, Captain Frank Moran, Kim Lacasse, Unit Manager

Tim Moquin, Lieutenant Chris Shaw, and Jeff Lyons, PIO of the

New Hampshire State Prison. For finessing my trip to the Arizona

State Prison Florence, thanks to Sergeant Janice Mallaburn, Deputy

Warden Steve Gal, CO II Dwight Gaines, and Judy Frigo (former

warden). Thanks also to Rachel Gross and Dale Baich. However,

this book would not be what it was without the prisoners who

opened up to me both in person and via mail: Robert Purtell, a

former death row inmate; Samuel Randolph, currently on death

row in Pennsylvania; and Robert Towery, currently on death row

in Arizona.

Thanks to my dream team at Atria: Carolyn Reidy, Judith Curr,

David Brown, Danielle Lynn, Mellony Torres, Kathleen Schmidt,

Sarah Branham, Laura Stern, Gary Urda, Lisa Keim, Christine

Duplessis, and everyone else who has worked so hard on my

behalf. Thanks to Camille McDuffiewho was so determined to

make people stop asking "Jodi Who?" and who exceeded my expectations

beyond my wildest dreams. To my favorite first reader,

Jane Picoult, who I was fortunate enough to get as a mom. To

Laura Gross, without whom I'd be completely adrift. To Emily

Bestler, who is just so damn good at making me look brilliant.

And of course, thanks to Kyle, Jake, Sammywho keep me

asking the questions that might make the world a better place

and Tim, who makes it possible for me to do that. It just doesn't

get better than all of you, all of this.



Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't

believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had as much practice," said the

Queen. "When I was your age I did it for half an hour a day.

Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible

things before breakfast."

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass







In the beginning, I believed in second chances. How else could I

account for the fact that years ago, right after the accidentwhen

the smoke cleared and the car had stopped tumbling end over end

to rest upside down in a ditchI was still alive; I could hear Elizabeth,

my little girl, crying? The police officer who had pulled me

out of the car rode with me to the hospital to have my broken leg

set, with Elizabethcompletely unhurt, a miraclesitting on his

lap the whole time. He'd held my hand when I was taken to identify

my husband Jack's body. He came to the funeral. He showed

up at my door to personally inform me when the drunk driver

who ran us off the road was arrested.

The policeman's name was Kurt Nealon. Long after the trial

and the conviction, he kept coming around just to make sure that

Elizabeth and I were all right. He brought toys for her birthday

and Christmas. He fixed the clogged drain in the upstairs bathroom.

He came over after he was off duty to mow the savannah

that had once been our lawn.

I had married Jack because he was the love of my life; I had

planned to be with him forever. But that was before the definition

of forever was changed by a man with a blood alcohol level of .22.

I was surprised that Kurt seemed to understand that you might

never love someone as hard as you had the first time you'd fallen;

I was even more surprised to learn that maybe you could.

Five years later, when Kurt and I found out we were going to

have a baby, I almost regretted itthe same way you stand beneath

a perfect blue sky on the most glorious day of the summer and

admit to yourself that all moments from here on in couldn't possibly

measure up. Elizabeth had been two when Jack died; Kurt was

the only father she'd ever known. They had a connection so special

it sometimes made me feel I should turn away, that I was intruding.

If Elizabeth was the princess, then Kurt was her knight.

The imminent arrival of this little sister (how strange is it that

none of us ever imagined the new baby could be anything but a

girl?) energized Kurt and Elizabeth to fever pitch. Elizabeth drew

elaborate sketches of what the baby's room should look like.

Kurt hired a contractor to build the addition. But then the builder's

mother had a stroke and he had to move unexpectedly to

Florida; none of the other crews had time to fit our job into their

schedules before the baby's birth. We had a hole in our wall and

rain leaking through the attic ceiling; mildew grew on the soles

of our shoes.

When I was seven months pregnant, I came downstairs to find

Elizabeth playing in a pile of leaves that had blown past the plastic

sheeting into the living room. I was deciding between crying

and raking my carpet when the doorbell rang.

He was holding a canvas roll that contained his tools, something

that never left his possession, like another man might tote

around his wallet. His hair brushed his shoulders and was knotted.

His clothes were filthy and he smelled of snowalthough it

wasn't the right season. Shay Bourne arrived, unexpected, like a

flyer from a summer carnival that blusters in on a winter wind,

making you wonder just where it's been hiding all this time.

He had trouble speakingthe words tangled, and he had to

stop and unravel them before he could say what he needed to say.

"I want to . . . " he began, and then started over: "Do you, is there,

because . . . " The effort made a fine sweat break out on his forehead.

"Is there anything I can do?" he finally managed, as Elizabeth

came running toward the front door.

You can leave, I thought. I started to close the door, instinctively

protecting my daughter. "I don't think so . . ."

Elizabeth slipped her hand into mine and blinked up at him.

"There's a lot that needs to be fixed," she said.

He got down to his knees then and spoke to my daughter

easilywords that had been full of angles and edges for him a

minute before now flowed like a waterfall. "I can help," he replied.

Kurt was always saying people are never who you think they

are, that it was necessary to get a complete background check on a

person before you made any promises. I'd tell him he was being

too suspicious, too much the cop. After all, I had let Kurt himself

into my life simply because he had kind eyes and a good heart,

and even he couldn't argue with the results.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Shay. Shay Bourne."

"You're hired, Mr. Bourne," I said, the beginning of the end.





Shay Bourne was nothing like I expected.

I had prepared myself for a hulking brute of a man, one with

hammy fists and no neck and eyes narrowed into slits. This was, after

all, the crime of the centurya double murder that had captured the

attention of people from Nashua to Dixville Notch; a crime that seemed

all the worse because of its victims: a little girl, and a police officer

who happened to be her stepfather. It was the kind of crime that

made you wonder if you were safe in your own house, if the people

you trusted could turn on you at any momentand maybe because of

this. New Hampshire prosecutors sought the death penalty for the first

time in fifty-eight years.

Given the media blitz, there was talk of whether twelve jurors who

hadn't formed a reaction to this crime could even be found, but they

managed to locate us. They unearthed me in a study carrel at UNH,

where I was writing a senior honors thesis in mathematics. I hadn't

had a decent meal in a month, much less read a newspaperand so I

was the perfect candidate for Shay Bourne's capital murder case.

The first time we filed out of our holding pena small room in the

superior courthouse that would begin to feel as familiar as my

apartmentI thought maybe some bailiff had let us into the wrong

courtroom. This defendant was small and delicately proportionedthe

kind of guy who grew up being the punch line to high school jokes.

He wore a tweed jacket that swallowed him whole, and the knot of

his necktie squared away from him at the perpendicular, as if it were

being magnetically repelled. His cuffed hands curled in his lap like

small animals; his hair was shaved nearly to the skull. He stared

down at his lap, even when the judge spoke his name and it hissed

through the room like steam from a radiator.

The judge and the lawyers were taking care of housekeeping details

when the fly came in. I noticed this for two reasons: in March, you

don't see many flies in New Hampshire, and I wondered how you went

about swatting one away from you when you were handcuffed and

chained at the waist. Shay Bourne stared at the insect when it paused

on the legal pad in front of him, and then in a jangle of metal, he raised

his bound hands and crashed them down on the table to kill it.

Or so I thought, until he turned his palms upward, his fingers opened

one petal at a time, and the insect went zipping off to bother someone


In that instant, he glanced at me, and I realized two things:

1. He was terrified.

2. He was approximately the same age that I was.

This double murderer, this monster, looked like the water polo team captain

who had sat next to me in an economics seminar last semester. He

resembled the deliveryman from the pizza place that had a thin crust, the

kind I liked. He even reminded me of the boy I'd seen walking in the

snow on my way to court, the one I'd rolled down my window for and

asked if he wanted a ride. In other words, he didn't look the way I figured

a killer would look, if I ever ran across one. He could have been any

other kid in his twenties. He could have been me.

Except for the fact that he was ten feet away, chained at the wrists

and ankles. And it was my job to decide whether or not he deserved to


* * *

A month later, I could tell you that serving on a jury is nothing like you

see on TV. There was a lot of being paraded back and forth between

the courtroom and the jury room; there was bad food from a local deli

for lunch; there were lawyers who liked to hear themselves talk, and

trust me, the DAs were never as hot as the girl on Law & Order: SVU.

Even after four weeks, coming into this courtroom felt like landing in a

foreign country without a guidebook . . . and yet, I couldn't plead ignorant

just because I was a tourist. I was expected to speak the language


Part one of the trial was finished: we had convicted Bourne. The

prosecution presented a mountain of evidence proving Kurt Nealon had

been shot in the line of duty, attempting to arrest Shay Bourne after

he'd found him with his stepdaughter, her underwear in Bourne's

pocket. June Nealon had come home from her OB appointment to find

her husband and daughter dead. The feeble argument offered up by

the defensethat Kurt had misunderstood a verbally paralyzed Bourne;

that the gun had gone off by accidentdidn't hold a candle to the overwhelming

evidence presented by the prosecution. Even worse. Bourne

never took the stand on his own behalfwhich could have been because

of his poor language skills . . . or because he was not only guilty

as sin but such a wild card that his own attorneys didn't trust him.

We were now nearly finished with part two of the trialthe sentencing

phaseor in other words, the part that separated this trial from

every other criminal murder trial for the past half century in New

Hampshire. Now that we knew Bourne had committed the crime, did he

deserve the death penalty?

This part was a little like a Reader's Digest condensed version of

the first one. The prosecution gave a recap of evidence presented

during the criminal trial; and then the defense got a chance to garner

sympathy for a murderer. We learned that Bourne had been bounced

around the foster care system. That when he was sixteen, he set a fire

in his foster home and spent two years in a juvenile detention facility.

He had untreated bipolar disorder, central auditory processing disorder,

an inability to deal with sensory overload, and difficulties with reading,

writing, and language skills.

We heard all this from witnesses, though. Once again. Shay Bourne

never took the stand to beg us for mercy.

Now, during closing arguments, I watched the prosecutor smooth

down his striped tie and walk forward. One big difference between a

regular trial and the sentencing phase of a capital punishment trial is

who gets the last word in edgewise. I didn't know this myself, but

Maureena really sweet older juror I was crushing on, in a wish-youwere-

my-grandma kind of waydidn't miss a single Law & Order episode,

and had practically earned her JD via Barcalounger as a result. In

most trials, when it was time for closing arguments, the prosecution

spoke last... so that whatever they said was still buzzing in your head

when you went back to the jury room to deliberate. In a capital punishment

sentencing phase, though, the prosecution went first, and then

the defense got that final chance to change your mind.

Because, after all, it really was a matter of life or death.

He stopped in front of the jury box. "It's been fifty-eight years in

the history of the state of New Hampshire since a member of my office

has had to ask a jury to make a decision as difficult and as serious as

the one you twelve citizens are going to have to make. This is not a decision

that any of us takes lightly, but it is a decision that the facts in

this case merit, and it is a decision that must be made in order to do

justice to the memories of Kurt Nealon and Elizabeth Nealon, whose

lives were taken in such a tragic and despicable manner."

He took a huge, eleven-by-fourteen photo of Elizabeth Nealon and

held it up right in front of me. Elizabeth had been one of those little girls

who seem to be made out of something lighter than flesh, with their filly

legs and their moonlight hair; the ones you think would float off the

jungle gym if not for the weight of their sneakers. But this photo had

been taken after she was shot. Blood splattered her face and matted her

hair; her eyes were still wide open. Her dress, hiked up when she had

fallen, showed that she was naked from the waist down. "Elizabeth

Nealon will never learn how to do long division, or how to ride a horse,

or do a back handspring. She'll never go to sleepaway camp or her

junior prom or high school graduation. She'll never try on her first pair

of high heels or experience her first kiss. She'll never bring a boy home

to meet her mother; she'll never be walked down a wedding aisle by

her stepfather; she'll never get to know her sister, Claire. She will miss

all of these moments, and a thousand morenot because of a tragedy

like a car accident or childhood leukemiabut because Shay Bourne

made the decision that she didn't deserve any of these things."

He then took another photo out from behind Elizabeth's and held it

up. Kurt Nealon had been shot in the stomach. His blue uniform shirt

was purpled with his blood, and Elizabeth's. During the trial we'd heard

that when the paramedics reached him, he wouldn't let go of Elizabeth,

even as he was bleeding out. "Shay Bourne didn't stop at ending Elizabeth's

life. He took Kurt Nealon's life, as well. And he didn't just take

away Claire's father and June's husbandhe took away Officer Kurt

Nealon of the Lynley Police. He took away the coach of the Grafton

County championship Little League team. He took away the founder of

Bike Safety Day at Lynley Elementary School. Shay Bourne took away a

public servant who, at the time of his death, was not just protecting his

daughter... but protecting a citizen, and a community. A community

that includes each and every one of you."

The prosecutor placed the photos facedown on the table. "There's

a reason that New Hampshire hasn't used the death penalty for fiftyeight

years, ladies and gentlemen. That's because, in spite of the

many cases that come through our doors, we hadn't seen one that

merited that sentence. However, by the same token, there's a reason

why the good people of this state have reserved the option to use the

death penalty . . . instead of overturning the capital punishment statC

ute, as so many other states have done. And that reason is sitting in

this courtroom today."

My gaze followed the prosecutor's, coming to rest on Shay Bourne.

"If any case in the past fifty-eight years has ever cried out for the ultimate

punishment to be imposed," the attorney said, "this is it."

College is a bubble. You enter it for four years and forget there is a real

world outside of your paper deadlines and midterm exams and beerpong

championships. You don't read the newspaperyou read textbooks.

You don't watch the newsyou watch Letterman. But even so,

bits and snatches of the universe manage to leak in: a mother who

locked her children in a car and let it roll into a lake to drown them; an

estranged husband who shot his wife in front of their kids; a serial

rapist who kept a teenager tied up in a basement for a month before he

slit her throat. The murders of Kurt and Elizabeth Nealon were horrible,

surebut were the others any less horrible?

Shay Bourne's attorney stood up. "You've found my client guilty of

two counts of capital murder, and he's not contesting that. We accept

your verdict; we respect your verdict. At this point in time, however,

the state is asking you to wrap up this caseone that involves the

death of two peopleby taking the life of a third person."

I felt a bead of sweat run down the valley between my shoulder


"You're not going to make anyone safer by killing Shay Bourne.

Even if you decide not to execute him, he's not going anywhere. He'll

be serving two life sentences without parole." He put his hand on

Bourne's shoulder. "You've heard about Shay Bourne's childhood.

Where was he supposed to learn what all the rest of you had a chance

to learn from your families? Where was he supposed to learn right from

wrong, good from bad? For that matter, where was he even supposed

to learn his colors and his numbers? Who was supposed to read him

bedtime stories, like Elizabeth Nealon's parents had?"

The attorney walked toward us. "You've heard that Shay Bourne

has bipolar disorder, which was going untreated. You heard that he

suffers from learning disabilities, so tasks that are simple for us become

unbelievably frustrating for him. You've heard how hard it is for him to

communicate his thoughts. These all contributed to Shay making poor

choiceswhich you agreed with, beyond a reasonable doubt." He

looked at each of us in turn. "Shay Bourne made poor choices," the attorney

said. "But don't compound that by making one of your own."



It was up to the jury. Again.

It's a strange thing, putting justice in the hands of twelve strangers.

I had spent most of the sentencing phase of the trial watching

their faces. There were a few mothers; I would catch their eye and

smile at them when I could. A few men who looked like maybe

they'd been in the military. And the boy, the one who barely looked

old enough to shave, much less make the right decision.

I wanted to sit down with each and every one of them. I wanted

to show them the note Kurt had written me after our first official

date. I wanted them to touch the soft cotton cap that Elizabeth had

worn home from the hospital as a newborn. I wanted to play them

the answering machine message that still had their voices on it, the

one I couldn't bear to erase, even though it felt like I was being cut

to ribbons every time I heard it. I wanted to take them on a field trip

to see Elizabeth's bedroom, with its Tinker Bell night-light and

dress-up clothes; I wanted them to bury their faces in Kurt's pillow,

breathe him in. I wanted them to live my life, because that was the

only way they'd really know what had been lost.

That night after the closing arguments, I nursed Claire in the

middle of the night and then fell asleep with her in my arms. But I

dreamed that she was upstairs, distant, and crying. I climbed the

stairs to the nursery, the one that still smelled of virgin wood and

drying paint, and opened the door. "I'm coming," I said, and I

crossed the threshold only to realize that the room had never been

built, that I had no baby, that I was falling through the air.



Only certain people wind up on a jury for a trial like this. Mothers who

have kids to take care of, the accountants with deadlines, doctors attending

conferencesthey all get excused. What's left are retired folks,

housewives, disabled folks, and students like me, because none of us

have to be any particular place at any particular time.

Ted, our foreman, was an older man who reminded me of my

grandfather. Not in the way he looked or even the way he spoke, but

because of the gift he had of making us measure up to a task. My

grandfather had been like that, tooyou wanted to be your best around

him, not because he demanded it, but because there was nothing like

that grin when you knew you'd impressed him.

My grandfather was the reason I'd been picked for this jury.

Even though I had no personal experience with murder, I knew

what it was like to lose someone you loved. You didn't get past

something like that, you got through itand for that simple reason

alone, I understood more about June Nealon than she ever would

have guessed. This past winter, four years after my grandfather's

death, someone had broken into my dorm and stolen my computer,

my bike, and the only picture I had of my grandfather and me together.

The thief left behind the sterling silver frame, but when I'd

reported the theft to the cops, it was the loss of that photograph that

hurt the most.

Ted waited for Maureen to reapply her lipstick, for Jack to go to the

bathroom, for everyone to take a moment for themselves before we settled

down to the task of acting as a unified body. "Well," he said, flat

tening his hands on the conference table. "I suppose we should just get

down to business."

As it turned out, though, it was a lot easier to say that someone deserved

to die for what they did than it was to take the responsibility to

make that happen.

"I'm just gonna come right out and say it." Vy sighed. "I really have

no idea what the judge told us we need to do."

At the start of the testimony, the judge had given us nearly an

hour's worth of verbal instructions. I figured there'd be a handout, too,

but I'd figured wrong. "I can explain it," I said. "It's kind of like a Chinese

food menu. There's a whole checklist of things that make a crime

punishable by death. Basically, we have to find one from column A,

and one or more from column B . . . for each of the murders to qualify

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