Locked up at age 16 and sentenced to five years, he had already served three when we met. He was a convicted armed robber, the first prisoner that I met in Georgia. In the car on the way to the prison, I learned of the particulars regarding his case: after finishing work he had gotten drunk and robbed a woman walking down the street. He didn’t know her. It was a random act of violence. His mother contacted Georgia Justice Project (GJP) soon after he was arrested. We agreed to represent him believing that our holistic approach could make a difference in his life. He failed three lie detector tests before breaking down and admitting that he committed the crime. As is our practice, we continued the relationship with him, regardless of the outcome of the case. This would be a standard visit—one of about 25 that I would perform that year. My stomach was churning.
At Carl’s one-year clean “birthday” party, he paid me the highest compliment. Carl asked me to give him his chip (his one-year clean medallion – a 12-Step tradition). With most of the staff in attendance Carl said that GJP was his first family. GJP had weathered storms with Carl: two cases, one parole revocation, prison time, addiction, working with New Horizon Landscaping, encouraging him to confront his past, holding his hand and loving him all the while. We had been up and down with Carl. That night was a time to celebrate our journey together.
The crime occurred at 9:00 pm. A neighbor saw Darren standing by a car. Ten minutes later the police arrested him as he walked around the neighborhood. He was charged with breaking into the car. It seemed like an open and shut case…except that he was merely at the crime scene, which is not a crime. Except that Darren was innocent. Except that Darren was mentally retarded. Yet, the system threatened to roll over him like it does so many.
Five years ago, Cedric called GJP. In jail for his umpteenth drug related case, he wanted legal help. His drug addiction had landed him in jail and prison more times than he could count. He was tired. There was a problem . . . and he didn’t have the answer.
The fall dew covered her face and arms making her think, when she woke up, that it had rained during the night. Her hands reached for the pain in her neck and throat—sore and burning from the rope. Her aching body informed her that she had been unsuccessful—she was still alive. She rose from the grass. It was 5:30 a.m. and still dark. The horror of the night before was not fiction. It was not a bad dream. She had fallen asleep on the grass three miles from her apartment. She had walked there. A quarter was all she had in her pocket.