Eric Foley’s outcome sounds like a perfect end to an otherwise harrowing experience.…except that he served eight months in jail…except that he dropped out of college because he was arrested…except that it took 2 years to get his case dismissed… except that the police had no basis on which to arrest him in the first place…Unfortunately cases like Mr. Foley’s are often not the exceptions in Georgia but the rule.
Yolanda was incarcerated at a county jail charged with armed robbery. The turning point in our decision to accept Yolanda as a client was our visit to Yolanda’s home where we met her six children. Yolanda’s children would suffer devastating consequences if she had to serve hard time in prison.
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.