Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why this wrongful conviction story is so important to all of us

God spoke to me last night. Actually, I didn’t realize it until this morning.

I was watching Nightly News with Lester Holt, and saw the beautiful feature about a wrongly convicted inmate who was later exonerated, then became an attorney for an Innocence Project, and then was able to free another wrongly convicted prisoner. Tears welled up in my eyes. The hero of the story was Keith Findley, co-founder and co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

That immediately sent my mind back to the 1990s when Professor Keith Findley and his fledgling Innocence Project took on, as one of their very early cases, the wrongful conviction of Maurice Carter, right here in Michigan.

That courageous decision by Keith and his co-founder and co-director John Pray, brought about a dramatic change in my life. From that day forward I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Keith to put together a “Carter Dream Team” to aid him and his students, including

-Rubin Hurricane Carter, from the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted in Toronto;

-Professor David Protess, of the Medill Innocence Project in Chicago;

-Rob Warden, Executive Director of NWU Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions;

-Gary Giguere, Kalamazoo attorney now a circuit court judge;

-Alex Kotlowitz, renowned author of THE OTHER SIDE OF THE RIVER;

-Steve Mills and Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune;

-And Pat Shellenbarger, Ed Golder and Charley Honey of the Grand Rapids Press.

Even with that all-star line-up, and even with evidence that revealed the name of the real criminal, we were not able to achieve victory against the stubborn and, yes, evil Berrien County machine called the justice system. Those wheels of justice, which Maurice always contended “ground to a halt” when his case came along, remained stalled.

I’ll never forget the look on Keith Findley’s face when Judge John Hammond gave his final answer, in a circuit court setting that the Trib’s Eric Zorn told me was one of the most bizarre he had ever covered.

Now back to my contention, and I really hadn’t meant for this to turn into a sermon.

I have been distraught about all that’s happening in our country, and some days I cringe when I hear and read the news. But we must take heart. Last night’s feature on NBC proved a lot more than just the fact that sometimes the good guys win. It was the message of Easter! Evil has not, will not and cannot win!

I’m feeling better today, convinced that the Judge John Hammonds of the world cannot become victorious, because God has given us the Keith Findleys of the world!

Now back to work. There are more battles to fight.

1 comment:

Eric Zorn said...

Good post, Doug. That case/story still confounds me, all these years later.