It can't happen to me. Only to others!

If I got locked up in a prison for something I didn’t do, I’d be a raging bull!  Those were the words of the Rev. Al Hoksbergen, wonderful pastor, beautiful Christian, who was at my side during the years we tried to free Maurice Carter. I raise the issue this week because… 

October 2 came and went. Not many people I know paid much attention to the fact that it was the 10th annual International Wrongful Conviction Day. 

Granted, the day has real meaning for me. It was a wrongful conviction that led to my beautiful relationship with Maurice Carter, which then led to the formation of a fine prisoner service agency called HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. But my point is this: It must be important to you, also! 

My very good friend Marla Mitchell-Cichon, who for years served as Director of the Cooley Innocence Project, reminds that efforts to help the wrongly convicted go back much longer than 10 years. After all, I began working on the Carter case in the mid-1990s.  “I have been working on two clients’ cases for over 20 years! It is so discouraging, but I won’t quit until they are free.” 

Several years ago Marla conspired with my son Matt to present me with a special birthday gift. A small group of U of M law students are hoping to apply for a posthumous pardon for Maurice, who served 29 years for a crime he did not commit. It was a meaningful gift, and I am touched by the progress of these wonderful students! 

As I read the Carter case overview, as prepared by the team, I was shocked, once again, by the injustice. It was more than an injustice. It was an outrage! And the important message to you is that it can happen to anyone! It can happen to you! 

Marcia asked me, very early on in our prison work, how many wrongly convicted people I knew. I started rattling off names, and got up to 20 before I quit! And these weren’t just indigent, black people. My list included teachers, a doctor, a police officer, a businessman, a banker, an industrialist…even a lawyer! 

Marla’s message to you: Commit to learning more about the issue and contributing factors. 

Statistics can be boring, but here are some data that you should see and hear, provided by the national Innocence Network:  Together, the 770+ exonerated former clients of Innocence Network organizations spent over 12,700 years wrongfully incarcerated! On the Tenth Annual International Wrongful Conviction Day, we celebrate the progress we've made & acknowledge how far we still have to go.  

Our friend Sister Helen Prejean posted this message Monday: 

Any wrongful conviction is a human tragedy. It means time spent in jail for something you did not do. It means a loss of reputation. It means a loss of connection to your web of human fellowship. It means the shrinking of your future. It means a diminishment of your time on this earth. 

Please take this issue seriously. Learn what you can. Do what you can. 

Finally, pray for a more just system, and pray for those behind bars who do not belong there!



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