A year after my brother’s exoneration folks are still talking about it. There is still buzz and congratulations are still coming from every avenue of communication. I am still in disbelief. I mean, I believe because it happened but I guess you can say I am still in awe of God’s greatness as if it happened just yesterday. So why am I in a somber mood still? Why do I still feel sad and empty? My heart aches and that’s because there is still work to be done. One exoneration is not a remedy for our unjust judicial system. I am conflicted. I am extremely elated that Brian has his freedom and is now living his dream. But I cannot help to want the same justice for the hundreds of others who are serving prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.
There has always been a tugging on my heart for the disenfranchised. As a Political Science major, learning about the “have nots” within our legal system always made me wonder what could I do to help make things better. This is one of the reasons I chose to study policy and government. The tug only strengthened once my younger brother was forced to take a plea deal for a crime he did not commit. Now that his name and record have been cleared, I want the same for the other men and women behind bars unjustly.
Thankfully, there are nonprofit organizations like the California Innocence Project to help make more exonerations happen. 48 days ago CIP began a strenuous journey up the coast of California for justice. They trekked 700.34 miles from San Diego to Sacramento in efforts to do what they were able to do for Brian… XONR8. CIP will be introducing California Governor, Jerry Brown to 12 men and women who are all sitting in prison for crimes they did not commit. 700 miles! Is it that serious? YES, it most certainly is. These men and women are innocent and there hard evidence to prove it. Yet, our judicial system had failed them.
This past weekend I came across the movie American Violet. The movie was so disheartening. And while it was based in a town in Texas, the plea bargain issue is the still the same here in California. Before watching the film I thought I was essentially invincible when it came to the legal system. I don’t use drugs, I don’t plan on murdering anyone, I am a safe driver (for the most part), I ‘m good. Right? But just like “Dee” in the movie and the California 12 in real life, I too can be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Will I be able to trust the judicial system to vindicate me? It’s hard to tell.
For the past couple of weeks I have been reading and researching the individual stories of each of the California 12. The stories are unbelievably heart wrenching but each of their accounts exposes the injustice of our legal system. My heart is each of these individuals and their families. I know exactly how it feels to be on the other side of the prison bars staring at a wrongfully imprisoned loved one not knowing what to say or do to comfort them. I too know what it is like to have your world turned upside down in just a split second.
So what do can we do to help? Everything we can. First thing we need to do is become aware and make others aware. Our legal system incarcerates innocent people and continues to fail to afford these innocent people the opportunity to prove their innocence. It is important that we also support projects such as the California Innocence Project, who have dedicated their expertise in attempt to correct the legal systems wrongs. With just a small team of passionate attorneys, the project must provide funds for case investigations and more. They need our support. Please donate to the cause.
As much as we are hounded by solicitors to sign petitions, this is one petition worth signing. Let Governor Brown know that you are standing with and behind these 12 innocent men and women and their families. Allow your signature encourage the Governor to use his clemency power to free these wrongfully convicted people. Thursday June 20th, the California Innocence Project will complete their final mile to the Capitol Building in Sacramento. If you are local, please join them. Please send your prayers and well wishes. Although they have walked 700 miles, the hard work, meeting with Gov. Jerry Brown, is yet to be done.
Yesterday I watched a clip on Guy Miles and just as I did with the others of the California 12, I wept. He and the others deserve to be set free. Their families do as well.
This post is to make you aware of what is going on behind the glitz and glam of our dear “Golden State”. Things have not been “golden” for years for William Richards, Alan Gimenez, Suzanne Johnson, Michael Hanline, Kimberly Long, Dolores Macias, Rodney Patrick McNeal, Guy Miles, Quintin Morris, Kiera Newsome, Joann Parks and Ed Contreras.
My hope is that these words will encourage you to make yourself and those around you aware and to do all you can to support the California 12 and the rest of the wrongfully convicted men and woman across our country.
To learn more about CIP and the California 12, visit InnocenceMarch.com