- Published on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:34
- Written by AFA
Dear Family, Friends, Supporters and Well-Wishers,
This letter comes to you with greetings of the Holiday season, peace and blessings. It has been since June 2011 that I have last written to you. Sadly, silence is often times easier, especially when I have been struggling with what to say – it is impossible to adequately express the pain and anguish I am experiencing in writing and I am not good at putting on a false façade. With God’s grace I have found the strength to write you now and hope you will welcome it in its fullness.
I have now been in prison over four years for a crime I never committed. I have never been alright being in prison, but have to appear that I am. I have been displaced from all that is familiar – home, family, identity, and freedom. I have painfully discovered that the amount of time, determination, money and faith required to reverse a wrongful conviction is a daunting task; in which only the strongest and most resolute can hope to succeed.
After three years my appeal attorney was able to take the first major step in my direct appeal and filed my Appellant’s Opening Brief in August 2012. In April 2013, the Attorney General’s Office filed their Response Brief. However, soon thereafter my appeal attorney gave birth to her first blessed child and took a much needed maternity leave. She is back from maternity leave and is catching up on a backlog of work. In January she will be back to work on my Reply brief, which is expected to be filed in March 2014.
While my appeal is pending I am trying to spend my time productively here in Mule Creek Prison in the hopes of making a positive contribution. Currently, I am working as an education clerk for the Principal in the Education Department. I am also tutoring mathematics to a few students. Lending a helping hand to the underprivileged and those who never received an education also gives me strength during this time of testing.
As you may know, after 10 years, Peggy and I were blessed with the birth of our first son and with our second son two years later. These miracles, “my sons”, are gifts from God and they are very precious to Peggy, I and our families. It seems a cruel twist of fate that I have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to serve 378 years and will never be a daily presence in my children’s lives unless I am exonerated. I have even been denied contact visits with my children due to the nature of the crime I was accused of. I am painfully missing the joy of fatherhood as my children are rapidly growing. Kishan is almost 6 and in Kindergarten and Jahnu will be 4 soon and in Preschool. Kishan was only 15 months old when I was cruelly taken from his life.
Peggy has been forced to be a single parent to our young sons. I do what is within my power to stay in contact with my children, talking to them on the phone, sending them cards and had drawn pictures. When I talk to Kishan and Jahnu on the phone they tell me they are praying for me to come home. Recently, they told me they now have a bunk bed and asked me when I come home if I can sleep with them because they get scared at night. They tell me they can’t wait for me to come home and play with them, play soccer, go swimming, watch movies, etc. Kishan talks to me about his school. They draw pictures of super heroes or of us together doing different activities like swimming and send them to me. Kishan is now playing soccer – those who have known me for a long time will know that was my favorite sport which I played all through my youth and dreamed of teaching my children how to play. Kishan is learning to read, do math and loves to draw and play music. I have missed all of Jahnu’s childhood, although I get a little glimpse through the phone, letters and a half hour visit through the glass every couple of months. Peggy tries to keep me updated about our son’s daily lives and about their school by sending me school’s newsletters. I love to hear them on the phone and see their letters, although it is a constant reminder that I am not there with them and how much I am missing of their lives – it is incredibly painful. This is not how life is supposed to be. This is not how family is supposed to be. Life from where I stand seems as if it has been placed on hold while everyone else’s is on fast-forward. Every possible resource was used to fund my trial and now my appeal. Needless to say, it has been a terrible nightmare. Yet, I realize that sometimes in life light is not recognized except through darkness. And after this journey through the dark, I hope to find the path once again where light still shines.
It is amazing what is discovered about oneself and others during the darkest periods in one’s life, finding who really is true to you. I may be wrong but I believe that in terms of action, people in general are sympathetic, but not courageous because of their distrust of our society, that serves the interest of power, which has silenced their activism through their strongest weapon – Fear. I really cannot blame them and do empathize with them. However, in these kinds of fights (for freedom) one can be neither passive nor submissive. One has to fight hard, be relentless, persistent, and fearless.
I was sentenced to life in prison, or more appropriately “death in prison”. What has been learned from the innocent people coming out of prison who have been wrongfully incarcerated is that in many cases law enforcement, prosecutors, and sometimes sadly even some judges have gotten it wrong. I realize that I represent and am part of the minority in our prisons. Most others truly did commit the crime(s) that placed them here. I am, however, just one of a fast growing number of actual innocent citizens being forced to experience undue arrest and convictions through error, often followed by undeserved imprisonment for life. For anyone to be convicted by a jury in our past or most assuredly in our present system, does not mean that person is guilty! We’re still a long way from being able to say that. The very fact that the scientific discovery of DNA has already proven that hundreds of innocent fellow citizens suffered wrongful convictions and even death by execution, by jury, clearly proves this point. And, DNA evidence does not exist for testing in over 70% of the most serious life or death cases. Including of course…mine! I fully agree with our Attorney General Kamala Harris when she said, “Ultimately being smart on crime is about doing more preventing and less reacting…We must do less collecting and more correcting of prisoners.”
For me to be in this position is unimaginable. No matter how much time passed by, just knowing that I am being thought of as this person who raped someone tears at my soul. It’s as far from the truth as words could ever place me. In my entire life, I have never caused harm to another person and it’s disheartening to think that anyone who knew me could ever think otherwise. Aside from bearing the brunt of a wrongful conviction, I have learned that the worst thing that can happen to someone in my predicament who knows the truth and continues to convey it, is for it never to be acknowledged or believed. So for those of you who used your voice to change the status quo and fight against injustice, you have my respect. For those of you who have stood by me, who have broken the silence, who have by their words or actions told the public and world they believe in my innocence, words of thanks can never express my sincere gratitude, nevertheless I hope you can feel the depth of my gratitude when I say thank you. You were not passive or reckless; nor did you play dirty. Some have been relentless and fought a hard fight – you will never be forgotten.
People often ask how they can help me and my cause. There are different ways to help: coming to the rallies; sharing our websites, facebook, and information with people within your contact; signing the petition of support; liking our facebook page; donation for legal expenses; speaking out in my support; commenting and/or blogging on social media and news articles. Writing me letters is one of the best ways you can give me strength to persevere and to demonstrate that you care. There’s something so special about receiving letters in the mail. It reminds me that someone cares and is thinking of me. It’s really a gesture of affection. Those who have written to me while I am here, you have given me comfort during my darkest time. So I thank you all for writing.
I feel there is still so much to say and even more to do. I am weary of the fight, but confident because of the truth that is before me. With all humility and respect, I ask for your continued commitment to help in my fight to right what has been wronged against me and my family. Always cry for, speak up and help people when they are alive, because that is when they need it most. If I’m dead, there is no point to cry for me then.
Thank you for your patience in reading my letter and I hope you received it well. I must remain positive and not lose any faith in our criminal legal system, at least not yet. Most of my challenges are mental to survive prison. As Bob Marley once said, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. Ultimately, my strength comes from a higher power, my God, to whom I meditate to and remain in his shelter forever. I close this letter in the same spirit that it came – in love, peace and hope. With all my heart, I thank you for your sincere friendship, faithfulness and support. May you have a joyous and safe Winter Holiday and a Wonderful and bright New Year.