Voice of the Nations – Not Guilty

by Karyn Alexander
August 19, 2010

As I watched him walk through the door, I noticed he was a handsome tall man who looked to be about six-foot-three. He looked as though he might be the president of a company. His dark suit and light-colored starched shirt with cuff-links stated that he was someone important.

His expensive shoes were not outdone by his sophisticated patterned socks. I watched him walk confidently through the door, taking a woman’s arm to gracefully guide her inside the building.

She too looked stately. She wore a silk sheath with strappy sandals; simple yet chic. Her nails were fresh from the salon and her handbag looked expensive and new. They were a handsome couple, obviously powerful.

I greeted them with a smile, and pointed to a quiet spot in the room for privacy. Opening my portfolio, I asked if I could just begin with some basic questions.

The gentleman said, “Yes.”

I began with the easy questions: Name: Tony. Age, 50-years old. Engaged, not married, the beautiful woman beside him was his fiancée. Children: two daughters, five grandkids.

“Do you work?” I asked.

“Yes, I am, with a temporary agency.”

“Do you have parents?”

“They are both deceased,” he replied.

“How did they die?” I asked.

Tony said, “My mother was murdered when I was 17, and my father died three years later from cancer.”

I was shocked.  I thought this handsome couple looked unscathed by life.
“How awful. How did you feel about your mother’s death?”

Tony: “I will try to say this without cursing.” He paused, but could not find any words. He then said, “Unbelievable, it was worse than going to prison.”

Watching this well-dressed man wrestle with old feelings that were now coming back to life was hard. My interview was initially supposed to be surrounding a book he had written, not necessarily about his childhood and past.

For me, though, I needed to know what brought this man to the place where he had spent eleven and a half years incarcerated in a state facility. What in his childhood had allowed such a circumstance to present itself and bring him to such a low and criminal place?

His book, titled Wrong 1, gives the full account of how a young man, in the wrong place at the wrong time, was given a wrong sentence for a crime he did not commit.

It was easy for me to see that the environment and area he lived in was unsafe and bred crime. He grew up with a brother and sister in a single parent home. When the murder of his mother took place, I asked how he handled it.

“I just moved on,” he said.

Saying that doesn’t mean it really happened that easily. It was obvious that in our short time together, though, there was not enough time to hear all he felt. I could see there was really nothing more he could do except try to move on. He was basically orphaned.

It wasn’t more than three months later that Tony’s aunt was murdered. How strange, indeed. Tony said he thought it peculiar because she had been in the back of the funeral home laughing at his mother’s funeral only months before. He looked at her that day and wondered, “Who laughs at funerals?”

It felt like he was implying that her death was pay back for that laughter.
I asked, “Do you think God killed her for that?”

Tony: “It made me think, but I know God does not work like that.”

A family friend even asked Tony, “What’s going on in your family?” Tony defensively replied, “What the hell is going on in your family!”

Here stood a young man who had just lost a mother and aunt to murder, and felt blamed for the ironic timing of the two tragedies. I asked Tony how the accusation and horrible situation made him feel. “I just felt “F’d-up.”

He said he had been raised in church and yet became angry with God. He explained, “I cursed God. I immediately knew I had no business doing it. After that, there were two years missing out of my life. I was just somewhat out of it. I was in shock.”

Tony began living with his father, graduated high school and got a job. His work experience throughout the years led him to many different jobs. Having educated himself through a machine tool trade, he worked through the next decade without much fanfare.

During this time, Tony began to use drugs frequently, smoking cocaine. Cocaine was a way to cope and have fun. Tony said that he just didn’t care. The thoughts he had at this time about the drug use was, “I will stop this another day, maybe later.” He knew that “later” would probably not come.

Well, “later” did come, but not in the way he expected. In 1995, when Tony was 35-years old, he went to buy a “40-cent piece” ($40 worth of cocaine).
During the conversation before the transaction, Tony approached the dealer with a friend waiting in the car. He asked about the cocaine, while the friend that originally wanted the drugs drove away.

Somewhat stunned, Tony looked at the friend inquisitively, asking where he was going. The friend said he wanted to go through the drive-thru before it closed and would be back shortly. Tony, somewhat annoyed, continued the conversation with the drug dealer. Before anything more transpired, gun shots rang out behind Tony’s head.

Tony turned to see the flash from a gun, an orange color, blazing in the dusk. It was only a silhouette, but he watched through the streetlight as a man ran from the scene.

Framed

Locked in a room as cold as a freezer, interrogators did not let up for hours. Within a day and a half, Tony had been arrested for murder. With a court-appointed attorney who never visited, or defended him, a fair trial was not in the cards for Tony.

I asked how he felt about what was going on at that time.

Tony said, “I didn’t believe I was in jail. You never think these things can happen to you. I knew nothing about circumstantial evidence.”

Guilty

A jury convicted Tony of murder, and he was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.

Tony admits that he may have looked guilty in the court room. His body language spoke only of anger. His eye contact was nonexistent. He simply stared at the wall.

With no gun, no evidence, no witness, Tony says he was framed. He felt the trial was racial.

The state took him to CRC- Corrections Reception Center. To me, it sounded like a place where you might receive classroom rehabilitation or some kind of light punishment. Not so. In Tony’s words it was, “Intentional humiliation to break you.”

This was the first step before being taken to the mother institution.

I asked, “Did they break you? Are you a broken man?”

“No, they couldn’t break me, I was manipulating them.”

“Did you have trouble in prison?”

Tony answered, “No, I kept to myself. I was used to following rules. I did not commit the crime, so, unlike the others who said they were not guilty and then in jail said, ‘Yeah, I did it,’ there was no confession like that for me. I had not broken the law.”

I asked, “How did you spend your time in prison?”

Tony: “I read and re-read my transcripts and I read the Bible.”

I was now wondering how a churched young man born on the wrong side of the tracks, now incarcerated for a murder he says he did not commit, survives.  I asked him, “What must you have been thinking?”

He answered, “I wondered if there was a curse on me.” He laughed while stating this, but he thought that it was obvious that this was too much for one man to endure. At the time, he had lost so much, first his mother, his aunt, and now it seemed his own life.

I asked if he knew the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. Tony looked at his bride-to-be and laughed. I guessed he had, because the stories of unjust decisions and false convictions were Joseph’s lot in life too.

I asked what Tony could draw from this parallel and he said, “God said He would never leave me or forsake me. If you are innocent, then there has to be a way to prove it.”

In the story of Joseph, he was released after a long sentence like Tony’s, to become second in command to the ruler of a nation. I asked Tony if he felt he may have a similar purpose. He didn’t know. He said he had not heard from God on that yet.

I asked what finally happened to free him. He answered, “I prayed and was on my knees pleading with God. I felt God said to hire an investigator.”
Not Guilty

Interesting. I asked him if it worked. He said, “Yes, a retired police officer found new evidence to free me.”

The story came full circle. Tony felt framed by the police, only to be freed by a retired officer.

“What were your feelings about getting out of prison?”

Tony: “I was just so happy to be out.”

“Were you happy that God talked to you?”

“Yes, doesn’t he talk to you too?” Tony asked a great question. I answered, “Yes, He does talk to me too.”

“Why do you suppose God freed you Tony?”

“God is Righteous, He hates a lie!” Tony exclaimed.

What a beautiful thought. Truth will always come to light.
So, the new verdict included the beautiful words he longed to hear, “Not Guilty.”

I asked a million more questions of Tony. I asked about what his future holds. Actually, I asked his fiancé. She replied, “Peace, no more worries.”

I said that sounded like the description of heaven in the Bible.

Tony said, “Content. Haven’t you noticed how content I am lately?” His fiancé nodded her head in agreement.

How could a man who lost his mother, aunt and now more than a decade of his life feel content? Some say we mellow with age, but I say that Tony has counted his blessings and not his curses. It’s a remarkable thing to witness when this happens.

I asked what advice he could give to anyone hearing his story. “Stay away from the wrong people. Read your Bible and have a genuine relationship with God, because God won’t bless no mess!” He said the last sentence while laughing.

It is true, though. Good words of wisdom. Like Joseph in the Bible, I sensed that something great was going to come from this tall distinguished man.

I asked his fiancé if she felt it too. She said, “Yes, but he isn’t ready for it yet.”

Restoration takes time. God allows certain circumstances to mold and make us into the leaders we are destined to be.

I am sure Tony’s book will be fascinating to read. He says it will exonerate him from all charges and propel him to the original destiny God had planned for him from the beginning.

It is never too late to find our future.

I prayed with Tony and his fiancé. We asked God to bless his book along with those who might read it.

I hope you will be one of them, as this man’s story is important and inspirational.
From clothes of despair, to a prison clothes, out walked a man in expensive clothes, overcoming through a God who never left him. He was now clothed in Righteousness.
Look for Tony’s book, Wrong 1, Anthony B. McLain.

Karyn

 

Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House
KarynBAlexander@aol.com

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in practical ways, giving God’s people hope.
Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”

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