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We’re equally thrilled to have your help!

I found Deirdre and Innocence Matters online in March 2010.  That spring, Deirdre offered me a summer internship.  And that summer, she offered me a chance to change a man’s life.  My work with Deirdre and for John Smith improved me as a human and a soon-to-be-lawyer.

That summer, I appreciated how my education translated into real world experience.  After a rigorous first year of law school, my work at Innocence Matters taught me to be even more exacting in my legal analysis.  After a year of being cold-called in lecture classes, Innocence Matters required new bravery and acuity during prison visits and client interviews.  After a year of hypos and exams, Innocence Matters brought affidavits and a habeas corpus petition.

In March 2010, I told Deirdre I was thrilled to help at Innocence Matters. Now as I can practically hear John’s cell door open, I wonder if I even knew the word’s meaning.

So maybe you’re tired of hearing this, but how do you know for sure?

A friend asked me this about John’s innocence. And I took pains to answer it because it was a smart, worthwhile question. I didn’t know for sure when I initially read through the trial transcripts or when I spoke with John the first time. I knew for sure when Deirdre and I started to take up whole walls of our tiny office with contact paper that traced the case’s facts and follow-ups and when all of those facts and follow-ups shouted John’s innocence.  As we crossed items off the investigation list, I felt bigger and stronger than I ever had. And by the time I knew for sure, no amount of flawlessly passed polygraph tests or witness recantations or remorseful previous attorneys even mattered to me.

I…have no objection with meeting with you for any putting to straight any misconception.  I hope this is enough or just what you’d expect.

When we were finally able to interview the only witness, I was already sure about John’s innocence.  Even so, I was grateful that the witness recanted within seconds and spent the entire meeting bemoaning his young stupidity.  He explained how he’d repeatedly tried to tell the truth 19 years ago, how he’d waited for an interview to happen, how, crouched and terrified behind a car, he’d seen nothing of the crime, let alone John.  When John called us on our way home from High Desert Prison, we all wept.  Even though the witness’ truth was late and heavy with years of disuse it was enough.  And just what I expected.

I’m not going to let it dim my light…Truly thankful, John S.

I imagine injustice as a tarry, scalding pain that causes spirits to slough and scab and callous for protection.  John has endured 19 years of injustice and his light remains undimmed.  It’s an exceptional person whose light is so hardy and who signs off his letters with gratitude and puts adverbs in front of his adjectives so I know he means it.  I’m truly thankful to John for allowing me to be close to all of that.

I’m very proud of you.

Mar-Mar, my 99-year-old great-grandmother, was a fan of firsts.  She said she was the first woman to wear pants in Bakersfield and the first female, married principal of a California school.  She said my grandpa was probably the first eight-year-old to pay for his own broken arm from his allowance because he broke it twice falling from the same tree.  She said that my mom was a wonderful first grandchild and Mar-Mar was proud to present her with the first wedding dress to have a pearl sewn on by each female congregant of Grace Lutheran Church.  When I visited Mar-Mar in Bakersfield and told her about John, she exclaimed that I would be the first in our family to free an innocent man from jail.  She died this year, in October.  And even though she won’t get to see John walk free, I’m glad she was proud of my involvement in something so good.