Reading TESTED can be at times inspiring, trying, educational, enlightening and eye-opening and in the blogs we have tried to expand our awareness of some of the issues that surround wrongful convictions as well as the methods that these 12 innocent men used to overcome the difficult times and transform their lives. But there has been one area that can still use some expanding: prejudice. Why does it exist, how does it continue and how can we make prejudice stop? That is an important topic that we should all take with us and try to digest, to do our part, to change.
Many wrongful convictions involve some form of prejudice whether it be in the form of race, wealth, age, prior convictions, education, or disability – and, in the pages of TESTED, the topic of prejudices takes a running start in the story of Johnnie Lindsey.
Growing up, Johnnie was a good boy who had been dealt a tough set of cards. His father passed away when he was ten years old, leaving his mother heartbroken and unable to care for the children. To help out his family Johnnie would mow lawns every summer in order to pay for school supplies for himself and his sister. He joined the church choir and in high school he became a track star and won a scholarship to attend college at the nearby SMU. But then it seemed like life just got to him and he started to hang out with the wrong crowd. Soon enough he started drinking too much, dropped out of school and got attached to an even worse crowd. Eventually he got off the “right” track completely and served three years in prison for robbery. But when he got out he promised himself that he wouldn’t go down that path again…
But then false eyewitness testimony put Johnnie back behind bars, this time for the two rape attacks – even though he had pay stubs and time cards showing he had been at work. It seems like the previous conviction was just “enough” proof for even his court-appointed attorney to tell him, matter of fact, “You’re an ex-con, and you are going back to prison” (TESTED, page 5).
But as it turned out, Johnnie was innocent the second time around; he really was a changed man, and eventually he was exonerated. The thing is, Johnnie was innocent all along and if it weren’t for the personal prejudices of ex-convicts that the police and judicial system brought to his case, Johnnie’s innocence would have been realized from the start.
Why do you think prejudices like these happen? How do you think we can overcome this as a society to uncover the real truth?