Hope Is A Good Thing
by Jay B. Van Story
March 20, 2005

From the prison dorm I live in, I can look out onto the front entrance of the unit, where the U.S. and Texas flags spend the day merrily flapping in the wind, high above the prison gates.

These flags represent liberty and justice for all. To me, their shadows on the ground represent the lost hope of liberty and justice that so many have wrongfully suffered.

Every free citizen deserves to be protected from being wrongly convicted on a false charge. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency to sometimes deny basic rights to get a conviction. Not only is there the very real danger of an innocent person being illegally convicted when due process is ignored, the alleged victim can wrongfully suffer as well.

Because I was denied due process, officials were able to rob me of my liberty on the basis of a totally fabricated charge. Even worse, they were allowed I to put the alleged 10-year-old victim (A.C.) right back into the hands of the actual perpetrator of abuse upon her, who continued to sexually abuse and harass her throughout her childhood.

Furthermore, officials were allowed to cause A.C. to suffer terrible guilt for years to come by forcing her to falsely testify against me.

By far, the most difficult thing I've had to deal with the last 18 years is knowing that officials used and abused A.C. to get a false conviction against me, and not being able to help her escape it. I did my best to prove my innocence and rescue her when I defended myself in court in 1989, but due to an intentional denial of due process, truth and justice could not prevail at that time.

Former Lubbock County District Attorney Travis S. Ware and his first assistant, Rebecca Baker Atchley, became so drunk with power after successfully securing my false conviction through A.C.'s false testimony, they went on to attempt to falsely convict policemen and attorneys who dared try and uncover Ware and Atchley's rampant misconduct.

When corrupt officials like Ware and Atchley are allowed to get away with denying even one man's due process rights, they feel empowered to deny anybody's rights, at their whim and fancy.

My heart really goes out to A.C. She became a Christian soon after reaching adulthood. She was finally able to break free from the corrupt control officials held over her when she was a defenseless, vulnerable child.

My heart is also heavy with the knowledge that many, many others are falsely imprisoned. I know that if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. And it has, to the tune of tens of thousands across the U.S.A. I know how they all feel -- lonely, helpless, wronged. Nothing causes overriding panic, pain and anguish quite like being severely wronged by a system you grew up believing in. Before I was falsely convicted, I never would have believed it could happen in this great country. 

Being in prison under a false conviction is much worse than being there under a valid one. You feel tormented every minute of every day by the extreme miscarriage of justice that has befallen you. After all, you have been kidnapped by the state, and are being held hostage with official sanction. You are being robbed of your life one excruciating day at a time. It's been over 6,000 days for me, so far.

Sleep, when it comes, is often disturbed by nightmares even worse than the one you're living. You try and figure out how the system could have failed you so miserably. The longer you are falsely imprisoned, the more difficult it is to endure. You feel your life slowly slipping away, with no hope of ever getting back all the lost days, weeks, months, and years. You look in the mirror one day and realize that something approaching an old man has replaced the young man who was led into this hell at gunpoint.

Each July 4th, all 53 of us here on 3 dorm are treated to a beautiful, small- town fireworks display. Oh, it's not meant for us. It's staged at a city park about 200 yards away for the free citizens of Huntsville, the execution capital of the world. However, we can view it as a reflection in the dirty windows of an adjacent cell block. This is fitting, since the only way I can view my freedom is as a reflection.

From 3 dorm, I can see cars pass by on I-45, about a mile to the west. I often think about the joy the folks in those vehicles must be feeling as they dash to and fro, busily soaking up the freedom they so easily take for granted.

As a result of A.C. voluntarily coming forward with the truth, I have renewed hope. As Andy Dufresne, the main character falsely convicted in "The Shawshank Redemption," so memorably wrote in a note to a fellow prisoner:



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