“We know the truth,” said Morgan, speaking Saturday evening (May 27, 2018) as part of a panel on mass incarceration and stereotyping. “We’re trying to present the truth to our community because we’re eager to serve. To whom much is given, much is owed.” Jerome Morgan puts it, “I went into prison at 17 and came out at 37.” He knew he was innocent the whole time, and it took 20 years before he was able to leave the penitentiary as a free and exonerated man .
Morgan’s 1993 murder case, in which the then 19-year-old New Orleanian was convicted of shooting dead a fellow teenager at a Sweet 16 party. Now freed, Morgan has joined with two other wrongfully and overly convicted men to preach the pitfalls of overzealous prosecution and how the image of black men as criminals worsens social, economic and racial marginalization. Reflecting on his experience, Jones, 44, told the roughly 100 attendees in the church about his decades at Angola – which he, likewise, called “a slave plantation” – stemming from a conviction related to a 1992 French Quarter crime spree that culminated in murder and landed him a life sentence. Like Morgan, Jones enlisted Innocence Project New Orleans to assist in convincing judges decades later that he had been wrongfully convicted, citing lack of evidence. Jones was released in January 2018 on his 44th birthday. Daniel Rideau, who was 19-years old at the time, was handed a life sentence in the 1994 shooting death of a man . He was released in 2003 after his conviction was dropped. The judge in Rideau’s appeal ruled prosecutors withheld information that could have helped his defense at trial back in 1995. “They don’t care if you’re innocent,” Rideau said. “They want that conviction.” “Being bitter holds you back,” said Jones, who endured the longest prison stint at 23 years. “I hold onto the positive things in my life. Hold onto the truth.” The trio opened a barbershop at the beginning of this year, called Real Gentlemen Barbershop. Since its opening, the shop has become more than just a place to get a good haircut: it’s emerge as a hub for positive youth mentorship and anti-mass incarceration activism in a city with a high incarceration rate. The barber shop serves as the meeting grounds for the nonprofit Free-Dem Foundations, which Morgan, Jones and Rideau co-founded earlier this year. Their aim is to show how young black man can contribute in positive ways to their community, despite hardships and mistakes. “I’m obligated to try to make a difference,” Rideau said. “It’s an everyday struggle.” What these three men all faced in the justice system did not persuade them to lose hope or stop a drive to improve their communities. Pt. 1
article by: ghost writer