I was born and raised in Kansas City. In the projects. My old man was a pimp.
If there was child abuse arrests when I was coming up, my father would still be doing ten life sentences. That’s how it was. Beatings—you name it. Out of my five sisters, every one of them claim they’d been molested by my father.
They locked me up at twenty-one. I was serving a fifteen-year term [for burglary and robbery] at the time when I was accused of murder. I had maybe eight months to go before parole.
Penitentiary murder is like—”You killed him, we going to kill you.” The [prosecutor], the prison investigators—they all figure, “We’re going to kill two birds with one stone.” See, we were both convicts and both black.
I been out now six years, almost seven. I’ll be fifty-four in October. Having a job and the responsibility of rent and stuff like that—I never experienced that ‘til I got out.
Guys who get convicted of murder who actually did it are out there on parole and have a lot of things given to them—Medicaid, mental health care, Section 8 for an apartment, food stamps.
But guys who been exonerated, like me, we get none of that since we’re not on parole.
It was easier for me on death row than it is now being on the outside.
I have a lot of animosity. When they convicted me and give me the death sentence, I said to myself, I hope they do execute me and after they do it I hope they find out I was innocent. That’s how bitter I was to society.
Man, I got to deal with it like I did on death row—one day at a time.
My brothers and sisters, they put a lot of distance between me and them. In this society, basically all it takes is for the authorities to say you did it. Since I was in prison already they think—Well, Joe did it.
What people should do is make sure that guys facing the death penalty have a lawyer who’s qualified and knowledgeable. I had a public defender. But in penitentiary terms, he would be defined as a public pretender.
When I got out, I was like Rip Van Winkle. Everything was new to me. Everything was difficult.
I have so much missing from me. I had a twenty-six-year-old son who I hadn’t seen since he was two.
Seventeen years on death row, I watched sixty-three people get executed. Some of them I knew since the third grade. Some of them I was in a cell with when [guards] come and said, “You need to turn around and cuff up because we got a warrant for your execution.” Then they took him away.
Man, man, man—you just don’t know.
It’s not difficult for me to talk about all this. I don’t consider it no therapy. The way I see it, I don’t want nobody else to go through what I been through.
I look forward to life. Period. I’m not saying a job or a wife or whatever. Just life. Life itself.