By: Toby R. Davis #234179
CAN YOU IMAGINE being wrongfully charged and convicted of a crime(s) that you absolutely had no involvement in? Well unfortunately, this is my reality, my true story, and has been for over two decades in the MDOC where I was forced to stand in the company of notorious inmates such as, Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian and John Smits, while knowing deep inside that I wasn’t even supposed to be there.
“Lord, how is this even possible? You know that I’m an innocent man!” I cried, as I lay hopelessly underneath a grey, wool blanket inside the Saginaw County jailhouse. I felt scared and alone… like God had truly forsaken me.
I was only nineteen at the time when my entire life was stolen and ruined in an instant. Like strange fruit deep in the South, my condemned black body was slowly hoisted up on a judicial cross and crucified in the courtroom immediately after a white foreman stood up and declared me “Guilty” of second-degree murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. My best friend Henry Dillard and I both were railroaded and sentenced to high football scores, behind circumstantial evidence. No firearm(s) were ever recovered. Numerous prints were collected from the actual crime scene and subsequently compared to our known prints on file without an identified match. By the time I realized that it wasn’t about the truth, but securing a conviction, it was too late. My fate had already been signed, sealed and delivered like an oversized FedEx package.
The jury verdict hinged solely on conflicted testimony fraught with inconsistencies and fabrications, presented by two of our teenage friends, who were both pressured and coached by seasoned detectives to provide false testimony against their childhood friends in order to save themselves from a possible life sentence. By the grace of God, both of these alleged eyewitnesses have since confessed and admitted in sworn affidavits to being coerced by law enforcement to send two innocent men to prison. Fortuitously in 2005, new evidence surfaced inside an MSP report that revealed a more viable suspect who matched the complete description reported by two independent witnesses of a “white” man walking towards a gas station wearing dark clothing, a dark baseball cap, mustache, roughly 5’9 to 5’11 and 150 lbs. carrying a firearm. Not only was he seen walking away from the crime scene on the night in question, but he too was engaged in a heated dispute with the victim just hours before his murder and had a permit to carry the [same] caliber weapon (9mm) that had killed the victim. According to this report, the white male victim had been living with his then boss and his boss’s wife during the time he was kicked out the house stemming from an alleged affair. Later, he (the victim) was found shot once in the head as he slept inside his tan Ford Escort at Timbertown Auto garage where he was also employed. No valuables taken. Ironically, none of this crucial evidence was introduced nor presented at our murder trial. Like modern-day slavery, we were sold up the river against our will by court-appointed lawyers who never had our best interest at heart and had known about this potential exculpatory evidence all along, but failed to present any of it as an alternative theory. Hence, the jury verdict of culpability.
Twenty-six years later, here I am still wrongfully convicted and languishing behind bars at Thumb Correctional Facility. It’s been a long time coming in conjunction with countless failed appeals, but yet I remain spiritually strong and hopeful. I am a survivor, and sustained by my unwavering faith, my beloved family and friends, who continue to support, love, and believe in my innocence. In that sense, I am truly blessed. It took me experiencing this ordeal to see just how unbalanced the scale of justice really is. If you’re a marginalized black man who’s underprivileged and underrepresented, you’re automatically “guilty” until proven innocent. Your black life doesn’t matter to a racist system that wasn’t designed in favor of subordinate caste people. While in prison, I had vowed to use my time wisely to evolve my spirit and become better, not bitter. Today I’m considered a model prisoner, who has penned three books and is well respected by the prison population and staff alike. May all glory be unto The Most High.
In closing, I’d like to convey a special thanks to the Detroit Native Sun Newspaper and Goddess Maat Seba for providing me with this platform to share my story. I am truly humbled and filled with an abundance of gratitude knowing that I may encourage someone else like me, who’s been wrongly imprisoned to NEVER GIVE UP!! I feel your pain, but know there’s no pain without purpose.