Unfortunately, I didn’t begin to learn from leaders like Frederick Douglass until after prosecutors
convinced members of a grand jury to indict me. DEA agents arrested me on August 11, 1987, when I was 23.
I’d never been incarcerated before that arrest and didn’t know what to expect. At that stage in my life, I only
With that mindset, I willingly listened to people around me who told me what I wanted to hear rather
than what I needed to hear. Then, I made more bad decisions.
Since my charges carried a potential life sentence, I spent most of my pre-trial detention in solitary
confinement. Because of that time in solitary, I didn’t learn much about how the criminal justice system
operated. Without knowledge of the legal system, I left myself vulnerable to the messages other people in the
detention center tried to convey. Those people gave me a variety of messages:
There was a big difference between an indictment and a conviction.
The best way to serve time would be to forget about the world outside and focus on my time inside.
The government only wins cases because most people plead guilty; prosecutors rarely prove cases when
people go to trial.
By listening to viewpoints of questionable value, I made a series of catastrophic decisions. Following the
trial, members of the jury convicted me of every count. My choices exposed me to a harsher sentence than I
would have received if I had acted differently. Following the first trial, prosecutors brought new charges of
perjury against me.
Questions: Write responses to the following three questions in approximately ten minutes. If participating in a
class setting, discuss verbally.
1-4: In what ways would you say the author’s preparation before sentencing differed from the leadership
of Frederick Douglass?
1-5: In what ways would you say the author’s conviction influence possibilities for him to become an
1-6: How would you predict that authority figures in society would respond to the author’s conviction?