On Sept. 6,1996,when I was just beginning my life, I was sentenced 2 life in prison at the age of 18. I was charged w/ 1st degree murder for killing a man in self-defense who was posing as a police officer after he pulled his gun on me and fired off 2 shots at me at close range. This incident took place in a very racist town called Montgomery LA., and b/c the guy was white and I’m black the court, thte state’s attorney’s, the sherrif, and the judge, who grew up playing w/ the sherrif’s kids, wanted 2 crucify me.
A very similar incident forced my grandfather, who was Chippewa Indian, 2 leave Montgomery. He told me b4 he died that if he hadn’t left all the hateful and racist things he was encountering would’ve probably made him kill someone. The racism in Montgomery was very open during my grandfather’s time and by the time I came along not much had changed.
My attorney’s, who were both white, tricked me and my family N2 believing that if I were 2 go 2 trial I had a 95% chance of being found guilty and receiving the death penalty. I never denied killing the man but my argument, which was suppressed by my attorney’s, was that it was completely in self-defense. The man pulled his gun on me and shot at me after he’d gotten into it w/ a friend I was w/ and I tried 2 intervene evidence of 2 bullets being fired N2 the area where I was seated was found in the vehicle we were in. So I wanted 2 go 2 trial b/c I believed if I explained why I killed the man my charge would be reduced. But my attorney’s threatened 2 withdraw from my case if I insisted on going 2 trial. I was told the only way I won’t get the death penalty was 2 enter a guilty plea, which I did, and was subsequently sentenced 2 life in prison b/c I was made afraid that what my attorney’s said about getting the death penalty was true, regardless if my actions were in self-defense or not.
At the time I only had an 8th grade education and I suffered from undiagnosed mental health disorders and learning disabilities. So at the time I didn’t have the ability 2 comprehend or understand that my attorney’s and the state were railroading me N2 taking the plea bargain. I felt something wasn’t right but they rushed me N2 taking the plea and they recruited my family, who they made 2 fear I would be sentenced 2 death if were 2 go 2 trial as well. My attorney’s completely coerced me N2 taking the plea bargain which was actually no bargain at all.
If I had someone who would really be willing 2 look N2 my situation everything I’m saying would be right there 4 them 2 see. Even the fact that the Montgomery, Grant Parish police dept. tried 2 frame me 2 make it look like the man was robbed. But who robs someone they think is a police officer?
Since becoming aware of how my attorney’s messed over me I’ve struggled 2 find hope that one day the truth will come 2 light and I will be set free, or at least my time will be reduced. I’ve wandered around for yrs. searching for a light that will guide me thru all the darkness that has flooded into my world b/c of this experience. But in the world that I’m currently a part of it is a struggle 2 have faith in a system that is so broken and corrupt and allow myself 2 believe a situation like mine can be fixed when I have seen guys w/ charges for crimes far more heinous than mine get less time than I have. Mostly guys who are white. This is testimony 2 how unjust and bias the system is. When a black man kills a man in self-defense and gets a life sentence, and a white man kills a man by cutting his head off and burying his body in the woods and gets 35 yrs for Manslaughter is evidence 2 this inequality.
I’ve been incarcerated for 24 yrs. and seeing this inequality over and over again has caused so much anger and resentment 2 build up inside me. I’ve gotten N2 it w/ Correctional Officers and caught all types of rule infractions b/c of the unresolved issues that developed within me b/c of my situation. It took me a long time b4 I recieved help understanding what was going on my unresolved resentment and anger was causing me 2 lash out at anyone who I felt represented the system, or white people who I believed were racist. My anger also turned in on myself. I blamed myself for being so stupid, naive and closemouthed and letting my attorney’s and the court do this 2 me. I began 2 hate myself and attempted 2 kill myself several times. But then one day I realized God allowed me 2 survive that situation for a reason, and if God deemed me worthy 2 live then who am I 2 take my own life?
I empathize w/ the parents of Trayvon Martin and so many other young black men who were killed in situations like mine. That could’ve easily been me. But b/c of those situations I am well aware how it would’ve turned out if I would’ve been the one 2 get killed. The truth would’ve been covered up and the guy’s actions would’ve been justified and there probably would not have been any charges or conviction. And now b/c of my situation we see what happens when we are the ones who survive those types of encounters.
I eventually began 2 view this as God using this situation 2 mold me. Using the darkness 2 help me appreciate the light whenever I did encounter it, or once I discovered it shining within myself, which I eventually did. Thru meditation and writing. This situation has eventually developed me into a more mature, patient, and spiritual minded man and has changed my perspective on many things. I’m very sorry for the man’s family. I can’t even begin 2 express how much I wish the situation would’ve never taken place. I’m very sorry for all the people who lost family, friends,or loved ones 2 situations that stemmed from racism, prejudice or any type of anger or hatred. These types of deep seated issues will take time 2 heal but I believe God is working on that healing. I may not have faith in this system but I do have faith in God.
Categories: Carlton Turner