Beautiful Letter From Malachy Rice after seeing David & Me

Mr. Klonsky:
After watching your son’s documentary I felt compelled to reach out to Mr. McCallum.  However, I was unable to find contact information and am hoping that you will forward my comments to him.  You sir, are to be commended on raising such a fine young man, who deserves commendation in his own right.

Dear Mr. McCallum:

I recently saw the documentary Fight for Justice:  David and Me.  Its story, which is your story, is painful and horrific.  I know that the pain I felt in learning your story is not even an iota of the pain you, your family, and friends felt for far too long.  Yet it is also a story of inspiration, because of your determination to define your life even while behind the bars of a cell.

There are some who may dismiss your story based upon the belief that the claim of  your false confession is itself false.  However, such people most likely do not have the benefit of personal experience that lends credibility to your claim.  You and I lived our teenage years in drastically different places.  As young adolescents, you lived in a city gripped by the vice of a crime epidemic while I grew up on idyllic Cape Cod.  Although we grew up in different places, we grew up in similar economic circumstances, as my family belonged to the working class poor.

In my early teenage years, I mowed lawns during the summer to earn money and was accused of stealing silver from the home of one of my customers.  Admittedly, the offense for which I was accused is trivial compared to the offense you faced; however, this experience provided me with a perspective I have not fully appreciated until I learned your story.  To this day, I remember the fear I felt when a police detective grilled me about doing something I knew that I did not do.  I was fortunate in that my involvement in the case ended with one interview.  I also benefitted from a couple of things you did not:  1.) I was interviewed with my mother present, and 2.) the color of my skin (I am white).

In no way am I trying to compare our experiences, but only to provide a context for how I can empathize with your experience.  Learning your story made me face a question I had never asked myself:  what if I had been convicted of that offense?  Would I have been able to go to college on an academic and athletic scholarship?  If I had not been able to go to college, then I obviously would not have been able to attend a prestigious graduate school, again on academic scholarship.  There is no question that without my education that my professional accomplishments would never have happened.  I raise my academic scholarships not to boast, but rather to use them as an illustration.  Despite my abilities, my life may have been sidetracked in ways I cannot imagine if I had been convicted of an offense for which I was accused but entirely innocent.

However this is not the purpose of my writing.  The point of the above paragraphs are simply summarized by, but for the Grace of God there go I.  The reason I am writing is to thank you.  I want to thank you for being the man that you are.  To thank you for your courage and grace.  Most of all, to thank you for your spirit.  Admittedly, the gratitude I express is selfish.  It is selfish because I am grateful for your story because it epitomizes the power of hope in uncertain times.  Our economy is stagnant, our public discourse is uncivil and even more stagnant, and we live in a country divided in too many ways; like race, class, and gender.  Yet your story of facing insurmountable odds with dignity, and refusing to relinquish hope, offers a salve to our wounded times.  It is a story of hope and faith in a time when we need hope and the ability to believe more than ever in my lifetime.

I am profoundly sorry for the injustice you endured.  It pains me to know of the loss of your freedom during what is consider the best years of your life.  However, I do not think those years were lost.  As difficult as it was for you to spend those years, you spent them in order to ultimately inspire hope.  I cannot imagine the darkest nights you spent in prison, of the pain and loneliness you felt, and there is nothing I can do to assuage that pain or dispel that loneliness.  All I can do is offer a humble and sincere thank you for enduring them.
Thank you for your courage and for enduring the incredibly difficult passages of your life’s journey, and for your willingness to share your journey.  For your journey enriches us all, and will make profound differences you never imagined and may never know.

Malachy Rice

Ivan Henry awarded compensation by BC Court

Last week, the BC Court of Appeals awarded eight million dollars to Ivan Henry, wrongly convicted of a string of rapes committed in the mid 1980’s, in recognition of 27 years of incarceration, suffering and the destruction of his life (including the overdose death of his daughter, Kari). I don’t need to go into the details of a case that is readily available on Google. What is of interest to me now is that this settlement comes after the City of Vancouver and the federal government conceded that Henry was wrongly convicted while the province of British Columbia insisted on forcing Henry and his legal team to go through another costly judicial charade. Judge Christopher Hinckson ruled that prosecutors in this case were liable for the suppression of exculpatory evidence. (Many jurisdictions in the United States afford complete immunity to prosecutors. New York State is only on the verge of passing a bill that would allow for oversight in questionable cases.) In addition, the police themselves were guilty of creating a fraudulent ‘lineup’ where a recalcitrant Henry was held in a headlock by a police officer.

Prosecutor immunity amounts to prosecutor impunity. No public servant should be allowed to avoid scrutiny of their work. The protection of prosecutors is one of the main indirect causes of wrongful convictions. The reason for this is obvious: if the prosecutors have nothing to lose, they will put together dubious and crooked cases because they have everything to gain in prestige and advancement by a conviction. No risk is involved.

I met Ivan Henry, in 2011, when Rubin Carter joined me for a book launch of Eye of the Hurricane at Capilano University in North Vancouver. He and his large family wanted to meet Rubin who was only too happy to oblige. The Henrys must still have that group photo that was taken at the event. I knew that Ivan was still carrying a great weight and continued to do so when I met him two years later at UBC Law School with David Milgaard. One of the heaviest weights–and David McCallum is dealing with this right now–is the time it takes for a wrongly convicted person to receive compensation. The exonerated, many of them in their sixties like Mr. Henry, need to get on with their lives and not spend years uselessly reliving the trauma. The parsimonious justice ministers and district attorneys string these people out for unconscionable periods of time. There is simply no excuse for this behaviour; if the shoe were on the other foot, say a justice minister’s son or daughter was wrongly convicted, I wonder how long the settlement would take?

After this recent decision, Susan Anton, the BC Attorney General, said she would study the case. Does this mean she might appeal it again? Will this serve justice in any way? I say get on with compensating Ivan Henry (now 69 years old) and recognize the full extent of the tragedy that has been visited on an innocent man. Congratulations, Ivan. May you find some comfort in the remaining years of your life!