Remain Free Part III Section VI

Now that the Eleventh Circuit Court had denied the appeal in a 2-1 decision, I didn’t know what to do. Who had the power to save Troy, and the courage? I could think of only one person: Barack Obama. Yes, Barack Obama! The man whose speeches electrified the nation. The man who proved that race and a foreign name were no obstacle to greatness. The man whose brutally authentic memoir showed that a thoughtful, reflecting intellectual now resided in the White House. If anyone could save Troy Davis, if anyone would save Troy Davis, it would be him.

 

April 29, 2009

To President Barack Obama                                                                                                 

Executive Office of the President of the United States of America

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.

 

 

Dear President Obama,

 

            Throughout your historic campaign, you promised change; a change from the partisan politics of the past; a change from an administration dedicated to secrecy and corruption; a change for a better America. In the area of human rights, you have made remarkable progress in your first one hundred days as President. You revealed the abuses made by the CIA during their interrogations of suspected terrorists. You promised to end America’s shameful treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and close down the prison once and for all. You showed the world that America is not afraid to admit that it made mistakes, but that it is ready to look to the a brighter and better future. Yet we often forget that there are still human rights issues within our own nations that need to be addressed.

            I write to you on behalf of Troy Davis. As you may already know, Troy Davis has been part of a recent high profile death penalty case. In 1989, police officer Mark Macphail was shot and killed while attempting to break up a fight, and in 1991 Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to death for Macphail’s killing. Yet Davis was not convicted on DNA or physical evidence, but solely on the testimony of nine witnesses. Yet seven of those nine witnesses have now recanted their testimonies, some saying that they were intimidated or threatened by the police into fingering Davis as the man who pulled the trigger. Of the other two witnesses, one of them is the primary alternative suspect, and the other changed their story, first saying Davis wasn’t the killer and then saying he was. In addition to raising serious questions about police misconduct, it brings into Davis’s guilt into serious doubt.

            After receiving a stay of execution, Davis was to be executed by lethal injection on September 23, 2008, despite the fact that on September 27th, his case was to be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had an emergency meeting and issued a stay of execution ninety minutes before Davis’s scheduled execution. However, after declining to intervene, Davis was to be executed in October until, three days before his execution, the U.S. 11th Circuit District Court issued another stay of execution. However, they declined to intervene as well, and the stay is set to expire on May 15th, 2009.

            I ask of you, as the President of the United States, to use your power to stop Davis’s education and ask for a new trial. The recantations have never been heard in a court of law, and it is unjust and immoral to execute a man when such serious doubt to his guilt remains. Davis has received the support of many notable people and organizations, such as Amnesty International, President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu, Reverend Al Sharpton, the European Union, Representative Bob Barr, Representative John Lewis, and thousands of people across the globe.

            I am a fifteen year old student from a suburb of Atlanta, and I have no exterior motive to ask for a new trial for Davis. I merely request this out of my sense of civic duty as a citizen of the United States of America, where each and every person is guaranteed liberty and due process, and I request this as a human being seeking to right a major wrong occurring before my very eyes. I request this because I know that we must stand up for what we believe in, and I request this because I know it is the right thing to do.

            If there is any person who has the moral character and humanistic passion to stop this injustice, it is you President Obama. During your campaign, you promised a government more open to the people and more accountable for its actions. I implore you not to let a potentially innocent man die. For many people in their lifetimes, it is rare to have an opportunity to save a person’s life, to truly stop the flame that is life from being extinguished, and you have that opportunity President Obama. Please do not let it pass you by.

Most sincerely yours,

Gautam R. Narula

Alpharetta, Georgia

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Five years ago

Five years ago today, my friend Troy Davis was wrongfully executed. One year ago today, I published Remain Free to share his story.

In that one year:

  • Remain Free beat out a New York Times bestseller written by a US president for the Georgia Author of the Year Award
  • Remain Free has been featured in NRI Pulse, India New England News, Khabar Magazine, and the Sunday edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Khabar Magazine, and India New England News
  • I’ve spoken at MIT, Cornell, UGA, Georgia State, Kennesaw State, high schools, Amnesty International groups, and CreativeMornings Boston (with a few more to come!)
  • I’ve met and talked to incredible people from all walks of life who share a passion for reforming our justice system, ranging from the parents of other teenagers who’ve befriended death row inmates to rappers, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, and everything in-between.

 

To mark the one year anniversary of the publication of the physical copy of Remain Free, the one many of you made possible, I just published the Kindle version so people all over the world can read it. As with the physical version, all profits will be donated to the Innocence Project.  And of course, the book can be read in serialized from for free on remainfree.com

In the end, this was to serve the mission of sharing Troy’s story with as many people as possible. A huge thanks to all of you who’ve supported this journey that began around this time eight years ago.

Remain Free Part III Section V

April 27, 2009

Dear Uncle Troy,                                                                               

I was not aware that my previous letter was not sent, so I am attaching this letter and the previous one into one letter. I will have to admit that the court’s decision surprised me. For some reason, I was sure that they would accept the appeal. When I read over the decision in an article, I felt their reasoning was not justified. They stated that much of this was submitted too late, and that previous courts had already “thoroughly” viewed the evidence. What they fail to realize is that this is not some late credit card payment where you pay a fine on a technicality; a human life is in jeopardy here, and no one should be forced to die because of a technicality. The value of life should, and in a cosmic sense does, supersede all laws of man.

 

Meanwhile, I have been mobilizing the students at Alpharetta High School; after remaining stagnant for some time, the number of people in the “Alpharetta High School for Troy Davis” group is rising once again. I am beginning a letter writing campaign where I will collect letters from the students to send it to anyone and everyone who has the power or influence to stop the execution. We may have suffered a serious blow with the court decision, but the struggle lives on.

I hope I will have another chance to visit you soon (I believe it has been about seventy days since the last visit). What bothers me the most about the death penalty is how arbitrary it is. I just learned of another death penalty case in Savannah where one witness recanted, and the judge ordered a whole new trial, yet here we have seven recantations but no justice. Had the same thing happened in Atlanta, I am positive you would not have been convicted. Had you been convicted but been in the north, you wouldn’t have received the death penalty. It is clear that this is not the correct way to go about things, but the State of Georgia seems bent on living in the past, just like it did during the civil rights movement, and just like it did during the Civil War. Regardless of the outcome, just know that as always we are there to support you and that you are never alone. I included a poem I wrote about how I feel to all those people who say that your execution is a “victory” for justice and about how I feel towards the way the government of the State of Georgia is run, and even towards the manner in which the United States and other Western nations treat or have treated the rest of the world.

 Most sincerely yours,

Gautam R. Narula                 

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Remain Free Part III Section IV

March 19, 2009

Dear Uncle Troy,

 

            I apologize for not having written to you in so long. Things have been hectic at home and school, but I’m glad I finally got the chance to write to you. Several times my friends have asked me about Troy Davis, or asked me “How is the case going?” or “Has the Court made a decision yet?” and I have to keep telling them that we are still waiting and still hoping for good news to come. A small amount of good news has come this way however; today, Governor Bill Richardson signed a law that repealed the death penalty in New Mexico, and apparently ¾ of the New Mexicans who sent in letters or emails to called by telephone stated that they were for the repeal. I think Americans are finally waking up to the fact that the death penalty is cruel, inhumane, and does not effectively deter crime.

            I’m still thinking about the last time I visited you, almost a month ago. What I found most interesting was that most of the people there seemed very normal, hugging their wife and kids, playing games with their infant children, talking to their loved ones. It just seems to hard to believe that these people are the same people who committed horrible crimes. It’s just too difficult to sort people into “good” or “evil”. It’s not something that is black and white, not an “A or B” statement…

            I want to share with you a composition I wrote on February 27th, 2009

Who We Are, and What We Can Become

            If there are two things I have noticed about human nature, it is that humans are by nature polygamous and cruel. Perhaps many find this debatable, but throughout my reading of history and just observations in general, it seems that this is true. The former is a topic for another time, but the latter I feel is a more pressing issue. If you were to look at all the wars and conquest of the past, and even the present, you would see that cruelty is present everywhere. From the distant past, like the Sumerians who owned slaves, or the Assyrians who brutally tortured and slaughtered those who they conquered, to the Classical Period when the Romans and Greeks would enslave the “barbarians” of conquered regions, to the massacring of Muslims by the Crusaders in the 13th century, to the violent pillaging and slaughter of the Mongols as they conquered Eurasia, to the present day, it seems far easier to find acts of cruelty than it is to find acts of compassion.
Even today, torture and slavery still exist. It took us from approximately 500,000 B.C. to the 1800s A.D. to realize that no human deserves to be treated like an animal and enslaved to another, and we are still trying to realize today that no one is inferior because of his culture, religion, or skin color. I believe that humans are instinctively violent, insecure, and cruel, and that is why it has taken us so long to overcome our prejudice towards each other. It is only today, with the artificial layering of the ideas of the Enlightenment and society pressed upon us can we suppress these natural instincts. This was the idea I believe William Golding was getting at in his novel
Lord of the Flies, the idea that the inner nature of humans has been checked only by the artificial clamps of society. In the past, slaughtering and massacring a whole city was considered the norm, and not particularly brutal. Conquerors from Alexander the Great to the British Empire in the 20th century violently suppressed those they subjugated without remorse.
In his well known series
Cosmos, the late well known scientist and astronomer Carl Sagan suggested that our aggression and territorialism comes from one of the inner parts of our brain, which was derived from the reptiles who eventually evolved into the primates. But perhaps there is more than just a biological explanation. Deep down, I think we realize that life is cruel. In the 2004 Tsunami, thousands of people were killed or lost everything. Did they deserve this? No, but it happened. Some of the people I know, some of the kindest and noblest people I have ever had the honor of meeting in my life, for doing nothing wrong, have been paralyzed or have died or have been wrongfully imprisoned. Yet this is what life handed to them. Today, billions live in poverty and under the control of tyrannical dictators. In Sudan, the janjaweed has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people. In the 1970s, Francisco Franco of Spain and the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia ordered the mass killings of millions. In China, Mao Zedong led the country to the largest peacetime mass killings ever known in history. I have accepted the fact that life is harsh, though I am fortunate enough to be shielded from most of its brutality.
This is why I believe we should recognize the compassion that does exist in everyday life and embrace it. Every act of kindness is one of those exceptions, one of those “but” moments, which shows how great humanity can truly be. Throughout history, people have always searched for a purpose, for a reason of existence, for a reason why they are here today on the Earth, whether placed there by a Creator, as most believe, or not, as others believe. I believe that reason is to reduce the cruelty present in everyday life, to make life less painful for others and to make the world a kinder and gentler place. This is why I stand up for Troy Davis and why I’ve been vegetarian since I was five years old. I stopped eating meat when I came to terms with the pain and suffering it caused animals. There is so much pain in this world for all creatures, animals and humans alike, that I felt it immoral (not that I think those who eat meat are immoral; I respect their decision as I hope they do mine) to inflict even more pain upon the animals when it was unnecessary. No, the lion is not cruel when it kills a gazelle, because it is only trying to survive. However, when a human has the choice not to kill an animal, I felt it right not to do so. I have supported Troy Davis because in addition to being a truly inspirational person in my life, I realized that he was one of the people who have been wronged by our country. To be placed on death row when serious doubts about your crime exists is as inhuman as the torture that our government still commits against others. I support him because I know that if I can make the world less painful for others, I have fulfilled my purpose in life.

This exposition may appear to be depraved, cynical, and sadistic in many regards, but nothing could be further from the truth. By recognizing the darkness of our past, we can appreciate how far we’ve come. The world is a kinder place than it has ever been before, and it is becoming a better place. People are realizing the inherent rights we as sentient beings deserve. What gives me hope is that we have the intelligence to change ourselves. We are more than the sum of our natural instincts, and we have the will not to give in to all of our instincts and urges, a monumental feat. If we can defy gravity and place a man on a celestial body, then we can change ourselves. And if we can learn from the past and look to the future, if we can recognize the true value of kindness, humanity, and compassion, there is no limit to what we can achieve.”

            These are my true feelings about human nature, though perhaps they are a bit cynical. I hope I will get a chance to see you soon and speak to you in person.

Love your adopted nephew,

Gautam R. Narula      

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Remain Free Part III Section III

January 7, 2009

Dear Gautam,

            Hi nephew and how’s life been treating you lately? I pray that you, family and friends are all doing well and in the best of health as well as spirits.

            Things on this side of the fence are the same. I’ve been battling a cold off and on for 2 weeks now but this is the worst I’ve felt. Constant sneezing and runny nose.

            Where’s my mother when I really need her care huh? Women are so strong because even a little cold brings a man down. =P

            Thanks for your letter. It really made me think so I reread it this morning. You spend a lot of your time thinking and trying to solve even the smallest problems that we humans refuse to focus on.

            In life we all want to be treated fairly and not pre-judged but when it comes to crime everyone points the finger at the defendant as if he/he is already guilty no matter what.

            It’s the shallow minds that refuse to hear the end of the story or even question the possibility that the defendant is guilty. People should just think more like yourself because there’s always a  hidden truth that’s left out.

            Look at religion! Every religion claims they are the “ONE TRUE Religion” but how can that be? I believe there’s only ONE “Sovereign Ruler” and that’s our creator no matter what title we give Him/Her.

            But mankind refuses to be wrong so they resort to ignorant arguing and fighting which eventually leads to war.

            In the Bible one of the Key Commandments reads “thou shalt not kill”. Read Exodus 20: verse 13 in your Bible. However, look how many cultures support war. Religious wars were going on even before Jesus walked the earth. God fought many wars for His chosen people who followed. His laws/commandments. He also led mentally groups of people to war so that His will would be done for Him on Earth through others. However as a Christian once Jesus was put to death on the torture stake we who became Christians were supposed to follow all God’s laws and commandments because Jesus did not come to change the laws but fulfill them.

            However, should any person, religious or not speak against WAR in America, you are unpatriotic. Churches are supposed to remain separated from Political Events/Governments. It’s the churches that push and support wars more than non-believers.

            They are serving two Gods while claiming only one. How can you teach kids not to lie, cheat or steal or even kill, when you support war as a religious person, support the death penalty and agree that it’s okay to kill a few innocent for the sanctity of the  “Justice System”?

            So Gautam keep thinking, keep asking questions because you have mentally mastered life more than hundreds of millions of adults in such a short time. You’re right, it doesn’t matter if you receive a 95 on your precalculus or not. What matters is that you never stop learning. Give 110% to everything you do and never allow yourself to be mislead. Become a leader.

            The letter your mom showed you someone wrote about support me but also said I’ll become a martyr illustrates my point about people. They want to play both sides of the fence so they’ll never be wrong but because of ignorance they’ll always be led and never leaders like yourself. People are already listening to you.

            As for me they needed a cause and I believe at the right time God drew these people to me so that they won’t witness my freedom but witness “His Power” to have the final say when the most influential System man has spoken.

            Through my Situation all who are watching will witness “God’s” presence in my life and it is only because I put faith in Him that I’m still alive and only through God’s will that I’ll walk free. Man said, so what, yeah he might be innocent but we’ll have to change our system if we don’t kill him so let him die.” God simply stepped in and said, “NO” watch me set him free.

            Whatever greater power you believe in Gautam, give it your all and let it/him/her guide you. The real God will search your heart and come to you. Whatever roadblocks you face in life won’t stop you, they’ll just slow you down long enough to strengthen you so that you can overcome them for good.

            I’m very proud of you as well as Priya even though she and I need to talk about certain bad decisions she’s made lately relating to school & life. Give her and your parents a hug for me and my love. Tell Sahil I said hello and I miss hearing from him.

God Bless you!

Uncle Troy D.

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Remain Free Part III Section II

 12/17/08

Dear Troy,

This is the first letter I’ve written you since I visited you a few weeks ago. I apologize for writing almost 20 days after I said I would, though I honestly did start this and the previous sentence on November 27th. That visit has given me a lot to think about. I just wish that everyone who thought you were guilty or that anyone who thinks that the death penalty is just could listen to what you told me the day, if they could just feel what you made me feel, I don’t know how anyone could be against you. I’ve tried to tell others, tried to explain what I’m feeling, but they could never understand unless they met you in person. That is why I feel you should write a book or try to collect and store as much of your correspondence as possible. After hearing it, reading your words is the closest to being able to feeling the power of what you said.

The hardest thing for me to hear was not the brutality of the prisoners, or the guards, but the hardship you and your family has had to face, how you still see your family as they were 20 years ago, or how you had to give up the plans you had to marry your fiancé. I was close to crying when I spoke to you then, and I am close to crying now even as I write this. I am glad I was able to see you, because the short visit before wasn’t long enough, especially with all of those people. I think one of the biggest impacts of meeting you has been that it has helped me put my own life in perspective. This week is the week of final exams, and most of my classmates are full of the stress and anxiety that comes with the exams. I think that by putting my life in perspective, you’ve helped me realize that in the long run, 20 years down the road, my life will not be determined by whether I received a 95 on my Precalculus final or not. This is not to say that I am not concerned with my finals or that I don’t study, but it helps me realize that sometimes you have to take a step back from things, and look at them from a fresh perspective. Whatever will happen will happen, so there is no sense worrying about it.

I also wanted to thank you for your poem. It was beautifully written and I’m just happy that Priya and I have had even a fraction of an impact on you as you have had on us. My mom made copies of the pictures we took, and right now it is posted as my facebook profile picture. But even around school, I have become synonymous with you; one of my friends greets me with “Hey Troy”, and another one will, in the middle of a conversation, bring up the name Troy Davis! I guess this is good in a way, because at least it means that people are aware.

            I remember that my mom showed me a letter written either to you or about you by someone in Ohio. This person was a 21 year old junior in college, and this letter was written before the stay of execution on September 23rd, and this person kept referring to things like “Troy Davis will be a martyr” and “he will die, but his message will live on”, and things like that. I wondered how this person could not have any faith that things would be ok, how she could assume that it was all over. I never gave up; I don’t know why. I don’t try to delude myself into being naïve or foolish, but for some reason I couldn’t explain, I knew inside me that you weren’t going to die then, and you weren’t going to die in October, and I don’t think the 11th Circuit Court will allow you to be executed either, despite my mom’s reservations. I wish I could have been there at the Oral Arguments, and I regret not being able to come. Unfortunately, my mom was sick and my dad had to work so I couldn’t get transportation, and they told me you would probably not be there, but I still wanted to go. I am glad that you still manage to call us, so that I can occasionally speak to you. I wish that we could visit you more often then just once every 90 days, because I feel that seeing you for 6 hours in 90 days, or an average of 4 minutes a day, is far too little.

I remember talking to Sahil about two weeks ago about religion. He told me that he did not like the Karma system in Buddhism and Hinduism because it was about crime and punishment. He likened it to the U.S. prison system, because it punishes people but doesn’t rehabilitate them. He talked how Hitler, under Karma, would be punished, but that he is a believer of “nurture over nature”, meaning that perhaps under different circumstances Hitler would not have done the things he had done. And I think I have a similar outlook on life. Deep inside, I don’t believe that people are bad. I think that they can do bad things, but had the circumstances been a little different, they would not do the things they had done. Many people would believe me to be naive, but I think that that there is goodness inside every human being and the fundamental core of human nature is good and not evil. I can’t wait to see you again. Only about 60 days!

 

With best regards and love,

 

Gautam R. Narula      

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Remain Free Part III Section I

III. Savannah

“Savannah is like a beautiful woman with a dirty face.” – Lady Astor

Kavita: “Savannah is such a beautiful place. I’d love to go back and spend some more time there.”

Troy: “I was gonna ask Martina to convince y’all to come to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day, but she’ll probably be out of town. It’s the second biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the world, and people from all over come to celebrate. Savannah has always been a beautiful place to visit. It’s just . . . living there you get involved in all the politics and see things firsthand, and it makes your stomach churn. From what I hear, they done let outside developers buy up ninety percent of the historic district. They mostly just hire their own people for teachers and counselors and hire people from Savannah as food service personnel, maintenance men, things like that. They’re not really bringing good jobs for the citizens of the city.

“Savannah has a dark underbelly and a dark history. My mom told me about the First African Baptist Church and how they would steal slaves via a tunnel under the Savannah River. Slave owners would come to the church and search for slaves, but they didn’t know about the secret basement. Many slaves bound for Charleston went through Savannah. You can still see remnants of the racist history. There’s a white graveyard and a black graveyard, and when the white one got too full, they’d put white graves in the front of the black graveyard and move the black graves to the back. There were caves where they brought slaves and threw food at them through a hole, but they’ve been paved over and turned into government parking lots. That really upset Martina because this is part of our history and should be preserved.

“I remember walking through one of the town squares when I was a kid. There was a noose on the right side of the square. I asked someone in city hall why it was there, and she said it was probably for historical reasons. But to be honest, most places I can’t remember just from seeing the pictures. For years I’ve blocked Savannah out so that I wouldn’t miss being free so much or remember the racism it carries. ”

Kavita: “What was Savannah like when you were growing up?”

Troy: “It has changed a lot. When we were kids, we would often find an alligator asleep in the middle of the road, so we’d take a chance and jump over it. There was a rumor that if you go inside the memorial tomb in the cemetery, the spirit in there would trap you in the tomb forever. Even at noon, the back of the tomb was completely dark, and it made this eerie sound when the wind picked up.

“There’s Newton Bridge, which was finished right before they moved me down here. I saw it for the first and last time from the back seat of the car that took me to death row. There were many stores on MLK: antique shops, pawn shops, those kinds of places. Those have all been replaced with banks. It used to take forty-five minutes to get from the east side to the south side, but now it takes under fifteen because of the new overpass. At least, that’s what Martina tells me.

“The river is up north, while the east and west are predominantly black areas. When I was growing up, if you were black and went to the south side after 11:00 PM, they’d run you out. Overall though, I lived a very privileged life. We had a real beautiful neighborhood where the kids would play football, basketball, hopscotch, and baseball. I was a good kid. I always cut the grass, fed the dog, cleaned my room, and took out the trash. I did my best to help my neighbors. I had neighbors whose kids were in prison, so I would cut their grass for a reduced price. I’d visit them during the holidays and reminisce about their kids, talk to their kids on the phone, and sometimes visit them in jail. There was a kid named Earl whose father drowned. I used to take him to the park, watch over him and give him advice, and take him and all the other kids to get ice cream. But life started changing in the late eighties. Drugs became more and more prevalent in Savannah, even in the suburbs. Soon everybody knew somebody either using or selling drugs. The whole city started to change.”

Kavita: “Did you often have issues with the police?”

Troy: “There were some black police officers in Savannah. I knew them because I played for the police athletic league when I was coming up, as my dad worked for the police department. I honestly thought that when they said they were looking for me I could go in there, tell them it wasn’t me, answer their questions, and that would be it. But it didn’t turn out like that.”

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Remain Free Part II Section XIX

A few weeks later, my mother spoke to Troy on the phone.

Kavita: “Troy, did you get the good news? The federal court is going to hear oral arguments on your case on December 9th.”

Troy: “Oh, so that’s why people kept telling me to call my attorneys.”

Kavita: “Martina just told me and wanted us to tell you when you called. They just found out five minutes ago.”

Troy: “That’s good, I suppose. Kavita, I hope I’m not a burden with all these collect calls. I know y’all are paying four or five dollars per call, and with us talking so much that can really add up.”

Kavita: “It’s not a problem at all. Don’t worry about it.”

Troy: “I’m calling to tell you that I finally finished that poem I was going to write. I was thinking about my life and the things Priya was saying and all the conversations we’ve had. It got me, this so-called tough guy, all emotional. I didn’t want it to get too teary-eyed, but I wanted it to make people think. It’s about our visit and how ya’ll touched my life. You all have really touched my life in ways you will never understand.

“I had decided this morning to finish. I wrote both Gautam and Priya’s names on the same envelope, and that will be the envelope that has the poem in it, along with letters to both of them. In Priya’s letter I’m challenging her to stop texting so much, and for one month to spend more time with Gautam and not worry about what others think. I want them to study at the same table, for her to reach out to him for help and see how different things will be. I challenged her to figure out what she’s really made of and to see how her friends react when she really pushes herself.

“I told Gautam to reach out to her and embrace her, to sit and do homework at the kitchen table and be there to help her. It seems like he really misses his little sister.”

Kavita: “Gautam has always gone out of his way to be kind to her, but she has tried his patience a lot. Gautam is like you. He’s very strong, but very gentle and kind. As a kid he would always go down the slide and then open his arms and wait for her. She would run across and shove him out of the way.”

Troy: “You have been a good friend, no, a great friend. What I admire about you is that, unlike many other people who’ve come into my life, you’re not doing this for selfish reasons. I am very honored to have met all of you. You all inspire me. At one point, I had given up on having real friends. Then Ledra and Walker and their family came into my life. And then when I met your family, I realized there really are genuine people out there who care about others, who don’t think about what another person has to offer them. When y’all came into my life, y’all didn’t come in to get to know some death row inmate. You came here to get to know Troy. You and your family have opened up your hearts to me. It’s an amazing feeling to know that right when I was about to give up on true friends, sincere people like you showed up. I really appreciate it.”

Kavita: “We’re with you through the end, Troy.”

Troy: “I think you’re really going to like the poem I wrote. I put both of their names in the poem to let them know this is for them. I have the rough draft here, and I want to read it to you over the phone and see what you think. It’s called ‘Remain Free.’”

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Remain Free Part II Section XVIII

November 14, 2008

Dear Gautam,

            Thank you for your letter. Actually it wasn’t all that hard to read once I was able to identify with your handwriting. I’m gonna answer a few of your questions for you.

            You won’t agree with a lot of things you are taught when dealing with religion because man is teaching you. There’s only one true creator of all things created. When Jesus sent disciples throughout the earth to Preach God’s word they were Blessed to speak in tongues (speak a language they’ve never been taught with instant understanding).

            Because of cultural and language differences, some of God’s words changed throughout time. You are seeking the Grand Creator and as long as you study the Bible, meditate on God’s word and try to apply it to your life, God will open up your mind to understanding. Don’t rush yourself just pick a subject you want to learn relating to God and learn all you can before moving forward.

            Politics, the reason Jesus stated in the Bible to his disciples “you are no longer of this world” is because when you agree to live your life for God you have to put all God’s laws before man. When man ‘s laws contradict with God’s, always follow God’s laws. “Store your treasures in heaven” means simply seek God like treasures of eternal life filled with Blessings.

            Yes, you wouldn’t be able to support me but if I obeyed all of God’s commandments and lived a Spiritually guided life I wouldn’t be here in need of support.

            My point is this, a person of God who indulges in politics and adopts the worldly way of life becomes blinded by money, power, greed, selfishness, etc. They judge wrong and hide behind Man’s laws even when they’re wrong. That’s not Godly at all. How many politicians, judges, District Attorneys, Presidents etc. represented God in their office of elected officials? NONE because they were all liars, thieves and hid behind laws and became murderers because they sought world acceptance and power instead of Spiritual. In most ways they were serving two Gods at once. Satan and his demons run man’s corrupt Government and God allows this so that we as humans can realize we can’t truly govern ourselves and without God in our lives we’ll continue to destroy ourselves and everything around us.

            Our suffering is allowed so we can turn to seeking help and learn that only righteous help comes from God. If he solves every problem for every human then we’ll sin even more because we know it’ll automatically be erased.

            Seeking God teaches us patience, humbleness and we have to earn His Protection through our actions. Everyone seeking God with a pure heart will receive everlasting life as the meek and Righteous inherit the earth.

            Some religious leaders get caught up in thinking they know everything but end up speaking falsely because they’ve put themselves before God and they will be Judged for every Soul they mislead.

            Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t speak out and support me but I’m not serving them, I’m serving God. They just helped me get a better understanding of God in my search for the truth.

            As for Priya, I see exactly what’s going on but you’re her big brother so try to help her as much as you can. Sit at the kitchen table and do your homework together.

            She’s very headstrong so she’s going to push back but allow your love for her to keep you strong Gautam. I’ll talk to her because she’s fighting to identify with who she is and won’t let anyone help her make any decisions.

            Don’t give up on her because I’ll talk to her. I’ve been through what she’s facing so I see it clearly. I hope you like the poem I wrote for the two of you.

Love always!

Your Uncle Troy D.

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Remain Free Part II Section XVII

“I had a complicated relationship with my father. Deep down I knew he loved me. When they sent me to jail, it broke his heart. I know that’s why he died only a few years after I was arrested.

“When a boy is growing up, he looks up to his father. The father defines what they think being a man is all about. And that was the way it was with me and my father. But he had a drinking problem. He told me to respect women even when he didn’t. He had many girlfriends, and some of them convinced him my mother was stealing money from him. When I was fourteen, my father got drunk, pulled out a gun, and threatened my mother. I still remember the scene . . . my mother running away in her nightgown while my father was shooting at her. I ran in and started fighting with him over the gun. There were holes in the roof from the gunshots. I remember how ashamed he felt the day after. After that incident, my parents separated. Fortunately, I was old enough to know it wasn’t my fault they separated.

“I see a troubling relationship between De’Jaun and his father. Sometimes when he gets tired of Martina telling him to do his homework or his chores, he’ll go to his father’s house and spend a weekend there. I’ve told him so many times, ‘Don’t you see how much your mother cares about you? She wants you to work hard and do your chores because she loves you and wants you to have some discipline. She wants you to make the most of your life. Your dad may spend a few days with you here and there, but he doesn’t truly care for you the way your mother does.’”

I thought about my relationship with my own father. Growing up, I wanted to be exactly like him. He wanted me to go to MIT and become an engineer, so I wanted to go to MIT and become an engineer. He wanted me to play chess, so I played chess. He thought it more important to study than to play sports, so I studied and stayed indoors.

He was for the death penalty, so I was for the death penalty. But when my parents divorced, he sank into a deep depression, which I knew even though he would never admit it.

He would come home from work each day, thoroughly defeated. He clung desperately to my two sisters and me; he had few friends. He was moody, hypersensitive to any criticism, and too afraid to put himself out there in work or in love.

As I grew up, my rose-colored lenses faded and I saw a man who was irritable, clingy, cynical, and terrified. He was also intensely loyal, wickedly brilliant, and never hesitated to sacrifice for his children. But fairly or unfairly, I viewed him as narrow-minded, a conformist, pessimistic, and above all, afraid. I blamed him for inculcating those traits in me. Fairly or unfairly, I resented him for it.

Troy’s voice softened as he spoke of one more person.

“Her name was Nikki, and she was my fiancée. She was special. Unlike our previous relationships, we decided to save ourselves until marriage because our bond was so strong that we knew it would be worth waiting. That’s why I went to Atlanta to get a construction job. I wanted to earn some money and get us a home so we could start building our lives together. When I got locked up, she would visit me. She always believed I was innocent and said she would wait until I was free. Then we could create the life we planned, the life we dreamed about. But I couldn’t do that to her. I couldn’t make her wait for me. I had to give her the opportunity to live her own life the way she wanted it. I knew our life together would never be. She eventually got married and had kids but would still visit me from time to time. One day she told me she still loved me, and all I had to do was say the word and she would leave her husband. I could never ask her to do that. I would never want to play any part in breaking up a family. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She said she would keep waiting until I was free. When she said that, I knew what I had to do. I removed her from my list of visitors so she could never see me again. It still hurts today, but I know I did the right thing. It wasn’t just about me, it was about her. I couldn’t let her throw away everything she had just for something that would never be.” Troy paused, and I looked away. I didn’t want him to see the tear rolling down my cheek.

When guards rattled on the door to warn us time was up, Troy approached and whispered to one of them. He waited there until another inmate walked in holding an ancient Polaroid camera. Troy handed him three slips of paper, and the inmate motioned for us to stand together. My mother opted not to be in the photo, so it was Troy in the middle, Priya on his left, and me on the right. My eyes were glazed over, the result of waking before sunrise and sitting hunched in a small room for nearly six hours. Priya awkwardly smiled, while Troy’s warm smile broke through. The camera clicked, and the photo slid out of the slot in front. The inmate grasped it and fanned it back and forth in the air before handing it to Troy. He looked at the photo, smiled, and handed it to my mother before we hugged and said our goodbyes.

We were later told the camera “broke,” and were never able to take a photo with Troy again.

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