Saturday, December 27, 2008

My First Christmas in 20 Years

I’m writing with the warmest of holiday wishes, from my family to yours. I spent
Christmas Day at home yesterday for the first time in 20 years, and I can’t begin to describe how good it felt. After watching Christmas pass me by 20 times while sitting in a cell for a crime I didn’t commit, it feels like a miracle to spend the holidays with the people I love.

Steve Barnes

I'm enjoying every moment of my freedom, but I am also aware that I left innocent people behind. The Innocence Project needs your support today to make freedom possible for more people like me, and all donations before midnight on December 31 will be matched. Please click here to donate.

I always liked Christmas when I was growing up. I would help my Mom decorate the tree and we’d spend the holiday all together as a family. In 1989, all of that changed. Based on almost no evidence at all, I was convicted of a murder I didn’t commit. I was just 23 years old and I thought I may never see the outside world again.

Christmas is a depressing day in prison. They lock you in your cell early on Christmas Eve so the officers can go home to be with their families. Those of us with families were wishing we could be with them, and I know it was even harder for the guys with nobody on the outside.

Thanks to the Innocence Project — and the dedicated supporters around the world whose donations make their work possible — I was freed two days before Thanksgiving. My first month of freedom has been a dream. I have reconnected with friends and family I haven’t seen in two decades and everyone has been so helpful and welcoming. My birthday is in January and some friends are planning to throw one big birthday party to cover my 23rd birthday all the way to my 43rd.

When you’re in prison for a crime you didn’t commit, your family does the time with you. My Mom and my sister Lisa visited me every two weeks for 20 years. My sister Shelly and my brother Shawn stayed in touch through the mail. They told me they wouldn’t rest until I was free, and here I am. I’m asking you today to please make a donation that could change the lives of another family like mine.

Your commitment to justice means the world to me and my family, and I thank you for all that you do.

Please click here to donate to the Innocence Project

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