Mark Packard: Hi, this is Mark Packard, the director of Number Three Productions and the producer of Fierce Conversations with Toby. Thank you so much for joining us for today’s interview with Chris Cliff, Charles, and Tim. During this interview, we had some technical difficulties while recording. While we were able to adjust most of these issues, about 45 minutes in up to the 48-minute mark, you will notice some echoing.
Mark Packard: We debated about taking this section out but decided that even with some difficulty hearing the final recorded audio, the words in this interview are too important to cut. And now here’s your host, Toby Dorr.
Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things.
Toby Dorr: I’m Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’ll get a glimpse into the unbelievably difficult work of finding hope in the darkest of places and rebuilding lives. Our guests today are some of the men featured in Tom Dib Doll’s book When Innocence Is Not Enough. In 1984, 8 young men ages 16 to 25 were wrongly convicted in the Catherine Fuller murder trial in Washington DC.
Toby Dorr: Tom describes them this way. They were just guys from a Washington DC neighborhood. They had limited education and experience and resources. They had all the human flaws that come with such circumstances and with youth, but each of them had a core of basic honesty. Under immense pressure day after day after day, that core never cracked.
Toby Dorr: They were offered leniency in exchange for statements of guilt, but they hadn’t done the crime, so they wouldn’t say otherwise. They didn’t want mercy. They wanted justice, and they got neither. Yet, they endured. They never sold their integrity for their freedom, all served their full sentences and spent a combined 255 years incarcerated.
Toby Dorr: What makes these men significant is that even though they served long prison sentences and are now free men, none of them let prison become who they are. They found the strength and courage to rise above it all. Hi guys. Thanks so much for joining us.
Clifton Yarborough: Uh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having us. Thank you for everything.
Toby Dorr: I’m so glad to have you here. I feel honored to be able to share your story. I like to ask all my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are. So we’ll start with Chris. What’s your favorite color and what does that color say about you?
Toby Dorr: Oh, Chris, you’re on mute, I think.
Chris Turner: I’m sorry. Yeah. My favorite color is blue – the sky’s the limit. Optimistic. Always optimistic.
Toby Dorr: I love that. How about you, Cliff? What’s your favorite color?
Clifton Yarborough: My favorite color is blue as well, and it’s a pretty popular one. Blue. The color that just stands out to me.
Toby Dorr: How about you, Tim?
Timothy Catlett: Well, it used to be blue, but black is my favorite color now because it represents strength to me.
Toby Dorr: It is a powerful color, that’s for sure. Yes. I like that. You’re my first person that’s liked black. I had someone whose favorite color was white, which blew me away cuz it’s like, that’s not even a color, but I love that.
Toby Dorr: How about you, Charles?
Charles Turner: Well, I’m gonna be the second person cause black is my, it didn’t used to always be my favorite color, but now black is my favorite color. From darkness comes all light.
Toby Dorr: Oh, I love that. That’s beautiful. I love it. Darkness comes all light. That’s so true. So I’m wondering if each of you could tell us about a crossroads in your life behind bars where you realized you needed to do something different.
Toby Dorr: So we’ll start with Chris again.
Chris Turner: When I was at my lowest moment, I was in solitary confinement and I read the book Conf Fu Boy about the story that he was in South Africa during apartheid. And up until I read that book, I thought my situation was the worst situation in the world. Nobody couldn’t tell me anything different. You could not convince me that anyone had suffered or endured the magnitude of what I had suffered and endured, uh, due to the unjust sentence. The fact that I was sent to Kentucky hours and thousands of miles away from my family, away from my friends. And I’m a teenager who has to navigate the waters and the animosity, the atrocities, the evil thoughts of other men, not only just, prisoners, but guards, administrators. I was public enemy number one for no reason other than the fact that. I had been falsely accused of a crime that made no sense in 1984, and it shouldn’t have made no sense then. Like, it, it, it shouldn’t have made sense in 1984. Like it doesn’t make sense now. In 2023. But I was at my lowest point and I didn’t care whether I lived or died.
Chris Turner: And it was after I read that book and I found out as bad as I thought my situation was. It is not the worst situation in the world. There are people who suffered atrocities unlike anything I had understood. And so until you begin to read and get outside of that shoebox mentality that I call it, there was a whole world outside of my, my train of thoughts, uh, my way of thinking. And the more. I read, the more I realized that I had the power in my hands to make more of my fortunes. I had the power to either make that up my modern story or my place of higher learning. And so I chose the latter. And when I realized that the more I read, the more I felt empowered, the more I felt like I can do this, man. I can represent myself. I can be my own lawyer. The only reason why you’re not an astronaut, Chris, is cause the curriculum wasn’t given to you. It’s not like you don’t have the ability to learn it. I realized from reading that just like if you can memorize a Jay-Z or Tupac song, you can learn. You have the ability to learn and retain the information. And so that began my journey and it changed the course of my life forever and made me the man I am today.
Toby Dorr: I love that. I think we all have the power of perspective and we can change our perspective and make our situation better, even though the situation doesn’t change.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s powerful. How about you, Cliff? What moment in prison did you come to where you realized you were gonna be able to get through this?
Clifton Yarborough: Well, I wanna say it was, it took a little a while because, I knew being stepped away from my family as well. You know the prison I was sent to was so far away from my family that I thought that I was, I was gonna never, never get close back to them or get out of prison. Because of what I was accused of. And it was such, so, it was the most hurting thing in my life because I know that I didn’t commit such a crime, you know, or play a part in it. But when I started programming myself, And, you know, better myself education-wise, that it gave me, a chance that something may happen for me, even though I still fought through that.
Clifton Yarborough: My faith, my hope that I gave, I gave up more sometime, but when I came in contact with Chris and he gave me hope. So when I start doing things, programming, and putting myself in a positive perspective way. I felt like I would have a chance to witness society again so that was excellent.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. I love that and I love Chris that you were able to help other people change their perspective too. That’s pretty good. How about you, Tim?
Timothy Catlett: I think my biggest change came in when I turned 27. You know, I started looking at, I’m saying, well they done threw me in here. They done railroaded me. You know, I’m saying, and I’m looking at a lot of people that’s been in there a long period of time, and I’m saying, that ain’t going be me. I don’t care how long I be in here. That’s not going to be me. You know, they done already got me labeled as this and labeled as that and I know that I’m better than what they say that I am. So I tried, you know, my best to be a better individual than what I was. Not that I was a bad individual, but I just tried every day. You just tried to be better and better. You know, I remember an old man told me a long time ago, he saying, open up that box in your mind. And meet people. Once you started meeting people, not just the ones that you grew up with, meeting people from other places and different cultures, you’ll learn that you’ll learn a lot more And I started learning a lot more, and by me learning a lot more is what helped me along the way.
Toby Dorr: It keeps your mind busy so that you can take your mind to better places. That’s really good. Yes. How about you, Charles?
Charles Turner: Well, realistically I didn’t know. I really never thought or had an idea, you know, once I say out there a few years into, to the bit, as we call it, you know, I wasn’t even thinking about whether or not we would ever make it to where we are right now, where you can leave me right now. I never thought that we could get here. You know, so, and it was, I don’t know, maybe it was, uh, I remember at some point, and I went to one of the case manager reviews that they have, they give you, you know, you see a case manager ask you how you doing, what you been doing? You know, that sort of thing. And it, it was that one, I remember when, when a case manager mentioned a parole date, right? And, it was, it might have been like 10 years away. Right. And I’m, I’m thinking, wow, you know, I’m looking at who I am and what, where my mind state is. You know, I won’t say that I changed, even though I wasn’t, I will admit not to not being the best individual when I was first incarcerated, I was a problem on my way to being, you know, a pretty bad individual. But nowhere close to what I was convicted of. Nowhere close. Nowhere in the neighborhood. Nowhere, not even on the same planet, but I wasn’t a bad person. I knew I wasn’t a bad person because I understood how I was raised, and so all of that was a part of me doing all that time, even though I became with the wolves, I was running with wolves and I had to become one of them, so to speak. But still, even though defensive, who I was, how I was raised, what was ingrained into me by those who was raised in me and all that, still stayed with me. So it was. You know, I, I still really don’t understand when I actually that I can, because I never even came to grips with the fact until the last minute, like, My thought was we, we wasn’t gonna never ask for parole. We wasn’t gonna get parole because it meant we would, I was under the assumption that you would have to admit to your guilt that you did it in order to receive parole.
Toby Dorr: That’s interesting. So once they told you you had a parole date, even though it was a long way away. It kind of made you see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit. Like there really was gonna be light.
Charles Turner: Right. I’m, I can look at that because I’m looking at my age and you know how my health and all that and I’m like, wow, I’m gonna be able to see that. Right. So, yeah. Yeah. That’s something. That’s good. Look forward to maybe I will get a chance to see the other side of this.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. That makes sense.
Chris Turner: I just wanna add that Charles’s thinking wasn’t incorrect. It wasn’t up until the DC Parole Board changed its guidelines and recognize actual innocence in their guidelines in 2007, that you could actually be paroled without admitting guilt, because they understood in 2007 that there was such thing as wrongful conviction initially. You could never be paroled. In fact, Calvin Austin, Harry Bennett, and some of the other guys that actually, uh, falsely testified against us, they were denied parole because they kept telling the parole board they were innocent. And so they kept being denied at their issue hearings. And it wasn’t until they said, okay, well if I wanna get out here, I’m gonna go in there and just say, I did it. I, and I’m gonna lie to them cause I lied on the stand, so I’m used to lying, you know? And so they went in there and that’s what they had to do.
Chris Turner: But in our situation, we told them, We told them in a letter prior to me actually seeing the parole board, that I would not be admitting guilt, that I would not be, uh, accepting responsibility even though I have remorse for Mrs. Fuller’s family, the community, my family, all these are victims. And I got remorse for all the victims involved, but I will not admit guilt for something that I didn’t do.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, I think that’s pretty important. And I know that you guys could have gotten a two to six-year sentences if you would’ve said you were guilty at the very beginning and none of you would do that. And I think that just speaks to your integrity and your belief in not letting yourselves become what they were trying to paint you as.
Charles Turner: And it’s probably with the belief that. We just, we in no way, shape, form, or fashion ever thought that we would be convicted. None of us, I wasn’t in the minds of all the guys, but I guarantee you everybody thought, man, they gonna get this right. They going realize it wasn’t, yeah, you ain’t gonna let me be convicted, you know? But it didn’t.
Chris Turner: the thing about it is that I was gonna say that that should have been some type of wake-up to the lawyers that were supposed to be representing us or to the community that these guys won’t plead guilty to this amount of pressure.
Charles Turner: There was no case that they mounted pressure that was mounted in this case. And none of the guys even thought, they didn’t even think for one second of accepting a plea deal. Everybody said no from the beginning. Even when the jury was out deliberating and had trouble for like seven days. They out trying to deliberate. They still was trying to offer us plea deals and the guys said no. So that just goes to support what Charles was just saying about everybody thought they was going, nobody even considered. And who would not consider a plea deal of six years for a crime of this magnitude.
Chris Turner: And then you as a prosecutor, if you, if you thought these guys was the monsters that you made ’em out to be, who would offer them a plea of six years,
Toby Dorr: I agree that’s a pretty lenient sentence for the crime that was committed and it probably shows that they didn’t really think they could convict you.
Toby Dorr: So Cliff, You were the youngest at 16 and they picked you up and brought you into the station and kept you for days or hours, a long time interviewing you. And I think that they told you that if you said you did it, that they would let you go home and your mom was waiting right outside the door, which was a lie. At just 16 you’re not an adult and I can’t imagine how that felt to be wanting to go home with your mom and they offer it to you and it’s really just a trick.
Clifton Yarborough: Yes, they was always telling me that my mother was in the lobby. And also when they, they had brought this woman in and she was saying that my mother was down there waiting. She’d been down there for a while and things of that nature, you know. But that was pretty much somewhat in the, the mix of Rudy Sanchez that was really throwing me around the interrogation room, you know telling me that he knows I did it you know who did it and, and things of that nature.
Clifton Yarborough: So I’m just telling him I was, you know, saying I wasn’t there. I wasn’t there, man. I didn’t do it. And that moment when he threw me and my leg hit the locker and I said my leg was broke. Um, that’s when he, he, you know, he continued on, but he took me to each one of, um, Timothy, Tim, Chris, and Russell Robinson. And I couldn’t see them, but he let them see me. And he was giving them an impression at the time that I said that they did something. But at that time, at that time, I didn’t read, I lost a statement that the one that was going over with me for hours, you know you go over there. So in the process of me going over the statement, they asked me could you read? I said, why can’t you read that? Good. I said I can read over, not back then. So he said, oh, well we gonna go over together, which is Beth McGinn was doing that. Um, Rudy, he just kept busting in the room, things of that nature. And somebody else was telling me that he had killed two people for lying to him. He doesn’t want me to be the third one because I’m very young.
Clifton Yarborough: He said we want you to go home to your family. Your mother’s downstairs. Just tell us what you did, what they did. And we’ll let you go home, cause your mother, is sitting in the lobby. He was going over Calvin’s statement over and over and there when he kept going over Calvin’s statement, and then when I looked at the bottom of the statement, I thought it was my cousin named Keith Austin. But it was a K. That was a C. So they came and grabbed that statement from him. But when that statement came back in my presence, that bottom name, it was like a black marker, like Winter Crawford. Oh. It wasn’t, that name wasn’t said no more. I guess that wasn’t that supervisor, the chief of whatever, but he snatched it from me. From the desk. But when that statement came back, So who’s born over at Patrick Mcg was started reading over and over and over again, and he just said that if you say this statement over, you say this, read this over, and you say this, when we go in the other room, you can go down to your mother. Now my lawyer asked me did I see a videotaping there? I told him no, I didn’t see videotape. But they had something coming from under the table in both of their ears. Now I got a chance to see and asked, was I in a video. I didn’t see a videotape, but I told my lawyer, I said, I think I seen a black hole when he was showing me the video videotape in the jail. He said, oh, that’s where he was being videotaped.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, it sounds like it was not a very well-done situation that they were just trying to get what they wanted at any expense.
Toby Dorr: And Charles, you and Chris are brothers actually. So how did it feel to be the older brother and. And find out that Chris is gonna be found guilty as well? And was it difficult for you? Did that make it harder for you, knowing that your little brother was gonna have to go through this too? Did you feel like you needed to protect him or stand up for him or help him?
Charles Turner: It was one problem that whole scenario, like we had already been found guilty, so now we waiting to see what happened with him and Russell. And so we’re in there. Then they find them guilty, right? They finally find them guilty. And I remember looking at him, I looked at Chris, and, and you know, tears was coming out his eyes, right? And I always known him to be a little tough guy. So I felt that was really, really, really strange, right? But at the time, you still, you in the, you know, you in the state of shock. You know, you shock. Yeah. You don’t believe it. You know that this could be happening. That’s a part of probably where the kids was coming from, more from shock than anything. And so I, I remember reflecting, but I, I never, I don’t know at that time, you don’t know what he thinking. The same thoughts. I’m thinking. We, we both about to go to jail, man. We, you know, I had at times all them hoped that they would send me with him, that we could be able to bring it together. And that way.
Toby Dorr: And at one time you were, one time you were together.
Chris Turner: Yeah. for a minute. Yep. Yeah, we were,
Toby Dorr: Which is pretty nice. Yeah. But probably not very likely that it would’ve happened, so I think it was lucky.
Chris Turner: Yeah, I hadn’t seen my brother in 13 years. And finally we were together one year in 97 to 98 in Allenwood, U S P. Wow. After 13 years not seeing him. Then I seen him for one year and then I was back on my rollercoaster ride around the bureau prisons.
Toby Dorr: So Tim, what was it like for you when you heard that guilty verdict?
Timothy Catlett: Really? I could, I could, I could utter a lot of words, but I don’t think, I don’t think words could really explain it. Cause just like Charles said, you know, the, the shock, the disbelief, no matter, no matter what you was doing or who you was, you still believed in justice. So, like he said, you know, I’m, I’m looking to go home. I haven’t done nothing, nothing. I’m looking to go home. And when, when that verdict. You know, I mean, to, to really talk about that, that guilty verdict, boy, that’s like a live wire. You know, because that was one of the most hurtful feelings in my life.
Toby Dorr: I bet you just felt like if, if they couldn’t believe you with no evidence showing you were guilty, then who was ever gonna believe you? You know court systems are supposed to protect all of us, and when they don’t put the right person in prison, they leave that person on the street to continue harming people and doing exactly what they had done before. And that isn’t good for society at all. I would think that it would be logical that a lot of you struggled with anger for a little while because it wasn’t fair. It was not fair. I think that would be hard.
Charles Turner: And we still struggle with it.
Toby Dorr: Oh, still today?
Clifton Yarborough: Yeah. We struggle with it.
Charles Turner: We still, I guarantee it. I can face on things with good spin on things, you know? Cause light goes on.
Clifton Yarborough: Yes. It’s hard. Yes.
Charles Turner: The anchor is in, it has to be in all of us. Yes.
Chris Turner: Some let’s backwards.
Timothy Catlett: Some days are better than others. You know, but we, I’m, me, me personally, I don’t, I can’t speak for the rest of them, but you know, every day ain’t the same. You know, I still go through it time, after time, after time, and I don’t think it’s going to change though.
Clifton Yarborough: Yeah. You know.
Toby Dorr: So, Tim, how many years did you serve? How long have you been out and what’s your life like today?
Timothy Catlett: Well, 36 years. I’ve been out just a little over two years now. I’m working, I’ve been working close to two years at the same, block yard, you know, and I, I just take one day at a time and keep it pushing. That’s the way I can sum it up. You know, I know that I have to take care of me, and if I don’t, nobody’s going to take care of me, so I have to take care of me and that’s what I do.
Toby Dorr: How about your family? Was your family there for you when you got out of prison?
Timothy Catlett: No question about it. My aunt slash mother slash everything to me. Ms. Murray Overton, if it wasn’t for her, I know I probably wouldn’t be here today. Because it was a lot of times that I, it was a lot of times I felt like, you know, man, man, I’m about to do this or I’m going to do this here. And she was like, man, what are you doing? I never gave up on you. Don’t give up on me. You need to have support, have that person in your life.
Toby Dorr: Yes. That’s really important. How about you, Charles? How many years did you do? How long have you been out and what’s your life like today?
Charles Turner: Oh, I did 36 years. I was released on June 10th, which is my little brother’s birthday, June 10th, 2020. And I’ve been working since August of 2020 and I’ve been working with the same company since. So in life is all right. You know, it’s good. It’s pretty good. It’s better than, it’s definitely better than the alternative, right? But, then life is, it’s all right. You know? I mean, I, I had a lot of pictures of what, I thought society would be, you kind of fantasize. If you wanna say about what it would be like to be on in the outside world and you know, while all my, I haven’t, uh, I haven’t realized all my dreams and inspirations, but one thing for certain two we have to be slow about the process. It’s a process. It is. And we gotta take our time. And that’s what I do anyway. I take my time. Every day, above ground, I guess is a good day.
Toby Dorr: Well, that’s good. How about you, Cliff? How many years and how long have you been out and what are you doing today?
Clifton Yarborough: Well, 34 and a half years I served and being out there, I worked at the same place. I worked for three years and a couple of months now, which was a job that Chris helped me get in on December the 12th, 2019. Okay. I came back to DC in 2019. Anyway, I’ve been working there. I’ve been coaching at Little League. I’ve been speaking at schools. I’ve been going on outreachs a lot, speaking in colleges, you know, when I got out prior to the pandemic coming in, and then I start really, um, talking to the police room. But, you know, I never thought I could, cause I never had this type of responsibility. You know paying like rent, like having the cell phone time, paying phone bills, credit cards and things, I never, you know, always ask myself what would it be like to have these type of responsibilities that I never had before? And it can be a real struggle sometimes it can be a struggle. It can be, what you have to do, to pay your responsibilities. And then what you have to do if you wanna enjoy yourself. Right. So, you know it’s a little bit, hard sometimes, but you just have to be more out responsible and know what’s first, what’s the responsibility first? How to prioritize, right? You have to know the priorities whether so I’ve been working there. I have another job working at high school so that’s a part-time job. So, I’m just working and, you know, taking them one day at a time.
Toby Dorr: That’s good. How about you, Chris?
Chris Turner: Just to reiterate, before I go on and on, all the guys, have been participating in all kinds of social reform, social justice, each and every one of us on here, and even Levi, who’s not on here, we’ve all been doing our part in the community, like Cliff says, speaking at school, speaking to youth. We do, uh, full giveaways. With, uh, the Greater Washington Urban League, we gave away food. We gave away kids’ backpacks. Uh, it is just a testimony that, uh, we are not bitter about our journey. We not, don’t get me wrong, we still angry, but we not bitter. Right.
Toby Dorr: Okay. Excellent. Yeah, I love that.
Chris Turner: I served 26 years in various prisons throughout the country. I was the one who never stayed at the same institution for more than three years. I got transferred on approximately 18 different occasions. A lot of times I say, cuz I wouldn’t shut my mouth. Oh. And my brother say, man, you better stop. You gonna make them people kill you, man. And I say, nah, I’m gonna make ’em put me outta jail. They gonna put me out. And, eventually, luckily that’s, that’s what they did. But I had a chance to go to school. As I told you, I made that transformation. When I made that transformation, I’m, I, I’m telling you, I was so angry. I didn’t really want to have a head-on collision, but after I reformed myself, after I made that transition, after I reinvented myself, after I found out that I didn’t know. adamn thing. I graduated from high school when I was 17 and I had to go to prison and find out that I didn’t know nothing. And so I had the opportunity to go to college. I had a chance to get some things done, take different courses, and like all of us, we took the courses with life sentences. We didn’t, there wasn’t a guarantee that we were ever gonna make it out. And all of us, we’ve spent time in maximum security prison and anybody who spent any time in maximum security prison, especially guys who spent all their twenties, all their thirties, and their forties in prison like we have that um, tomorrow isn’t promised to you. But we still, when life sentences, we still went on and got our educations. We still went on and took courses. We did things to better ourselves, not for the parole board, not for the court system. We did it for ourselves. And so that right there I say is a testimony to who we are and what we are. And, um, we got this slogan that we adopted that failure is not an option. And so that’s how we live our lives that same way. Even to this day. I’m currently working, I’m on three different boards for, I’m on the board for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project. I’m on a board for Free Minds Book Club and I’m also a board member for Healing Justice, which is a restorative justice organization, and I just don’t have enough time in the day. So I never get a dull moment. I’m always doing something, moving around, doing anything cuz I know that I didn’t get here by myself where I’m at today. And so I try to reach back and each and every one of the guys here participate in reaching back to help somebody out. We do it anyway. People been saying, well, you need to get a grant to do all these things. We do ’em anyway because we know they need to be done. You know, many of the people, we got friends that we met while we were in, they’re coming home. They need basic essentials and necessities, we go get it for ’em. We don’t worry about if we gonna get reimbursed. We don’t worry about who gonna pay us back. We don’t worry about grant money and all those things. We just go get it because you need it right then and there. Most of these men coming home, uh, not everybody’s coming home to family. You know, not everybody has support, but this case has made all of us grow closer. It’s strengthened our bond. We get a chance to get together whenever we can. It’s never dull moment. Unfortunately, Hollywood is not here, but, uh, he would right now be joining right now. We’d be cracking on each other about something. Talking crazy about each other off camera and on camera. And unfortunately, I wanna also, uh, mention Stephen Webb, who lost his life inside prison. Stephen Webb died of an aneurysm in Terra Haute in 1999. And this is a guy who never should have been on the case as far as I’m concerned, because we knew Steve, but most of us never had a direct relationship with Steve Webb until the case, until like, like many of the guys that were charged this the first time ever in America, that 17 people were charged for the murder of one person without it being a conspiracy. And this should have bothered people. And it should also bother the fact that the jury convicted us of both first-degree murder and felony murder. So we were convicted of two statues of murder for one person. And all this doesn’t sit well with me even to this day because this is supposed to tell us and tell our society that something is wrong with our judicial system and it needs to be fixed. Not later on, but today.
Toby Dorr: That’s right. The judicial system does have a lot of things that need to be fixed. I would agree with that. And hopefully, by talking about the problems that are out there, we can make a difference and somebody can hear us that has the authority to make a change. So that’s one of the things that’s really important to me.
Toby Dorr: I was gonna ask you, Chris, about all the boards you’re on, but you’ve already told us, and I think that’s great. I’d like to learn more about the Free Minds Book Club actually, so I might get with you afterwards and learn a little bit more about them. I just, I might like to get involved.
Chris Turner: You can get with in all of them. Everybody on here is a member of Free Mind’s Book Club. And they do work for free when they go out and speak and do other things.
Toby Dorr: Excellent. Well, I will get with you guys on that because that sounds like something I’d be interested in.
Chris Turner: We’d be glad to have you.
Toby Dorr: Well, thank you. I’m definitely gonna move forward with that. So, speaking of books, are any of you planning to write a book? Is there a book in any future there?
Clifton Yarborough: I have been asked because I read a lot. But I just do, I don’t know where I would even start.
Toby Dorr: I might be able to help you with that, cause I’m gonna start doing book coaching, so maybe we’ll talk.
Chris Turner: I’m definitely going to do a book. I definitely have been asked, I’ve been asked for it, so I definitely have to do a book. I got a story inside of a story. All of our stories are different, even though we are all convicted wrongfully of the same crime. All of us have different stories that’s crossed various lines in our journeys. None of us have the same journey. All of us had different journeys that have similarities in it, but uh, we all have a different story. So hopefully, you know, there’ll be a book. But I got a story inside of a story on my journey coming home. So we’ll get a chance to talk about that maybe at a later date.
Toby Dorr: I’d love to hear that story. I think our stories are important because, as you said, everybody seems like they might have a similar story in a particular instance, but the way each of you would tell it would be just a little bit different. And that little bit of difference is gonna reach this person over here that somebody else’s story doesn’t reach. So I think it’s important that all of us tell our stories and share ’em with the world. I knew I was gonna write a book. I had a 21-month state sentence and a 27-month federal sentence. So they ran concurrently, which was lucky. And those sentences are just a drop in the bucket compared to the time that you guys spent. But it was hard. It was really hard and I was ready to give up. I was on suicide watch and on the third day of suicide watch this voice came into my cell and said, And I believe it was God, and he said, Toby, you’re gonna get through this. And your story is gonna change the lives of women, and I’ll be right here with you all the way. So from that moment on, I knew that I was gonna write a book and I was gonna speak out and I was gonna tell my story and, and try to make a difference. So that’s what I continue to do. And I think it’s really important, I can relate.
Toby Dorr: Chris, I read in, in Tom’s book, you said you didn’t know how you were gonna do seven hours in prison, in jail, let alone seven days. And I remember when I went to jail and my attorney asked for a two-week continuance and I had a meltdown in the courtroom cuz I said, I cannot be in jail for two weeks. I just cannot do it. Well, we can all do things that we don’t think we have the strength to do and I really think that. I think it’s in those dark valleys. that we find our true character. I applaud you guys. You are remarkable. You aren’t angry. Well, you’re angry, but you’re not bitter and there is a difference. And you were unjustly convicted 36 years, 34 years, 26 years. That’s a long time to be locked away. And I think it’s remarkable that you’ve come out and fit back into society and that every one of you is giving back. You know, that’s commendable. And I’m sure we’re gonna be talking a lot more because I intend to get more involved with what things that you guys are doing.
Toby Dorr: So how can our listeners make a difference in our justice system? Do you have any ideas?
Charles Turner: one thing that I know that will make a difference at least as far as the judicial system goes, it has a lot to do with these jurors. It always seems like – or at least at our trial, it seemed like they picked, got to pick every juror that they thought was ignorant. That was kind of, wasn’t really sharp, you know, mean not, not that they the people, but, right. But so to me it starts with these jurors when they, you get these summons, man, you know, learn about what’s happening, pay attention to what’s happening. And if something ain’t right, good people can feel it. They can feel it, Toby, because I know you can, you don’t know none of us, but you got a feeling yes, you can feel when something ain’t right. So, people has to go with they feeling, you know, it ain’t right. Don’t do it too.
Toby Dorr: You hear people all the time, they get a jury summons and they go, oh, what can I do to get out of this? You know, I don’t have time to be a juror. Well, yes you do and you need to make the time. Because if the only people that go to court and be jurors are people who don’t have jobs. Or don’t have something important to do, then you’re not gonna get a good mix of juror. It’s really important to embrace jury duty and do your duty because someone’s life depends on it. And someday it may be the life of someone you love whose life depends on a jury.
Chris Turner: I think the way that we make a difference is we have to ask Congress to hold the Justice Department accountable. Because it starts there. If the Justice Department controls the police, they control the prosecutors, they control the justice, so it starts with the Justice Department.
Chris Turner: In our case, in our case, no one never talked about fairness. They talk about the law and not the reality of what happened. They talking about all is this material? Common sense is material. And so that’s what we have to really get Congress to get the Justice Department to get behind cases like that. There’s too many cases, you keep hearing about people spending 40, 20 and 50 years and then they still ain’t always get the justice due.
Clifton Yarborough: True. And I think that’s an injustice, injustice a second time around. Second, I
Clifton Yarborough: feel though Chris and Shawn Sum, uh, summed it up, you know, I just, um, I just want, just like they, they put this publicity out here to convict us. Mm-hmm. I want us to reverse it back and put our story out to, to give them a.
Clifton Yarborough: Uh, a reasonable doubt or just give ’em a thinking of how this case took place that they didn’t know. They just got the government side. Yes. And they, they got the government side and it was all negative. It was, and, and, and the, the, uh, the, the, um, the, when the, the, the media and the, um, people just on the side, they just took that government side and they convicted us of the break.
Clifton Yarborough: You know, you know, uh, it wasn’t, uh, all that proven guilty until, you know, we was already guilty. Before our trial started, before we picked jury, we was already guilty.
Toby Dorr: Right. And the newspaper doesn’t help
Clifton Yarborough: everything. Yeah. Just waiting. They was just waiting to get us in the court. The say we was guilty, we was already guilty.
Clifton Yarborough: Right. They was just waiting to get us in the court as a whole, you know, they were already, we was, we’ve job Any guilty before we move, right. The courtroom. Yeah. I was, I was thinking also, I remember when the young lady came down in our, in our, in our proud and say that her mother told her grandmother’s dead.
Clifton Yarborough: She was reading this, that was like on a Thursday, if I can remember. It was on a Thursday. They came back Monday with eighth birthday.
Clifton Yarborough: Wow.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. So is there one question you guys wish I would’ve asked that I, there’s something else you’d like to add? Think we’ve covered everything.
Chris Turner: You did a fantastic job.
Chris Turner: Good questions for
Clifton Yarborough: us.
Toby Dorr: Thank you. Topics. Well, I’m delighted to put you guys on and I look forward to talking to you our in the future because I think there’s a lot of work I can do together.
Clifton Yarborough: Absolutely.
Chris Turner: Thank you for having us.
Clifton Yarborough: Thank you so much.
Toby Dorr: Thank you.
Clifton Yarborough: Thank you. Bye. You. I hope next time you do this, all of us will be here.
Toby Dorr: Remember, none of us is our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world, and those so-called mistakes are blessed opportunities to learn and grow. Next week, we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in the world.
Toby Dorr: Subscribe to our Patreon channel, fierce Conversations. For Special Access and behind the scenes info, go to patreon.com/fierce conversations, or click on the link in the show notes. 10% of the Patreon proceeds are dedicated to providing workbooks to women in prison. The show notes also provide a link to purchase my book, living with Conviction, and links to organizations mentioned by my guests.
Toby Dorr: In my memoir, living With Conviction, I recount a conversation I had in prison where my friend Lisa told me In here we can talk about all the hard things. In fact, I think we must, and so we shall. This is fierce Conversations with Toby. Until next time.