Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Today we are going to show the court why the decision to find Christopher Roy guilty of murder was unjust…
“The Law is a mighty machine... Woe to the unfortunate man who, wholly or in part innocent, becomes entangled in its mighty wheels, unless his innocence is patent or his rescue planned and executed by able counsel. The machine will grind on relentlessly and ruthlessly, and blindfolded justice does not see that the grist is sometimes stained with blood." -Edward Johnes, “The Pardoning Power From a Philosophical Standpoint” (1893)
Who Is Christopher Roy?
If one was to go by the standard methodology of our nation’s current prison system, Christopher Roy would simply be inmate number K8649 – a convicted murderer serving a life sentence since the age of 18 in Mississippi’s high-risk unit of Parchman prison. He would be labeled, thrown away, and forgotten – deemed unworthy of restorative efforts and considered a blemish on civilized society. But Chris, like the millions of other men and women incarcerated across the country, is far more than just his DOC number, conviction, and sentence …especially when that sentence is unjust. Christopher Roy is a son, a brother, a husband, and a friend. He is a multi-talented artist, motivational speaker, fitness enthusiast, entrepreneur, and outspoken advocate for the voiceless and marginalized. With his endless drive and determination, Chris continues to educate and advance himself while reaching for a second chance. You can read Chris’ bio, along with his latest writings and efforts in the pursuit of justice, throughout the pages of the Unjust element.
Published by New Pulp Press, Chris is the author of the Shocking Circumstances and Sharp as a Razor trilogies, as well as numerous, independent short stories. Read more about his writings on the Ue Novels page.
Self-taught in a variety of mediums, Chris often uses improvised materials such as candy and soot to finish his works. View galleries and learn more about his techniques on the Ue Art page.
Dedicated to fitness training and mental stamina for the past 20 years, Chris has been an inspiration to those around him. His new motivational blog series aims to cultivate awareness in all of you. Tuck into the positivity of Presence of Mind.
Whether mobilizing those around him to action, or lending his talents to aid individuals around the world, Chris believes that each of us can lend a helping hand. There is joy to be found in Advocacy work, even from behind prison walls.
“People are not magically different on their 18th birthday, their brains are still maturing, and the criminal justice system should find a way to take that into account.” - Elizabeth Scott, Professor of law at Columbia University
Why Does It Matter?
As of 2015, a record of 149 people (58 for homicide/54 of that for murder) were exonerated in unjust conviction cases in which “the exonerated defendants had served, on average, more than 14 years in prison.” As the Equal Justice Initiative notes: “Perjury or false accusations have contributed to more than half of wrongful convictions, and nearly half involve misconduct by government officials.” A 2016 article Nearly three people a week in US exonerated of crimes last year by Alan Yuhas in theGuardian noted that “misconduct by investigators, attorneys and officials was a factor in 75% of the murder exonerations and more than 40% of all exonerations in 2015” (as seen in the National Registry’s report). **The 2016 updated report states: “Forty-two percent of exonerations in 2016 included official misconduct (70/166). Official misconduct encompasses a range of behavior — from police threatening witnesses to forensic analysts falsifying test results to child welfare workers pressuring children to claim sexual abuse where none occurred. But the most common misconduct documented in the cases in the Registry involves police or prosecutors (or both) concealing exculpatory evidence. The proportion of exonerations with official misconduct is the highest among homicide Cases — more than two-thirds of the homicide exonerations involved misconduct by official actors (42/54).”
According to a special edition of Time magazine (2017): Innocent, The Fight Against Wrongful Convictions, 25 Years of the Innocent Project – “There have been 1,956 exonerations since 1989. **[update as of March 2017 that number has climbed to 2000 exonerations]** These cases likely represent a small fraction of all innocent prisoners.”
Latest data as of March 2017 shows that 2016 was another record-breaking year in exonerations – the third straight year in a row! The newest report from the National Registry of Exonerations shows “166 exonerations (so far) in [2016 across] in 25 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.” Of the 166, 54 were exonerated of homicide convictions (52 for murder, 2 for manslaughter).
Chris’ sentence is based on such false accusation and misconduct. You can read more about Unreliable Convictions on the EJI website here
And go in depth with The National Registry of Exonerations on the issues of:
Basic Exoneration Patterns , Tainted Identifications and Misconduct , and read the 2015 report from Registy/University of Michigan Law School to understand the full scope of just how many innocent people are being held within our Nation’s prisons.
“The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prison and jails – a 500% increase over the last forty years. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and fiscal burdens on states to accommodate a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not an effective means of achieving public safety.”
Continue reading to learn more about this and other Trends in U.S. Corrections.
Mississippi’s focus (as a whole) leans towards incarcerating its citizens rather than on educating them. In fact, as Jerry Mitchell notes in his 2014 article for the Clarion Ledger – Mississippi ‘addicted to incarceration’, “Mississippi spends three times more to incarcerate an inmate for a year — $15,151 — than it does to educate a student”
From the article: “The idea [for the experiment] was that [the conditions] would create a sustained period of heightened emotion. It was inspired by the circumstances of criminal behavior: Many crimes by the young are in emotionally or socially charged situations. The question, says Casey, is, Why, in the heat of the moment, under threat, do they pull the trigger, even when they know better? The results of her experiment involving negative stimulus were striking: 18- to 21-year-olds were less able than 22- to 25-year-olds to restrain themselves…In fact, under the threatening condition, says Casey, the 18- to 21-year olds “weren’t much better than teenagers.” The brain scanners revealed a telltale pattern: Areas in the prefrontal cortex that regulate emotion showed reduced activity, while areas linked to emotional centers were in high gear.
These results support previous brain-imaging studies and postmortem examinations. Brain areas involved in reasoning and self-control, such as the prefrontal cortex, are not fully developed until the mid-20s—a far later age than previously thought. Brain areas involved in emotions such as desire and fear, however, seem to be fully developed by 17. This pattern of brain development creates a perfect storm for crime: Around the ages of 18 to 21, people have the capacity for adult emotions yet a teenager’s ability to control them….
In many countries, 18 as the threshold for adulthood is already a thing of the past. In Germany, it has been age 21 since 1953, and in Switzerland it’s 25… It’s easy to forget that the legal definition of an adult is a cultural construct pieced together over 100 years ago, around the time when juvenile courts were first established; this cutoff has no real empirical basis.”
Read the article Life Goes On: The Historic Rise in Life Sentences in America by Ashley Nellis, Ph.D. here: Life Goes On
“About 75,000 people in the United States are held in solitary confinement, spending 23 or more hours a day in small cells, allowed out only for showers, brief exercise, or medical visits, without telephone calls or visits from family members. The use of long-term isolation escalated after “tough on crime” policies led states to build super-maximum-security prisons in the 1980s and 1990s. Studies show that people held in long-term solitary confinement suffer from anxiety, paranoia, perceptual disturbances, and deep depression. Nationwide, suicides among people held in isolation, who make up 3 to 8 percent of the nation’s prison population, account for about 50 percent of prison suicides. Some states and the federal government recently enacted reforms to restrict solitary confinement for juveniles and people with mental illness and to reduce the maximum time that can be spent in solitary.” – Equal Justice Initiative on Prison Conditions
“You could fit 19 solitary cells, each measuring a tiny 6×9 feet, inside the footprint of the average one-bedroom apartment. A solitary cell is smaller than the average apartment bathroom and no bigger than the bed most of us sleep on.” – Jennings Brown, Here’s How Many Solitary Prison Cells Fit In Your Apartment
Chris has spent nearly 10 years of his 17-year incarceration in segregative (supermax and maximum security) housing in the MDOC. With the uncontrolled lockdowns in Parchman’s Unit 29 happening for months at a time, he spends most days (all 24 hrs except for a shower 3 times a week and no time outside) in his tiny, dilapidated cell with limited access to sunlight, fresh air, socialization, and proper nutrition.
“’Bad lawyering’ is drawing increased attention as a factor associated with erroneous conviction……Even if prosecutors fail in their duties, we expect a suspect’s attorney to zealously investigate and defend his case. As Bernhard (2001: 227-228) explains, ‘[i]t [is] the defense counsel’s responsibility to protect [the innocent] from the mistakes of others: from witnesses’ misidentifications, police officers’ rush to judgment, and prosecution’s reluctance to reveal potentially exculpatory material.’ Yet, as a Columbia University study of capital appeals found, ineffective defense lawyering was the biggest contributing factor to the erroneous conviction or death sentence of criminal defendants in capital cases over a 23-year period (Liebman et al., 2000). The central reason behind ineffective representation is inadequate funding, an absence of quality control, and a lack of motivation (American Bar Association, 2006). The attorney may be so rushed that he fails to communicate with his client or communicates ‘in a dismissive, callous or hurried manner’ (Berry, 2003: 490). He may make perfunctory attempts at discovery, if any; engage in a narrow or shallow investigation; neglect to retain needed experts or test physical evidence; fail to prepare for trial; or offer ‘weak trial advocacy and superficial or tentative cross-examination’ (Berry, 2003: 490). The result is a cascade of errors that dilutes or even destroys the barrier provided by an effective advocate between an innocent defendant and an erroneous conviction.” – Gould, Carrano, Leo, and Young (2013) Predicting Erroneous Convictions: A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice and as noted in Miscarriages of Justice: Actual Innocence, Forensic Evidence, and the Law, Brent Turvey and Craig Cooley (2014)
“The problem of incompetent defense attorneys is largely a problem associated with the poor. This is because the indigent in this country are appointed counsel to defend them, who are largely overworked, underpaid, and devoid of resources; in contrast, the more affluent defendants are able to secure private counsel with the resources needed for their defense. The majority of criminal defendants in this country are indigent. Estimates are that 80% of criminal defendants require court-appointed counsel (Williams, 2002, p.249). The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2001) reported similar statistics when looking at criminal defendants and the poor. In a study looking at indigent criminal defense programs in the largest 100 counties in the country, it was found that public defenders handled 82% of all criminal cases (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2001, p.1). Perhaps more troubling is that these numbers increase for capital cases- approx. 90% of these defendants are indigent (Cawley, 2007, p. 1). These are startling statistics which suggest that the occurrences of the poor being convicted of crimes and ineffective indigent counsel should be studied as co-occurring phenomena.” – Virginia Hatch (2009) Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and the U.S. Supreme Court: History and Development of a Constitutional Standard
As noted above, ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC), is often a significant contributing factor to an individual obtaining an unjust sentence. Additionally, IAC cases are frequently associated with situations in which the defendant is indigent. Unfortunately Chris, as the pages of Ue will show, was represented by both sets of statistics.
United States of Incarceration
The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population, but is home to roughly 22% of its prison population.
Sentencing Innocents to Life...and Death
Of the total 149 exonerated in 2015, 39% (58) had been convicted of homicide. Five had been sentenced to death, 19 to life (usually without parole), and the rest to decades in prison.” – Nat. Reg. of Exonerations
False Confessions From Faulty Investigation
“Studies suggest that even investigators with decades of experience are only about 54% accurate at judging when a suspect is honest or deceitful” (Alan Yuhas, theguardian)…leading to an increased risk of false confession from coersion and harmful investigative tactics
Overburdened & Ineffectual Public Defenders
“Only 27 percent of county-based and 21 percent of state-based public defender’s offices have enough lawyers to appropriately handle their caseloads.” – Justice Policy Institute
Trillions Wasted on Prison Industrial Complex
“Prison system costs now account for 1 out of every 15 state general fund discretionary dollars. Criminal justice is the second-fastest-growing category of state budgets, behind only Medicaid, and 90% of that spending goes to prisons…wasting trillions of dollars on an ineffective and unjust criminal justice system.” – ACLU
U.S. Percentage Of The World's Prison Population
Exonerated Homicide Defendants in 2015
Percentage Of Youth In The U.S. Arrested By Age 23
Half Of Exonerees Claimed Ineffective Assistance Of Counsel
Accuracy Of Investigators In Determining Truth
Percentage of 2016 Exonerations Involving Violent Crimes
Percentage Of 2015 Exonerated Murder Convictions Involving Off. Misconduct
Recidivism Rate For Offenders Aged 18-24
Percentage Of Capital Cases Handled By Public Defenders
Conviction Rate of Defendants Using Public Defenders
Percentage Of National State Budgets Going Towards Prisons
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963
What Will You Find on Ue?
In addition to the personal sections about Chris mentioned above – his bio, writings, art, etc. the Unjust element also contains detailed information on his case, trial and appeals, as well as newspaper articles from his escapes. In an effort to further discussion regarding his freedom, sections covering the topics of juvenile brain science, current legislation, as well as the constitutionality of Chris’ harsh prison sentence can also be found. Continue below for a larger list of content areas.
"The worst crimes are not committed by evil degenerates, but by decent and intelligent people taking 'pragmatic' decisions." - Colin Wilson, A Criminal History of Mankind
Where Do You Come In?
Keep up to date with Chris’ latest interviews and guest spots, along with sneak peaks into his upcoming releases and promotions here.
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