Thoughts When Mom Yelled “Guilty!”

We can’t predict what will evoke memories.

Courtney Leigh
2 min readMay 30, 2024
Source: Original Photos by H.R. Guy

“GUILTY!” Mom hollered out to me from the front door as I was planting a pair of Muhly Grasses by the front gates.

At that moment, I was sweeping the blades up and off to one side, surprising myself with the visual reminder of the defendant.

“Keep on planting,” I said to myself.

As a person convicted of umpteen violent felonies, I felt a sense of vindication less for myself than for the fellow prisoners I knew to be innocent. All black.

I think about the black boys he used his money and access to taunt with threats of a needle filled with poison designed to end their young lives for something they didn’t do. Was the death penalty even used then in New York? I don’t know.

But neither did those poor black boys, I’ll bet. All of whom were later found innocent.

My friend Julian was innocent, too, and the life-plus-sixty-five years he received as a fifteen-year-old never broke him. By the time I met him in prison, he had defended me on more than a few occasions.

Julian pulled about 22 years. We worked hard to put a case together for the parole board. We hired a lawyer with money made from selling weed we smuggled into Nottoway Correctional…