- U.S. Federal - Guide to Pardon, Expungement & Sealing
- Expungement Lawyer in Marietta, GA
- A Fresh Start: Expunging Criminal Convictions
- Is your second chance staring you in the face?
- Site Content
U.S. Federal - Guide to Pardon, Expungement & Sealing
And I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings. He and Miles, who was 2, were at a local private school. Terese and I had grappled with what to tell their teachers about my past. We opted for silence, maybe without ever really agreeing on it. That afternoon, when Micah came home, we sat at the dining room table to talk. Terese and I had never discussed when we might tell them — yet we expected to dictate that when.
Everything Micah had known about me had collapsed into a word: jail. Micah, this is what happened.
Expungement Lawyer in Marietta, GA
And I explained, though not everything. He asked me how long. Eight years. I was a first-year law student, explaining how prison, how crime, was never just about being bad. I wondered if there was room for me to escape being characterized as bad by the 6-year-old boy who first made me feel free. It was just over 19 years to the date of my sentencing. We walked the old colonial streets, crossing Elm, making a left turn onto High Street. From somewhere in the crowd, my cousin Reds watched, seeing me lead the procession in a Yale blue gown with a purple hood draped across my back.
Arrested at age 14, he had recently been released after 15 years in prison, about two decades before his original sentence was set to finish. His early release was unexpected, mercy from a judge whose reasons I cannot begin to divine. But what do you do with a second chance that no one prepared you for? No prison officials would have thought it their responsibility to teach Reds anything more than standing for count. When he came home at age 29, tattoos adorned his body, and he had long dreadlocks that he sheared to appear more employable. He had participated in the job-training programs suggested by his probation officer.
Nothing worked. During the next two years, he would be denied dozens of jobs.
A Fresh Start: Expunging Criminal Convictions
Job applications became a wall preventing him from ever speaking to a person with the authority to hire him, from having the opportunity to explain that he was more than his crime and time in prison. He teetered on the verge of homelessness. What Reds needed most — time to both fail and grow — no one was willing to offer him. I was graduating from one of the best law schools in the world.
When I was given J. The only information I had about J. For an hour, he said nothing. I told you about hanging around those devils. Is this him? I understood what she meant. The way it was easy for a bad decision to transform any of the black boys around us from students into victims or criminal defendants. But the facts were overwhelmingly against J. Mitigating evidence was the only thing that might persuade the judge and prosecutor that J. I talked to J.
Is your second chance staring you in the face?
They all told me he was charming and thoughtful, intelligent, though he rarely took the time to do his work and was often near trouble. What began as a plea bargain for a sentence to be determined by the judge — a maximum of five years with the right to argue for a sentence of as little as six months — became an offer of time served plus three years of probation, in return for a guilty plea to a felony.
He avoided a prison cell. We thought of it as a win. But I knew from experience what it meant to walk out of that courtroom with a felony conviction. On the morning of May 5, , the Connecticut bar examiners released the results of the bar exam. Exactly 50 percent of those who took the test that day passed. When I checked the website, the names were listed in alphabetical order.
The sixth entry from the top was Reginald Dwayne Betts. I stared at the name that I share with my father and took a deep breath. He never visited me in prison. He had missed four college graduations. And still, I thought of him first, our name a reminder of how success never erases history. Reginald Dwayne Betts, still connected to , my state number.
For so many years that number was more important than that name, and it might still be. About three months later, the letter came from the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee telling me that the committee needed more time to decide if I had the character and fitness required of a lawyer. The committee would continue reviewing my application. They might contact my references, ask me to appear at an investigative hearing, look into my life before and after my incarceration. Character and fitness, loosely defined qualities, are required of attorneys in every state.
- Expungement in the United States?
- The Highlands of Central India: Notes on Their Forests and Wild Tribes, Natural History, and Sports. (Elibron Classics);
- Weit gedehnt (German Edition)?
- English Housewifery Exemplified in Above Four Hundred and Fifty Receipts Giving Directions for Most Parts of Cookery.
States take various approaches to determining if someone with a criminal record meets that standard and will become a licensed attorney. For those convicted of felonies in Florida, the governor must restore your civil rights by petition, a yearslong process, before you can sit for the bar exam. In Washington State, bar examiners must determine that a person has the appropriate character and fitness to practice law before they may sit for the bar exam.
In Mississippi, for most felons, there is no record of rehabilitation; no stretch of time spent outside prison; no letter written by any defense attorney, prosecutor or judge; no prayer that will persuade the bar examiner to confer a law license on you. Willie Dow, a local New Haven attorney, agreed to represent me. Soon after, Michael Wishnie, a Yale Law professor, volunteered to serve as co-counsel. We put together a packet of more than letters from friends, colleagues and professors attesting to my character.
The support was humbling, but it also felt strange to create an elaborate record to prove that I was worthy of doing a job that I was qualified to do.
Once the packet was collected, Willie sent it to the Connecticut bar examiners, and we waited. I knew that what I did as a year-old in Virginia would forever be a hellhound on my trail, but I hoped that I had outpaced my scapegrace. Edgar Hoover, the former director of the F. But by , Rayborn had fashioned himself into a legal mind astute enough to successfully challenge several federal convictions and get 10 years knocked off his federal prison sentence.
His next legal feat was more astonishing. Once he seemed primed for an early release, Kentucky sought to have him extradited back to state prison to serve the rest of his life sentence. Rayborn again filed suit, arguing that Kentucky, by voluntarily transferring him to Alcatraz, had relinquished any jurisdictional claims it had to his body. A judge agreed. Finally free, Rayborn, according to an acquaintance, sought a job as an accountant at General Electric.
After achieving a perfect score on an exam given by the company, he was asked where he had studied accounting. Alcatraz, he told them. That disqualified him. He went on to rob another bank and returned to federal prison. After his second release from prison, Cleary tapped Rayborn to work with the federal defenders. He called Rayborn a one-man appellate division. From until his death in , Rayborn was the chief legal research associate.
In his role, he wrote hundreds of appeal briefs and had his handprint on thousands of others. For three decades, one of the most brilliant legal minds, with a photographic memory and decades of doing time, ran the appellate division of the federal defenders. All told, he spent more than 20 years incarcerated and more than three decades on the job. Cleary called him among the top 1 percent of attorneys in the country, and he had never earned a law degree or been licensed to practice law.
There are others. Frankie Guzman, found guilty at age 15 of armed robbery in a juvenile court, was admitted to the California Bar and is now director of the California Youth Justice Initiative at the National Center for Youth Law. Kilroy served time for drug charges in Florida. He works as a prosecutor for the City of Providence and has started his own criminal-defense practice. Hopwood might be the Rayborn of the group. While serving a year sentence for bank robbery, he became a jailhouse lawyer and managed to get two cases in front of the United States Supreme Court. The three years Simmons served in prison for drug charges almost kept her from becoming an attorney.
Hopwood, Simmons, Poulos, Guzman and Kilroy are all licensed attorneys embodying the history of thousands of men and women standing for count. Their stories reminded me of my long-ago cellmate Keese, and I wondered what might be possible for him if he were set free. More than 20 years after a Richmond judge sentenced him to over five decades in prison, and with my own future as a lawyer uncertain at best, I managed to find three attorneys in Washington who agreed to rumble for Keese the way he had been ready to rumble for me. Maybe we all pursued law to save someone left behind; maybe we pursued it to save ourselves.
Prison taught me how to wait. I learned to break up a nine-year sentence into a million moments of waiting: waiting for rec, for chow, for count time, waiting for mail call, for visits, waiting to walk in the world without thinking constantly about danger, waiting for freedom. Waiting to hear back from the bar committee felt similar — once again, I was just waiting for mail.