One Thing & Another

Delray Beach, FL

Notes From My Journal: It was the saddest day in his life?

Internet marketers have noticed James Altucher, the first blogger I knew that wrote candidly about his failures and foibles. He developed a very large following in large part because he was so fearless…

James once tried to convince me to write more candidly, and I am quite sure I should. I’ve tried here and there. But reservedly, exposing foibles, not fundamental flaws.

One day, maybe.

But not like his dozens (hundreds) of epigones who produce bloodless imitations of what is now called confessional porn.

Like the “health coach” who signed the promotional email I received yesterday, an inspirational letter that was halfway through an otherwise strong series of efforts to get me from free to paid status.

The saddest day in his life?

Not when his father/mother/spouse/child died. Not when his girlfriend got raped. Not when his best friend was killed trying to save his life. The saddest day in his life was when his dog got hit by a car.

He was five years old. He saw it happen. He was traumatized. And guess what? He learned many helpful lessons about success (patience, control, every moment counts, etc.).

Note to James Altucher’s apers: First of all, you can’t expose yourself with doctored photos. Second, if what you are exposing isn’t embarrassing… it’s no kind of exposure at all.

The medium may not be the message, but it shapes and defines it. Internet communications work well only when they are transparent, authentic, and – yes – brave.


Today’s Word: epithet (noun)

An epithet (EP-uh-thet) is a word or phrase used to describe an actual or attributed quality or characteristic of a person. It is sometimes intended as criticism, sometimes as praise.

As used by Paul Gauguin: “In art, all who have done something other than their predecessors have merited the epithet of revolutionary; and it is they alone who are masters.”


Fun Fact

The ZIP of zip code stands for Zoning Improvement Program.


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

After a Long Darkness, the Sun Can Shine Again

In 1975, in his twenties, Ray Hinton stole a car and somehow managed to drive it around for two years without getting caught. When his mother found out what he’d done, she urged him to turn himself in. He did and was arrested, tried, and put in jail – where, he says, he “saw and experienced things you’d believe only if you liked bad TV.”

In his words:

We had two “squares a day,” at six a.m. and six p.m. They were both the same meal: cold eggs and bacon. I shared the cell with a parade of odd ducks: two tattooed bikers, a schizophrenic, a scary fat guy that didn’t speak but struck me as a child molester, and a black dude that was yelling about being unjustly arrested as they brought him upstairs. They hung him up on the top of the bars with handcuffs. The next morning, when they took him down, there was blood up and down his forearms.

 I’m not kidding.

From what I could gather from the conversations I had or overheard, none of my bunkmates felt like they deserved to be in jail. I took that with a grain of salt, but I saw what they did to that black guy and I know he was arrested for failing to report to traffic court for a ticket he got for speeding.

As for me, the physical aspect of being locked up for seven days wasn’t terrible. The cots were uncomfortable; the food was meager and bad. But that didn’t bother me. What I hated was the incarceration itself – realizing that there was nothing I could do or say to get me out of that cell. I had lost the freedom to go where I liked. I was no longer in charge of my future.

The main thing Hinton took from this experience, he said, was that it was much worse than he had imagined it could be. He never wanted to go back.

He stayed away from trouble until 1985, 10 years later, when he was brought into the Birmingham police station to be questioned about a murder. He said he wasn’t afraid because he was innocent and could prove it. At the time of the murder, he was with friends who could testify to that fact.

There were three robberies in Birmingham that year with a similar modusoperendi. In each case, someone was shot. One of the victims survived and said the shooter was a black man.

It’s not clear why the cops decided to investigate Ray. But when they questioned him, he had the feeling that he was being targeted. Soon thereafter, the police searched his mother’s house and found a gun. It was an old gun. It hadn’t been fired in years. But it was put it into evidence. And in a lineup, Ray was identified by the victim.

The jury took 2 hours to convict him. The judge sentenced him to death.

He spent almost 30 years on death row before a sympathetic and aggressive pro-bono attorney got his case to the Supreme Court… and the charges were finally dropped.

Hinton tells his story in The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row, an Oprah Book Club recommendation. I found it compelling and believable and moving at times, although I wasn’t the least bit surprised by it.

Every week in America you read about someone who was convicted of a crime on the basis of false or insufficient evidence. Thanks to DNA testing, some of those wrongly imprisoned are being freed. Meanwhile, it’s been estimated that 2-5% of the millions behind bars may be innocent.

That’s why I feel so strongly about The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that is leading the way in helping to free people who can’t afford expert legal representation.

But there’s only so much The Innocence Project can do. There are far more cases out there than they can handle. So they are able to take on only those where significant new evidence has been brought to light that makes a reversal likely.

The necessary research – including DNA testing – must be done by private investigators. And, of course, people sitting in jail or prison who can’t afford a private lawyer can’t afford to hire a private investigator either.

Which brings me to a private detective in Southern California who has been working on wrongful convictions for decades…

His story is inspiring. His accomplishments are impressive. And he’s doing some of his cases pro bono. (Those are the cases that I intend  to get involved in.)

I first read about him in the newspapers. Then I saw three short documentaries done by newsgroups in and around LA.

I’ll tell you more about what I’m planning to do to support his efforts soon. For now, you can watch those documentaries below.


Watch This…