|Influences||This story is influenced by a close family member|
|Bio||My name is Heidee and I am studying to become a forensic pathologist. In my spare time I like to read crime books and write short stories that are loosely based on my life experiences.|
The Innocence Project
Hi, my name is Hannah Appleby and today I am going to tell you about someone that changed my life forever. The interesting part of this story is that I am not sure if he changed my life for the better or worse …
It all started in my third year of university. I was a keen and enthusiastic law and criminology student, and not to toot my own horn but I was always at the top of my class. Halfway through my third year, one of my professors asked me if I would be interested in getting extra credit by volunteering. Of course, I jumped at this opportunity. My professor told me that on weekends I could volunteer at a company that funded ‘The Innocence Project’. I thought this sounded perfect for me as I wanted to become a lawyer and help innocent people be released after wrongful convictions.
The following Saturday I got up early and put on the outfit that I brought for when I became a real lawyer. This was a huge advancement in my future career, so I was shaking with excitement the whole way to the office. When I arrived the lady at reception pointed me in the direction of the ‘Innocence Project’ room. I was a ball of nerves walking up to the door, but I was greeted by a friendly girl who knew I was the new volunteer. She explained that for the first few weeks I would be shadowing a man named Mark. She said he would show me what to do with cases that I believed were worthy of our time and things like that.
For the next few weeks, I came in every weekend and stayed for about 8 hours each day. It was the most exciting work I had ever done, and I really enjoyed being there. Mark and I would sit for hours and read through case files, I even accompanied him on a prison visit to visit an innocent client of ours. I was quickly learning the ropes and could not wait to be given my own cases. Mark had been working there for months so the volunteers would give him cases they thought should be followed up. Mark had the flu and could not come into work one weekend and this is where my life changed.
I was ecstatic to be on my own, but I was so scared that I would somehow mess it up. I spent a few hours reading through cases and dividing up Mark’s cases to the other workers. I was reading through a case when one of the managers came to me and said I needed to follow up on this case immediately. I tried to explain that I had never done a case on my own and that I was relatively new, but she insisted I was ready and should get to work as quickly as possible.
That is the name that will forever haunt me and make me feel immense guilt for what I did.
I remember reading through the case file and it was brutal. Steven had been convicted of murdering a pregnant lady in her home; she was stabbed 32 times. From what I had learnt at university I knew this was an act of hate and anger, but it said in the file that Steven claimed he did not know the lady. This to me was the first indicator that he was innocent. More things I read made it apparent that he was innocent; there was a bloody handprint at the scene that was too large to be his and there was a sperm on the victim that did not match his. This motivated me to go and visit him.
I called the prison he was at and booked an official visit for the next day. When I arrived, Steven was sitting at a table in an empty room. He looked so sweet and kind, but also scared and exhausted. I could not help but feel sorry for him being there. We sat down and chatted for hours. He told me about the night it happened and how he was in the neighbourhood but not near the house that the lady was killed. He explained his alibi and I believed him. I became emotionally invested in this case and made freeing Steven my priority. The other workers always say you must not make promises to anyone but foolishly I promised to get Steven out. He thanked me and began to cry tears of happiness.
I spent the next few months working tirelessly to get justice for him. I got him all over the media and I got many high-profile lawyers working for him pro-bono. Eventually, due to all the media coverage, Steven was granted a retrial and even made bail while waiting for it. He could not thank me enough for what I had done. I was so happy at the thought I had changed someone’s life for the better. A week went by and my boss told me that Steven had disappeared. I was devastated that he had broken his bail conditions, but I understood that he was scared.
A few weeks after that I saw on the news that a pregnant woman had been stabbed to death. It made me wonder how Steven was doing. The next night another pregnant woman had been stabbed to death in her own home. It made me feel sick. A few days later I received a letter with no return address.
‘You are the reason they are dead, Hannah. It was so easy to fool someone so naïve. Their blood is on your hands. Steve’.
I received so much hate from the community I had to change my name and leave the country. I dropped out of university and I cannot hold down a job.
My only promise is this, I will catch Steven. I am so close; I can feel it.