Guilty by Law, Innocent by Heart
by Christina J., Scituate, MA When you hear the sad stories about murder, rape and other crimes, you picture the criminal as a sick, horrible person. No matter how bad the crime, there is always one family member or friend who knows the accused couldn't have committed such a horrible crime. No one ever seems to believe the suffering family who tells the court over and over that their son or daughter is not guilty. We still see the criminals as criminals who have to be punished, not as someone's friend or brother or daughter.
A few years ago, Billy was convicted of statutory rape and shooting someone. I was very close to his family. Billy's mother was like my aunt and Billy was like my big brother. He was always very sweet to me and I loved him very much. I knew he got into trouble once in a while, but when I heard what he had been convicted of, I couldn't believe it. He admitted shooting the gun accidentally, but he pleaded not guilty to rape. He was convicted of rape, and went to prison.
Most people thought Billy could have raped that girl and it didn't surprise them. I knew and still know that he couldn't have done it. When I think about it, I realize that no one cares what I or his mother say about the kind of person he is. All that matters is that the evidence proved that he was guilty.
Billy has lived in a state prison ever since his conviction. I haven't been allowed to visit him, but my mother writes him about my life. From what I have heard, he is very lonely and sad, and never smiles. I wish there was a way to prove his innocence and let him go back to his life.
Now, when I hear about a criminal and his grieving family, I stop and think. That criminal is also a person and is loved by someone very much. Billy was one of those people and still is today. He may be a criminal in the eyes of some, but to me, he will always just be Billy, my friend.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.