I have wanted to write about this for awhile, but I waited a few months until my friend "Dave" had time to be comfortable about it. We had met in 1980 when he worked for me on a temporary government job that the USAF had allowed him to take awaiting his mustering out after a six year hitch. Over the intervening years we saw each other at various community functions. In 1996, he and I were members of a local private school's board. He had just become a father and was starting a management job with a tech firm. On a summer Friday night, after attending a seminar in a mid-western city, he was driving a rental car to a cafe for dinner when his life effectively ended. Six police cars suddenly surrounded him and he was held at gunpoint, literally jerked from the car without request or explanation, thrown in the back of a cruiser, read his rights, taken to the station and booked for murder. The following morning he was allowed to call his wife, to ask her to try and arrange for a lawyer from 1800 miles away and taken to arraignment. He denied the charges, was appointed a public defender and sent back to jail. He continued to deny the charges, produced documentation that showed he was many miles away from the crime scene and gave references who all told investigators that he had been with them at the time of the alleged crime. The police and DA's investigator concluded that the documents and statements were all phony and on the basis of a chronic jail informant's word, he was sentenced to 50 to life in prison. Over the next twenty years, he would lose contact with his ex-wife and son, his mother and younger brother would die and his sole surviving sibling would develop dementia and no longer recognize him. He used the few resources at his command to file requests for court documents and make his appeals. In 2015 a court finally granted a document request that showed that the DA and police had purposely withheld records indicating his innocence and a legal group took up his case. In 2018 after having found a death row inmate's death bed confession to the crime, from 2001, they were successful in freeing him, to the extent that is possible. The state gave him $199,000 and change for his trouble. He was released like a parolee, having to wear the now ill fitting suit he was arrested in. ("I asked the guard at release for a stapler so I could peg the back of my britches. I literally had no ass left." he jokes.) He had to buy his own bus ticket back to California, not having the identity documents now necessary to travel by air. He has been back in town almost a year, living in his late mother's home while readjusting to "freedom" and dealing with his sisters passing a few months ago, which was how we reconnected. I went to her memorial service. I was one of six mourners, none of who Dave knew prior the funeral. Afterward he held a small brief reception at a local restaurant and when the others had left, he asked me if I knew about his situation? I confessed I didn't, but had wondered, even inquired with his wife who had told me only that he was away on an extended business trip. Then she moved away and I lost touch. That was when he told me the story and I remembered reading about his release but did not put his common enough name together with the person. He smiled at that and said it was what he had wanted, at the start, believing all the while that he would be quickly exonerated and go back to his life. That was what he had lost as sure as if he had been shot and killed. Now he had his mom's house, full of memories and regret, a single framed 4X5 photo of his then 19 month old son and the ghost of who he was. At 57 years old he will outlive the pittance the state gave him in a few years and currently has not been able to secure full-time employment, so he is working as a tax preparer and fast food server. There is not a happy ending in sight here and I honestly don't know that there is much to be done. He is remarkably not bitter, he actually sent a condolence letter to one of his guards when the man's wife died recently and while feeling angry at the arresting officers, he has rejected thoughts of suing them or prosecuting under federal civil rights statutes. ("They have to live with this and other crimes on their consciences and I hear they lost their jobs and pensions.") Dave describes himself as a broken person who has adapted to life with his personal dysfunctions and demons. ("I have no funny life stories to tell in polite conversation, no career accomplishments, no kids to brag on.") This morning, sitting in the sun at a golf course snack bar, he asked me to see if I could locate his son, just to know that he's alright. "You can do that yourself online, you know." I thoughtlessly tossed off. He looked at me with a trembling smile and tears rolling down his face,"Yeah, but then I'd probably try to contact him and I'm not ready for that." A couple of minutes before I started this post, I found his son. living 80 miles away. I have to honor Dave's wishes, he is most certainly owed that, but when I texted him to say that I'd found him alive and apparently well, I asked him,"If you had no memory of your father, wouldn't you want to know that he was alive and well, too?" More luggage than I can carry. Thanks for the space.