“I lived with hate…but picked up love and never looked back” James Calvin Tillman
“I apologize on behalf of the State of Connecticut. I thank you for your grace and dignity in dealing with this injustice and I wish you well in the next chapters of your life,” M. Jodi Rell, Former Governor, State of Connecticut (February 8, 2007)
Governor Rell cited James Tillman as a vital example concerning the need for the State of Connecticut to do more to reduce (the former) backlog of DNA testing at the state forensic laboratory. It was through that testing that Mr. Tillman was exonerated in 2006, after serving 18 years of a 45-year sentence for rape and beating that he didn’t commit.
Who among us is perfect? Who does not have some baggage, at times, well hidden, but still there? Should we arrive at the pearly gates ready to meet our Maker, what will be the earthly circumstances that rise above all else to confirm our admission, as we cross over to eternal peace and beauty?
Mortal men, especially men of color, growing up in urban communities seldom contemplate the power and experience of “giving it over to God” often in favor of “street survival.”
However, few could ever imagine that a mere mortal would be sentenced to a 45 year prison term, for a violent crime not committed by the accused. Yet this same man would stand up in principle and decline a plea bargain in exchange for the offer of a much lighter sentence if only he would plead guilty. Why? For the stain and reputation as a rapist is indelible.
The true saga of James Tillman of Connecticut includes a vigilant village of supporters -community leaders, the Connecticut Innocence Project, other non-profits, legislators, friends and family who never lost faith for 18 years. As fate would have it, James would join forces with a talented and committed author and former Presidential speech writer, Jeff Kimball, who was experiencing incredible personal losses as well. It was in this storytelling potential, this fusion of thoughts, hearts, faith and forgiveness that James was set free from the bonds of hatred, hopelessness , lack of inspiration and freedom from the iron clad prison bars that felt like a lifetime!
As a prelude to reading James’ book, “The Power of Conviction”, a spellbound audience at the Mark Twain House and Museum Nook Farm Author Talk in Hartford on Monday evening, June 8, 2015. We learned the facts and the core values of this transformed man… with a power to inspire positive change in others though his experience.
Some fascinating facts you will learn about James’ journey via his book and media resources include:
- James was the first person in Connecticut to be exonerated by DNA evidence;
- Earn of his brother’s passing while he was incarcerated and contemplating suicide;
- Learn about how he changes hatred to love;
- As with other high profile cases, learn about the fact that the “eyewitness” identified the wrong person as the perpetrator and “sealed his fate.”
- Learn about receiving a bad defense with bad forensic evidence;
- James release from prison occurred on 6-06-2006;
- James recently graduated from Goodwin College on 6-06-2015 AND gave the commencement address;
- How much compensation is 18 years worth?
- Learn of a mother’s point of view …waiting 18 years for justice;
- Broadcast on Connecticut Network : James’ Tillman’s Story (58 min)
Shattered Lives Radio talks with James Tillman and author of Power of Conviction, Jeff Kimball. Listen to the podcast to learn even more details about the impact of wrongful conviction and exoneration.