The St. Louis Post-Dispatch featured an interesting package yesterday about prison inmates who are exonerated years after their convictions. The main story, "Exonerated inmates are free from prison but not from its effects," looks at a number of people. The sidebar, "Religion sustains one former inmate cleared of crime," tells the story of Darryl Burton's quest to be freed:
He wrote to God.
"You know I'm innocent," Burton wrote, although he didn't believe in God at the time. "Help me get out of this place, and I'll tell the world about you."
Burton, 47, said God came through, and now he's trying to hold up his end of the bargain. "I told Jesus that I'd go anywhere," he said. "I plan to do just that."
Burton now visits colleges, radio stations and churches to tell them about forgiving enemies. Since much of the larger package deals with the difficulty of adjusting to life on the outside, the story highlights two areas that gave Burton an advantage -- faith and family.
We learn just a few details about his story, which began in 1984 when he was named as a suspect in a gas station shooting. It took 24 years for the truth to come out.
With little hope left, Burton said, he found peace in penning his request to God. He began reading his Bible and studying Jesus.
"He spoke about forgiveness to people who harm you," Burton said. "I knew I had to follow this man. I started praying for the people who hurt me, and I was free."
He says he wants to share the Gospel and tell his story in the hope that other wrongly convicted prisoners will be freed.
The story is way too brief and I wish that the Post-Dispatch had devoted even more space to Burton. But as it is, the package includes a video of one exonerated convict who is back in jail after difficulty readjusting and a wonderful audio slideshow of Burton's journey from prison. The audio piece has Burton explaining how the story of Jesus' wrongful conviction was influential in his conversion. Kudos the folks involved in the Burton pieces. It was clear that religion was central to his story and it's nice to see the reporters, web producers, photographers, and editors get out of the way and let that story tell itself.