6 Jun 2014

‘I spent 18 years in jail for a murder I didn’t commit’

Eric Glisson was released from a US prison in 2012 after being behind bars for 18 years for a murder he did not commit. He takes to Reddit to answer the world’s questions about his ordeal.

He has been called the real-life Andy Dufresne from the film The Shawshank Redemption.

Eric Glisson was convicted in 1995 for the murder of a taxi driver, but he was innocent. He spent much of the last 18 years in a New York jail trying to prove this – and finally did so, with the help of a nun and a corporate lawyer, in 2012, after showing that some gang members had already confessed to the killing.

While he was incarcerated, like Dufresne, he used the law library a lot and even studied for a degree in behavioural science.

So how did he cope with prison, the injustice, and the way the world has changed while he was behind bars? Mr Glisson answered people’s questions via an “ask me anything” thread on Reddit, ahead of a documentary about his case being shown on US television.

First up, from sgtwonka, was: how did he launch his own investigation into his case from his cell?

“It was hard,” replied Mr Glisson. “I used the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act]. I have a stack of letters I sent…they denied me for years. Finally, in 2012 I got one document that opened the whole case up and proved who the real killers were.”

I walked past a cell, and saw a guy who was hanging. Eric Glisson

Understandably, several users asked if he ever gave up hope, or even considered suicide.

“Several times. When you lose all of your appeals, and you have to consider that you’ll be in there the rest of your life because parole is almost never given to convicted murderers, you think the only relief is to end it. But something inside you keeps telling you to fight.”

‘I had to sleep in a dark 6×8 cell for years’

However, he also said prison was not the same as he imagined it would be, in response to ryanando.

“It’s not the image you see on TV. There’s not as much violence, the food isn’t as bad,” he replied.

But there were obviously dark moments. He told MasterGrok: “I had to sleep in a dark 6×8 cell for 18 years and had my life dictated by correctional officers and be subject to three counts a day where you stand up and they count you like you were cattle or something.”

It was too much for some, he said. MarkShrugged asked what the craziest thing he witnessed while in prison.

I was taken away from my daughter one week after she was born. She’s 19 now. Eric Glisson

“I walked past a cell, and saw a guy who was hanging,” replied Mr Glisson.

He also struggled to cope with the fact that some of his family thought he was guilty – something they have now apologised for – and that he missed seeing his daughter grow up.

Jrpre33 asked: “What was the one thing you truly missed the most?”

He replied: “My daughter. I was taken away from her one week after she was born. She’s 19 now.”

Message of hope

And despite his difficult life, Mr Glisson remains philosophical. He described to iDamix the moment he was released: “They didn’t say anything. I went up to the assistant DA who opposed every appeal I filed and I shook her hand and told her it was finally nice to meet by long-term nemesis, and she’s won a lot of battles but I just won the war. Seemed to me she put her head down in shame.”

When asked by ChrisBenRoy whether the stigma of being in prison for murder had held him back since his release, he replied: “I have difficulties with credit issues, housing. I just got a new apartment, and had to pay a full year’s rent because I don’t have credit. I opened a juice bar in the Bronx called Fresh Take On Life, and work there every day.”

Read the full Reddit AMA with Eric Glisson here 

Responding to some of the supportive messages about his business – and in a sign he is obviously not struggling too much to catch up with modern life – he then added: “Like us on Facebook!”

However, he did say some things are new to him, such as mobile phones – he’s broken seven since he got out of prison. He said seeing how youth subculture had changed – “the way they dress with their pants hanging” was one of his biggest shocks.

He had lamb chops for his first meal after his release, he told two_off.

And his plans now? He wants to set up a foundation to help exonerate other innocent people who are unfairly imprisoned, he told mylefthandkilledme.

And finally, when asked by spartangrad007 how he managed to keep himself from hating everyone and life, he replied: “What good would it do to hate everyone? That’s not who I am.”