I have spent the last four days (Sunday thru Thursday) in Memphis, Tennessee, visiting James Prindle and meeting with the attorney we hired for him.
There had been a plan in place for a ride to pick me up at the bus to take me to my motel so I could freshen up and then go down to the jail to see James, who had been awaiting my arrival all day. However, my ride got lost and I ended up waiting several hours before I called a cab. After arriving at the motel, I got cleaned up, fretting all the while that I would let James down because I was so late and might not be able to see him that night.
I called the jail, told them who I was, and they said James was waiting. I said I would be there ASAP, and they said they would relay a message to James. My ride finally arrived at the motel, and we drove down to the jail. After checking in at the jail and pleading with the authorities to let me go upstairs where the glass and phone hookups are, I finally won them over, and they allowed me to go up.
James and I have been communicating with each other by letter and phone for 15 months, and with all the anticipation and buildup to this event, you would think there might have been a let-down, but there wasn’t. James saw me before I saw him, and he had the most enormous smile on his face and held out both arms, as if showing me he wanted to hug me through the glass. He ran over to the chair, picked up the phone and pointed at it like, “let’s talk.”
That was the most special hour-long conversation I have ever had. I was allowed a second visit the following day, which was even more special. At the end of that hour, I put my hand on the glass, he put his hand in the same position on his side of the glass, and he said to me “I love you,” and I said “I love you too, James.”
James is everything I had hoped he would be, and even more. His spirit is like a breath of fresh air. None of his family ever spent any appreciable time with him or made him feel wanted. He thoroughly lights up when he knows you care about him.
The meeting with our attorney Claibourne Ferguson went well too, and he answered all the questions I asked. He and his investigator both affirmed their belief that James is absolutely innocent. They even submitted James to a rather brutal test which convinced them of this fact. Claibourne and his investigator spent about 3½ hours with me and encouraged me to make certain we keep James in a positive frame of mind through the whole trial. The way James appears to the jury will have a big impact on the outcome.
Even though the state has no evidence linking James to the sexual assault of his baby sister, the trial is not going to be a slam-dunk for our side. The state requested a delay to collect additional “evidence” and is now coming to court with videotaped testimony from an unreliable witness whom we will be prevented from cross-examining except on appeal. The judge in this trial is a former prosecutor named Bobby Carter, who has a reputation for favoring the prosecution in his rulings on motions presented. The court system in Memphis has a proven track record of being discriminatory against juveniles (see http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/shelbycountyjuv_findingsrpt_4-26-12.pdf). Our best hope is that we will be able to seat a fair jury.
I will end this update with a plea for help. We need approximately 15 people who live in the Memphis area, or who would be willing to travel there for James’ trial, to sit on his side of the courtroom. We need to show that James has a large support group. If the jury sees this, it will help our cause.
~ Stephen Sydebotham
Groove of the Day
James was attacked and injured by other inmates on May 28th. Read the postscript to yesterday’s post, “Mommy Dearest,” for full details.