'To Make Them Pay For What They Done To Me'

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Here's a horrifying story of a man accused of rape, identified in a line-up, convicted, sent to jail for 27 years, where he fought constantly, and then exonerated by DNA. Of course, it's in Texas, which has a regrettable penchant for this sort of thing:


Since a judge let him out of prison for a rape that prosecutors now say he did not commit, Michael A. Green has had trouble sleeping. 

 Late at night, he walks the neat, quiet sidewalks in the neighborhood where he is staying with an aunt, chain-smoking cigarettes, his mind spinning furiously with questions about why he was convicted 27 years ago and how to spend what is left of his life. 

He also ponders, he says, whether to take a $2.2 million compensation payment from the State of Texas or file a civil lawsuit in the hope of exposing the truth about the investigation that led to his incarceration. To receive the compensation, he must waive the right to sue.

I really hope he takes the money. That sounds weak. But after 27 years down under, the prospect of this dude getting nothing is just chilling. I admire his courage, but life is so short and so precious.

Whenever I read about exonerations in rape cases, like these, I think how horrible it must be for the woman who ID'ed the guy to begin with. It's awful enough to be raped. But then to know that you picked the wrong guy--with the help of the cops, surely--and sent him down for something he didn't do. I can't imagine carrying any of that.

And yet some people, with great courage, do.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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