I was only 16

Eleven years ago I was told I had committed a murder. How could this even be possible? I wasn’t a murderer. I wasn’t a violent person.  I knew I hadn’t killed anyone. Yet there were two big police detectives and an even larger police sergeant telling me that I had killed someone.

They had pulled me out of school, sat me down in this dark little room. They put me behind this table in the back corner, standing between me and the door. Towering over me as I sat. I was a 16 year old kid, trapped in this tiny little room by three large police officers telling me how I had killed someone.

This went on for only 45 minutes. But when you are in this situation; just a child trapped by three large men who are demanding you tell them you killed someone when you have no idea what they are even talking about; time stops. You lose all perception of time passing. Afterwards,  had I been asked how long they had interrogated me I would have guessed for hours. It wasn’t until nearly a year later that I learned my “hours long” interrogation was more like 45 minutes.

After their interrogation, the three officers left just as abruptly as it all began. Leaving me in the same tiny room, by myself and in shock. How does a 16 year old kid even begin to comprehend being told he was accused of murder? Especially when he hadn’t killed anyone? I have no idea how long I sat in that room before one of the school counselors, a big bear of a man named Jad came o get me. Taking me out of that horrible little room and into a classroom.

I don’t remember if we even spoke until he finally asked me “What did they say to you?” That’s when I finally remember speaking and the words came out in sobs…

“They think I killed someone.”

This man I hardly knew took me into his arms and gave me the comfort I so desperately needed. I have no idea what he thought, I just know how he responded. Other than by friends and family that was the last time I was treated like the kid I was.

Finally regaining my composure, Jad took me to a school administrator to call my mom. I was at a drug treatment school for my marijuanna use and this lady, even under the circumstances deemed I hadn’t been attending the school long enough to earn the right to talk to my own mother. I had never felt so alone in my life. Surrounded by strangers; watching one talk to my mother while declaring I could not, after just being accused of something so horrible. I felt myself shut down, no one was there for me. Yes, Jad had offered me some comfort but then stood by doing nothing while this lady refused to allow me to speak to my mom.

I didn’t get to speak with my mom for over a week. Not until after the same three police officers along with many more came to arrest me. They had one of the school employees bring me out of the dorm where we lived. Walking me outside to where I was greeted by many officers with their guns drawn. This was such a shock to me. I have hardly any memory of the events that followed. I remember being turned around and placed in handcuffs. Being walked to some kind of police vehicle. The police sergeant threatening me  that if I gave them any problems he’d pull me out on the side of the road and hogtie me. Who did these people think I was? If this how our nation’s cops act and treat people? Treat children?

I don’t remember the drive to the jail. Once there they took me down a series of hallways to another horrible room. This one was bigger but had no windows. It had the feeling of being underground and dimly lit. Again they told me I had killed someone. I still had no idea what they were talking about. I had not killed anyone so why were they arresting me?

When they began this interrogation however, I remember noticing something different. They read me what I have come to know as the “Miranda Warning” During the first interrogation they failed to give me this option.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?”

I knew I had done nothing wrong. Yet they were still arresting me, taking me into this dark, horrible room. Treating me, a 16 year old kid, this way. They could not be acting in my best interest and they just said I could remain silent and ask for a lawyer. So I asked them if I could talk to a lawyer. Instantly their demeanor changed. I thought they weren’t nice to begin with but when I asked for a lawyer they got angry. I knew I must have done the right thing.

Quickly I was taken to the juvenile section of the jail. Where I was made to endure what would be the first of countless strip searches that would occur over the years. This was how a nightmare than started over 11 years ago began.

I have since grown into a man. I am now 28 years old and in the past 11 years I have had many experiences that I would like to share with you. through the help of my wonderfully amazing girlfriend. Even in the dark shadow of prison I still have blessings in my life, the biggest of which are the people who love me. My mom, my girlfriend, and my grandparents, all of whom have given me the most incredible love and support throughout this whole ordeal. Along with other family and friends.

All of the stories we share will not be focused on the sad and negative aspects of what I have had to endure over the years. We will also share the happiness and good times we have experienced. The hopes we have, the faith we hold dear, the love I share with my family. And so much more.”

written by Sean O’Brien

 

About Sean & Emelia

In 2003 Sean O'Brien was wrongfully convicted in El Dorado County, CA and sentenced to Life Without Parole at the age of 16. We have been friends since grade school and are now married. Sean and I move forward together with the knowledge of his innocence, our faith in God, and hope that he will rightfully regain his freedom. Until then we embrace our journey wherever it may take us, cherishing each moment we have together and staying true to ourselves. This blog is about the past we share, our fight for freedom, life as it exists for us, and our path toward the future, whatever that may hold. Thank you for allowing us to be heard. God bless.
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