One year ago, January 17 2017, the long awaited Evidentiary Hearing in my case was finally held. I say long awaited because it had been granted on October 28, 2015. This March will mark my 15th year in prison. I have spent nearly half my life wrongfully incarcerated for a crime I did not commit.
The October 28, 2015 ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granting my Evidentiary Hearing stated in part, “O’Brien’s state habeas petition alleged facts that, if accepted as true, showed that trial counsel failed to introduce available evidence that would have significantly strengthened O’Brien’s defense. Indeed, if believed, the additional evidence would have rendered it virtually impossible for O’Brien to have committed the murder for which he was charged.” and “Competent counsel would not have failed to put such evidence before the jury.”
After years of pain, suffering, sacrifice, and waiting, always waiting; at the Evidentiary Hearing my lawyers proved all the evidence the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals relied on in their ruling. Most people would think once you’ve proven your case the process moving forward would be simple. Justice, in my case freedom, would surely be right around the corner. The United States of America does have the greatest justice system in the world after all, right?
Wrong. the year long wait that still continues began before the Evidentiary Hearing was even over. It began when the magistrate judge scheduled additional brief filing to take place over five months- which was ultimately extended to over seven months. We had just proven everything, and now we were being told our endless wait would continue. I felt the weight of this pushing me back down. When will this nightmare end?
Trying to hold it together in the courtroom, I stood up to speak to my family and friends. As I turned to thank them for their love and support, the chain attached to my ankles and secured to a large cement block stopped me short. I was jerked to a halt. The emotion from 14 years of fighting for my rightful freedom broke through. We had just proven everything but I was being sent back to prison. I am innocent, why is this happening? I felt broken and shattered knowing the nightmare of my wrongful conviction would continue. And here we are one year later still waiting. Still suffering. Still being denied my rightful freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, the past year has also brought some incredible blessings. Emelia and I got married. We felt it was the right decision for us, having no control over when I will come home. Then just days after we filled out the marriage application, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced that Lifer and Life Without Parole inmates would once again receive Family Visits. And the last barrier to us receiving our Family Visits, my custody designation, was reduced 5 months earlier than we had thought. This gave us an amazing blessing: Family Visits.
We are living our lives now. We are not allowing the unknown to control us. We know my freedom will come but until then we are alive now.
Written by Sean, January 2017
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9