Submitted by Donn Martin
On Feb 18, 1993, I made the biggest mistake of my life. A mistake I have been ashamed of every day since then. At the age of 17, I, along with six others guys, was involved in the rape and robbery of two innocent people.
The night was supposed to be a joy ride, but turned into two life sentences for me. I never, ever thought this would be my story. I had my dreams of the NFL, the NBA or maybe the MLB right there in front of me as a senior in high school. I had just taken the ACT.
My graduation pictures had been taken and I visited a few college campuses. I was planning to pledge Q Dog. The most important thing I wanted was to make my mom proud; I wanted to go to college and wanted to get her the big house she deserved.
I had a child on the way and my life was at a crossroads. I chose the loyalty that came with the streets instead of the potential the two innocent people had. I participated in a robbery and rape.
I was given an option to plead guilty and testify against my co-defendants in exchange for a 20 year prison term or plead innocent and face the jury.
I did not know much about the law but I knew I did not do all I was charged with, plus I could never testify against anyone, so I chose to fight not knowing where it would lead.
I went to trial while all my other co-defendants took plea bargains. They all may not have been guilty but they did what they thought was best for them. Two of them testified against me.
The courts included the aiding and abetting law and only had to prove the crimes were committed. I was given four life sentences for four different charges.
I was found guilty of two counts of robbery, one count of rape and one count of sodomy.
My trial lasted three hours and since 1995 I have been incarcerated. I came to prison bitter, angry and mad at God. I was thinking, “Why me?” I played the blame game. It was a bad life I was given.
I did not accept my responsibility to the lives I had devastated. I just thought of me, me, me. I made a lot of mistakes but God has seen fit to mature me through my circumstances.
He allowed me a chance to face my shame and to feel what my mother and grandma must have felt to defend me. The bad whispers my dad, brothers, family and friends must have heard in the community. God has allowed me to see the pain of those innocent people.
I look at myself and think if someone did my sister or mom or any woman, I would want to kill them. So for years I hid my truth, I wanted no one to see me or dare talk about it.
Eventually, I began to learn how to talk about it and it began to help me understand a little of what I was looking for. Those who may come to know me would love me. I have figured out a little bit more about myself while trying to find myself.
I realized when I was a 17 year old boy, I was a coward. I was not man enough to stop what happened. I was not man enough to be happy with my future.
I was not man enough to consider my unborn seed or the people who did so much for me. I am more at peace than I have ever been because I am comfortable with my truth as ugly as it.
Forgiveness is God's and hopefully one day I may be forgiven by those I did wrong. Until then, I hope this story becomes a window for some 17 year old who may be at that same crossroads as I was.
It is ok to turn away from the streets and choose your real potential. May God bless us all. To all the citizens of Bullock County, I let you down, my actions were not representative of all those who are kind, caring, law-abiding citizens. I can only hope to be the best example I can be for as long as I shall live. I am truly sorry.