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Ask HN: Just got an innocent man out of prison. What now?
510 points by ClintEhrlich on June 30, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 200 comments
Hi, I'm Clint Ehrlich, a hacker/law student who helped get an innocent man released from prison. I'm here on HN asking for advice about how to help my new friend get back on his feet.

A year ago, I saw a Dateline NBC episode about an Iraq-war vet, Sgt. Ray Jennings, who allegedly killed an 18-year-old girl in a parking lot. The evidence didn't persuade me, so my dad and I started our own investigation.

We wrote a 34-page letter to the DA's office, which you can read here: http://www.ehrlichfirm.com/criminal-cases/raymond-lee-jennin... The letter persuaded them to reopen the murder investigation.

Last week, after 11 years behind bars, Ray walked out of court a free man. But he was released onto the street with no resources. Do any of the great minds at HN have any ideas about how I can help him get money for housing, food, and clothes?

The most obvious answer is litigation. And in a year or two, Ray will probably receive some compensation from the State. Unfortunately, there's no way to access those funds in time to cover his immediate expenses.

In the future, Ray also may be able to earn some income talking about his story. Unfortunately, the charges against him won't be formally dismissed for another 2 months, and until then he is understandably reticent about speaking publicly.

I have set up a GoFundMe campaign. It did well, but momentum has stalled. I'd appreciate any recommendations about how or where to promote it:


Thanks for your help. I'm sorry that I was a bit caustic in previous posts asking for help with this case. I contacted the Mods, and they encouraged me to try again with a different approach.

Since you're in Los Angeles, you might try reaching out to Homeboy Industries: http://www.homeboyindustries.org/

They specialize in helping get folks back on their feet with job training. They have a bakery program, a line of salsa, solar panel installation training, etc. They hire ex-gang and previously incarcerated men and women.

Disclosure: I have enjoyed the salsa.

I'm a big fan of Homeboy Industries, so I appreciate the suggestion. But I don't think it's fair to put Ray into a program for ex-gang members.

Ray is a clean-cut, straight-arrow kind of guy, so it's been very hard for him to spend the last 11 years of his life surrounded by actual criminals.

He really wants to become just another person — not an ex-con.

Look, you've really gone above and beyond here. I think that's awesome.

But it's a bit of a drag to see you write off "ex-gang members" the way that you did. These are human beings that deserve your respect. If someone does their time and holds down a job, what's not to admire?

Your man was a soldier and he survived 11 years in prison as an innocent man. I suspect that he'd really enjoy meeting the folks at Homeboy even if he didn't end up working there.

I value what Homeboy Industries is doing and I respect the people who are participating in their programs and trying to turn their lives around. I wish them nothing but success.

That said, it isn't a normal job training program. If you had a friend with no criminal record who was looking for work, I doubt you send him to Homeboy Industries in order to get job training.

Ray was in prison, but he isn't someone trying to turn his life around after falling in with gangs or crime. He was a Sergeant in the U.S. military who had his freedom taken for no reason.

He has just been forced to spend 11 years of his life with people from backgrounds that led them into the criminal-justice system. Some of them are good people, others are not. But none of them came from the same circumstances as Ray, a man who risked his life for our country and never did anything to society for which he needs to atone.

I will certainly tell him about Homeboy Industries and let him make his own decisions. But I think it's totally reasonable if, after being forced to spend 11 years surrounded by convicts, he now chooses to seek out situations where he will be able to spend time around "normal" folks.

This is something I understand completely. My "crime" was being born with the wrong genes. My genetic disorder has closed a lot of doors for me, in spite of my strong academic background. I also think many programs to help such people do a lot of things inherently badly, so are often a bad idea, even if you need reform. My experience with homelessness has been that a lot of programs can be really detrimental to one's long term success.

I already left links to a couple of my sites in another comment. I will also suggest panning for gold as a potential path forward. You can set your own hours. The only human interaction required is finding a buyer, and I know an online site if he is interested. It can pay decently.

I don't quite know what else to say. It has been a long day and I am tired. If he is interested, I would rather discuss it (panning for gold) further privately.

You are doing a good thing. Unfortunately, most people you speak with will not see what you see: That he doesn't need reform because his life was stolen from him. Most people just won't really get it. So, trying to find good answers will be challenging.

My hat is off to you.

You make a good point that we should not completely condemn and deride people who have moved on from making bad choices and have become positive individuals for others to be around.

However, I think it is fair: someone who has spent 11 years in prison and continues to endure punishment for a crime they did not commit does deserve special treatment. He deserves to be where he would be had he never been falsely accused in the first place. I don't think that is with an ex-con/ex-gang recovery organization, no matter how good it is.

I decide who deserves my respect, thank you very much.

So someone who has made mistakes in the past but is trying to turn their life around doesn't deserve your respect?

Honestly? If that's all I knew about this hypothetical person, then no, I would not feel they deserve my respect.

I feel like "trying to turn their life around" is code for doing the bare minimum to live in a civilized society. (Get a legal job, pay your taxes, take care of your kids, and don't break the law)

> "I feel like "trying to turn their life around" is code for doing the bare minimum to live in a civilized society. (Get a legal job, pay your taxes, take care of your kids, and don't break the law)"

For some people, that's a massive change compared to what they've experienced in the past. Those things may all seem easy to us, but imagine if you had the opposite habits and how difficult it could be to take the unfamiliar path towards civilised society.

Out of interest, do you feel the same about drug addicts and alcoholics who make an effort to break their addictions? Are they deserving of respect in your eyes?

While you're right that certain things may be quite difficult, just getting to zero or baseline is not enough for me to respect someone when I view their poor circumstance or difficulties as the direct consequence of their poor (and illegal) choices. I get to decide the way I feel about people, and breaking an addiction doesn't meet my bar. Similarly, I don't tell others how they should feel.

> " I get to decide the way I feel about people, and breaking an addiction doesn't meet my bar."

So what does meet your bar? What actions could a former criminal take to earn your respect?

> "Similarly, I don't tell others how they should feel."

Note that I've only asked you questions, I did not tell you how to feel.

As you can see from the website, it's not just for ex-gang members but also for previously incarcerated men and women looking for job training and a leg up.

Perhaps Ray could decide for himself once your GoFundMe funds run out.

You may want to consider contacting the innocence project: http://www.innocenceproject.org

Yes, I love their chips and salsa. Truly a feel good product.


I currently tutor a formerly homeless man whom I met through an Episcopal church.

They saw him sleeping outside the front door and took him in. They connected him with low income housing services who found him a subsidized apartment and gave him a job working in the cafeteria of their school.

I'd visit a few parishes and ask friends/family who are churchgoing for direction.

Best of luck and I hope Ray gets on his feet.

That's a great thought.

Do you know of any online Christian outlets or forums that might be open to promoting Ray's GoFundMe?

I think people like to help more directly. I'd talk with churches in the same state as Ray. Physical goods and places to be are as useful as money to a person in that situation, and people typically have a lot of extra "stuff" that they'd be happy to part with to help a person in need, especially if it was brought up in church. They'd probably raise some money directly for him too.

I know this is off topic to the direct question at hand but his case, assuming the talking points found on this page I found[1] are true, is scary. No evidence whatsoever, including fingernail DNA that excluded him? What the actual fuck.

>> Mr. Jennings voluntarily submitted to hours of police interviews and interrogations and a polygraph test without objection or legal representation.

>> The evidence presented against Jennings at trial... statements and snippets of statements taken from the hours of police interrogation of Jennings which prosecutors said pointed to his guilt

It bears reminding, voluntarily speaking to police is NEVER, EVER... EVER!!! the right thing to do. You try to help, but all it does is set you up as a scapegoat. I'll do some more searching to find the answer, but all I can think of now is what kind of judge or jury could have possibly convicted this... unless he accepted a plea.

>> prosecutors called forensic behavioral consultant, Mark Safarik, who testified that it was his opinion that the crime was a sexually motivated encounter which went bad; this, based on the fact that when found, O’Keefe’s tube top was partially pulled down.

A "partially pulled down" tube top means sexual assault?! It couldn't be that the attacker simply was grabbing at the victim?

>> because a security guard was on duty, it was highly unlikely that any other offender would commit such a crime

How does one know whether a particular area is patrolled by security? Does this forensic moron, and the judge listening to this testimony, really think this is relevant?

These kinds of horror stories come up again, and again, and again in the US. Just another reason I haven't crossed the border to that country in over a decade.

[1] http://justiceforray.webs.com/

A while back I made an easy-to-remember Bitly link for a YouTube video of a law school lecture featuring a law professor and his criminal investigator (police-side) friend that totally backs up your point.

Enjoy! https://bit.ly/dont_talk_to_police

Thanks I enjoyed watching that. I wonder how applicable it is in the UK. You have a right to remain silent, but I believe your silence may be used against you under certain circumstances.

Remaining silent can certainly make you appear as though you have something to hide, but at least you're not saying anything that can be used against you. By talking, everything you say is a potential trap, especially if unrelated statements get weaved together out of context. Even if you are telling nothing but the truth, once you've given the same story over and over again over a period of hours of interrogation, most people are bound to let fatigue and frustration result in misspeaking at least once. You say something differently about the situation once, and suddenly everything you've said must certainly be a web of lies, right?

Interrogators - at least in the US - are notorious for overstepping what any person would consider appropriate. Repeatedly hounding someone until they start to admit committing a crime just to get the interrogation to stop, is despicable.

If you are interested in learning about the case, I recommend reading the letter that my father and I sent to the District Attorney's office: http://www.ehrlichfirm.com/jennings/Ray-Jennings-Letter-to-C...

That is a superb document, Clint. Thank you for your efforts.

Can a plea conviction be appealed / overturned? I admit my law knowledge is from watching Law & Order. :-). But "Lawyer-up" is the take home from that show (and by that token kids - ask for a lawyer not your mum or dad. you don't need a cuddle you need legal help)

Yes, in California a judge can allow a plea to be withdrawn if it "serves the interests of justice." This is the same mechanism used to expunge someone's record after, e.g., completing probation. They are required to set aside guilty pleas if they learn that the party isn't guilty—even if the defendant doesn't ask them to.

It can if you can show you were coerced, but most likely not.

Where are you that it's better, and can you get me there?

Don't speak to police unless you can handle your business.

This is dangerous advice. Chances are you cannot "handle your business" to such an extent that you can out-maneuver professionals with years of training whose sole aim is to put you behind bars.

Don't talk to police.

I'm not qualified to say whether this is good advice from an individual's perspective, but from the point of view of a society that would like justice to be done this is just extraordinarily screwed up. How are the police going to solve crimes if nobody will talk to them?

They can start by regaining the trust of the public.

By being unable to solve anything at all?

I mean, victims gotta talk to the police right, otherwise there are no crime reports? What about witnesses? When do you stop being a witness and start being a suspect? Is that when you stop talking? Or do you let the theoretical rapist walk free because after all you don't talk to the cops?

It's a completely unsustainable position, and leads to a worse society in pretty much every measurable way.

So I'm supposed to take on the immense risk myself and urge others to do the same? All just for the sake of a nebulous "benefit to society" that the police themselves are not willing to take steps toward? No thank you.

What's the best way to social engineer in this situation. "I'm not talking to you" without agitating them? Just say, "wait until I get my lawyer and we'll talk?" What do you guys think?

if you choose to invoke the right to remain silent, don't say anything until you're in the interrogation room, then demand your lawyer, and go back to being silent until they let you call him, or he arrives.

I see your point, but I want to also social engineer the situation so the officers feel like I want to help them and I am on their side, while also giving no information.

this might be a misunderstanding on the purpose of the Police. If you are being interrogated, they are trying to put you in jail until enough reason is given to not. They are allowed to outright lie to make this happen, so long as you divulge something to them.

This is one of the inherent problems in the "right to remain silent". you are correct in identifying that silence (especially in contracts) is an acceptance in dishonor. Furthermore, by going silent, you are instead accepting a limited subset of rights, in lieu your inherent rights guaranteed by your constitution (in North America anyway), which includes waiving your rights guaranteed by the 4th amendment and 5th amendment.

by saying "yes" to the question "do you understand these rights and they have been read to you", you have given up your right to remain silent, which means you've now waived your original rights, as well as the new rights they read you.

Knowing your rights usually leads to a harder/harsher grilling by the police, as they attempt to test you on them. Not knowing your rights leads to an attempt to railroad you through the system.

The safest path has been "Duress" as implied by Uniform Commercial Code Article 1 Section 308. Inform the police in every encounter (i.e. every time they enter or leave the room) that you are acting under duress, and you intend to cooperate fully. Answer all their questions without hesitation, maybe adding a "please don't hurt me" to the end. If you're given anything to sign, your name now becomes "Without Prejudice" or "Under Duress", so sign it that way. Print that name underneath as well. Once released from police custody, you have 72 hours to inform them that your signature was given under duress, and that you're revoking those agreements/documents signed.

the fact that people are being discouraged to handle their affairs is alarming.

your right to remain silent will still be used against you. And most people are too ignorant to realize when they've given up that right (as soon as you open your mouth and speech comes out).

if you're truly incapable of learning how to handle your affairs, do not talk to police.

Clothing: Thrift stores. Specifically, if you go to the church thrift stores and you say "We are trying to help him get back on his feet" they will often give you a discount and/or some clothes for free.

Jobs: Side gigs on craigslist. Lawn care, concrete, helping people move...you can look on craigslist and find these. It's not perfect, but it's -some- cash flow until he can find someone willing to hire.

Transportation: There are enough funds to get an old car for probably around $1k or less just to start out. Can resell it later and get something better once he gets more stable. But it will provide transport to side gigs and worst case a roof over his head. I've had to sleep in my car more than a few times.

If he is in the LA area, he is not far from San Diego. You can get there by bus, inexpensively, by taking local (commuter) buses instead of the Greyhound. I spent over 3 years homeless down there. Here is my blog about resources in San Diego county: http://sandiegohomelesssurvivalguide.blogspot.com/

The North County is cheaper and has more open land for stealthily camping.

I also do freelance writing and one of my newest blogs covers that. It is linked from that blog specifically, but here is the direct link: http://writepay.blogspot.com/

That doesn't mean that what worked for me in specific will work for him in specific, but it is a place to start.

If he is a veteran, he may also be entitled to free medical care and access to other military services, though I don't know how his conviction impacts that. I believe felons cannot get food stamps, so there may be a lot of things he cannot access until after things are completely cleared up legally. In the mean time, he can go to soup kitchens and the like for a meal.

My homeless blog takes the position that an individual's agency is incredibly important. A lot of charity is done in a really harmful manner. I am not the only person to have that idea. I recently tripped across a book titled "Toxic Charity." So I try like hell to blog about what a person can access without having to sell their soul, lose their dignity, give up their agency and so on. That limits what is available, but I think it preserves things that really matter.

Best of luck.

It gives me a weird feeling that you're trying to profit and become rich off of homelessness. But, this is HN so... I guess its to be expected.

I started the blog solely to help keep track of information for myself. I abandoned it for several months when I first left downtown San Diego and went to the north county. I even posted a "Goodbye" post. Then, weirdly, even without updates or any promotion whatsoever, it was getting organic traffic. I discovered this because of the occasional few cents here and there showing up on my Adsense account from the site.

Since the major city and the county have the same name and I was still in the county, I decided to make it a countywide resource to the best of my ability.

It is shockingly hard for a homeless person to find the information they need online. I have had a college class on how to do online search and sometimes have difficulty finding things online so I can get an address and phone number even when I know for a fact they exist.

Most websites for homeless service providers are not intended to be client facing. They are intended to impress potential donors. They typically do a poor job of telling needy individuals what they need to know.

So, there is demand for the info. I assure you, I am not getting rich off of it. One of my Achilles heels is that I like being helpful. So, although this is, sadly, one of the most successful projects I have ever had in terms of traffic and being taken seriously as a valuable resource and making a difference in the world, it has put damn little money in my pocket.

Further, I find it galling that a homeless individual is being criticized for trying to monetize their expertise in the topic. Most of the time, I get this shitty attitude that admitting to being homeless online amounts to me trying to panhandle people. So, in other words, I am homeless, I am not allowed to merit an earned income. I am only allowed to hope for charity and ingratiate myself for crumbs. No matter how I get my money, it is inherently immoral.

And people wonder why my financial problems are proving to be so stubborn, as well as why I have such strong feelings that the wrongly convicted individual we are discussing should be allowed to pursue an income that doesn't involve making a spectacle of his misfortune.

But, this is HN so...I guess it's to be expected.

(And I say "sadly" it is one of my most successful projects in part because homelessness is on the rise nationwide. The general rise in homelessness is part of why there is demand for the info. In my case, "getting rich" would mean what? Getting off the street? How dare I aspire to such self indulgence and selfishness when there are poorer homeless people than I.)

I wonder if Dateline would have interest in updating his story, and if there might be any compensation for something like that. I'm not involved in TV production, but you would think if they had enough interest to report on his conviction (which happens every day) there would be an even better story regarding his release.

Dateline has asked me to sit down for an interview with Keith Morrison. I may do that, but there will be no compensation involved.

Your original question was "how I can help him get money for housing, food, and clothes?". Whether or not you speak to the media, and whether those appearances are paid, probably wouldn't impact your client's financial situation unless you intended to share it.

If Dateline is interested in speaking to you, one could be relatively sure that Dateline would be equally (if not more) interested in speaking with him.

I see your post now mentions that he might be reluctant to speak until his charges are formally dropped (I don't recall seeing that initially, so either I missed it or you edited it perhaps?). Scheduling an interview and having it go to air is likely to take time anyway, but I'd imagine that if he requested some fee to speak to Dateline that they'd oblige given the situation.

Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I'd like to think that a network that profited over the publicizing of a conviction would give at least some small compensation to have the convicted discuss his release and case.

You may do that? You absolutely should. You're promoting his cause. See if you can have space in the program to talk about his transition and the financial assistance campaign in particular.

There's a ton of media interest. I'm only going to appear on Dateline if I have some assurance that the new piece will be fairer than the original one that got my attention.

What did you find unfair about the original piece? I haven't seen it but I had assumed it would be relatively favorable if Dateline had chosen to publicize the case 15 years after the murder and 6 years after the conviction.

The Dateline piece came out right after Ray's conviction. I just happened to see it 5 years later.

It portrayed him as a craven killer who was brought to justice only through the Herculean efforts of police and prosecutors who wouldn't let the absence of any physical evidence stop them from getting a conviction.

Goddamn that's scary that this man's exoneration depended on a chance viewing of Dateline...Props to you...my initial reaction to this post (I hadn't seen your other appeals to HN) were that this sounded too good to be true, but even the stories and accounts about Mr. Jennings that were pro-status-quo were alarmingly flimsy.

I don't have faith that the justice system will naturally get things right, but I do have a general faith that the bureaucracy and motivations of the system would prevent such a conviction from ever happening in the current day...e.g. DA's not wanting to screw up their conviction rate by bringing such a weak case to trial. My faith is pretty shaken now...if this is the kind of case that can make its way to a murder conviction and rejection of review by the state Supreme Court, it most definitely leaves me unsettled about all the kinds of cases that don't receive media attention.

This frequently posted video ("Don't talk to police") now looks much more naive than cynical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

Sadly, this case has deeply shaken my confidence in the criminal-justice system.

"(T)his is a court of law and not a court of justice."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court)

In Holmes' defense, the job of a Supreme Court justice is to establish common law precedent for the future, not to get the right decision for the case at hand.

So, for instance, if an illegal search turns up clear evidence that a company is evading taxes, justice for the case at hand says that the company should be punished. But the principle of law says that precedent must be set that the police can't violate the 4th amendment.

This is not a hypothetical example. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silverthorne_Lumber_Co._v._Uni....

What's really sad is that it took this long and what's even sadder is that there are many people who feel that it is working just fine.

Congratulations on your achievement though, that was really good of you and your dad to do.

Well, people are often convicted based on circumstantial evidence. That's why there is a jury, to weigh the available evidence. Personally, I wouldn't give this guy any help based on what I've read, and certainly not without reading the entire record of each trial. Also, the prosecutor should have definitely sought a lower charge of manslaughter after the 2nd hung jury.


Edit: added the following

Yeah, down-voting doesn't invalidate my my feelings on the matter, and looking at the appelate court's decision to uphold the verdict [1] just affirms that I would need a whole lot more convincing this guy is innocent.

[1] http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20CACO%2020111219009/PEOPL...

Why don't you try reading the letter OP wrote which got this man released instead of shody reports of hearsay "evidence" from a 2-bit not-even-cop trying to impress the detectives on the case?!

Can you point out any inconsistencies or errors in the original letter reframing the case based on known facts that got him free?

Why not ask for compensation to a charity to helps people in this situation?

I think sticking with the GoFundMe campaign is probably the best way to go. But since it has stalled, it needs to be reinvigorated through some others means. You need to get the attention of someone in the media who will publish an article on the guy. Multiple articles from different publishers would be ideal. If a few medium to high profile companies put something out there you can definitely meet (and probably exceed) your goal. Think of the influx of donations that would pour in if you made the front page of CNN, MSN, BBC, etc.

If you have social media accounts, post the links to your GoFundMe page and the personal website you have listed above out on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Better yet, include them as responses/messages directly to accounts held my media corporations because someone at that company is reading them to monitor their PR. And I bet most of the employees subscribe/follow that account as well - and they might see it and pick it up. Example - "Hey @MSN, this story needs to be spread. Please help this man get his life back. http://...."

I also just made a modest donation in support of this cause.

Thank you for your advice and your donation!

I am doing my best right now to reinvigorate the GoFundMe campaign. I'm grateful to everyone who shares it with others!

Because of the man's relatively common name, it was hard initially to find articles in the mainstream press about his exoneration (at least compared to his 2009 conviction). Here is a recent LA Times article that covers the boilerplate: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-palmdale-student...

It's probably best to search for "Raymond Lee Jennings."

The media seem to prefer that formulation of his name, because it sounds creepier.

This is the best news article: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-20160624-jenning...

And this is a great blog post: http://mimesislaw.com/fault-lines/prosecutors-ask-court-to-r...

The media is obligated to use full names as it differentiates people with common names.

You can see this at work when, for whatever reason, killer Joel Rifkin was only referred to by his first and last name for a long time in the tabloid press. Lots of people share that name and it was unfair to them to be associated with a killer. There was actually a Seinfeld episode making fun of this as it became a problem in NY which has a lots of Rifkins. Now he's typically referred to as Joel David Rifkin.

I had a friend named Adam Moss...at his wedding, his father-in-law related the shock he had in learning, via an Internet search, that the man his daughter had fallen in love with was recently apprehended as a mass murderer: http://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/adam-moss-who-killed-...

Police reports and other legal/municipal documents usually contain middle names, so that's why we often know famous criminals (e.g. Lee Harvey Oswald) by their full names.

Convicted persons are usually referred to by full name for specificity, to distinguish them from others who might have similar names.

How about a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a self-published book? You two can be co-authors that way people get to read his experiences as well as your investigation.

It is an election year. Perhaps you could introduce him to Clinton's campaign. They could hire him to do campaign related work (so he has a paycheck) while she can use his story to make a case for reforms in the legal system.

I would definitely buy this book, and (Army vet here) a lot of my former platoon members probably would too. One of my former squad leaders is a cop now, and another platoon member is at the police academy. Anecdotally I can say that, since a lot of vets end up in the LE community, interest in this story would be there.

I've only just read about the case but from the current vantage point, it looks like a severe fuckup on the part of the district attorney. I know that suspects revealing non-public details of a homicide can lead to an investigation that uncovers more conclusive evidence...but to base an entire case around that, without any other evidence linking them to the crime? I'm looking forward to reading the post-mortem on how such a case gained enough momentum to drive the DA to prosecute on such flimsy evidence.

edit: by "severe" fuckup, I also mean, just plain incomprehensible. At least in other egregious cases, there's a mountain of quasi-science [1] or a coerced false confession [2]...if the drama that managed to propel this bumbling case this far forward doesn't result in at least a HBO miniseries a few years from now, I will be very surprised.

[1] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/09/07/trial-by-fire

[2] http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/507/c...

In Germany the reimbursement is be 25 Euro[1] (28 USD) per day. I hope it's more i the US and other countries.

[1] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haftentsch%C3%A4digung

In theory, California provides $124 a day in compensation to the wrongfully imprisoned.

In practice, the State makes it VERY hard to ever recover those funds. There are guys who were exonerated years ago who are still waiting to receive a single penny.

Can you expound a little on what makes if difficult to recover the funds? What hoops must one jump through that wouldn't be plainly evident in RLJ's particular situation?

Sure. There are two primary issues.

First, the standard for being compensated is higher than the one for being let out of prison. Ray is free right now because the state has admitted that it no longer has confidence in his conviction.

However, it has not affirmatively conceded his innocence. That may sound pedantic. It let him out of prison and admits he isn't the target of the ongoing investigation. But from a legal perspective, it makes all the difference in regards to whether he is actually entitled to compensation.

Second, even if the State agrees that someone is theoretically entitled to compensation, there are significant budgetary delays. State law requires public hearings before funds can be appropriated, so sometimes you have to wait months upon months for the funds to be allocated... much less actually delivered.

This is one area where Texas is far ahead of California.

Out of curiosity: do they tax these funds? I hope not.

I'd love to learn more about this.

That is low. A good formula would be to treat their stay as if it were forced employment. They should be pro rata'ed 3x the annual median household income annually (since it's a 24 hour a day commitment). And pay tax on it. It's still kind of unfair for a rich person but rich people don't usually get caged unfairly. Maybe some danger pay too if that's a factor.

That's not great, only $10k/yr. For 11 years of wrongful imprisonment, that's $112000.

In the US, there have been cases where the wrongfully imprisoned have received ~600k/yr: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/innocent-man-16-65-...

These people have gotten people out of prison, I'm guessing that they've run across your issue and probably have ideas or places to refer: https://www.themarshallproject.org/about

First of all you should take pride in what you have done already. You've gone way beyond what most of your fellow country men will ever do.

While I understand, you're doing the wrong thing by focusing on this single individual. Since this guy is someone you have gotten to know, you have an emotional tie that is making you blind to the cold hard truth.

This happens to someone everyday.

- Parents have a falling out with their adolescent children and kick them out - Runaway kids run out of money, and by running out I mean: zero zilch nada - Addicts just run out of money as well as in zero zilch nada - Explosive break up of couple where one gets locked out - Eviction by landlords or as a result of bankruptcy etc etc etc

Most have friend or family to help out, and you'll never heard about them. Those who don't are the one you see sleeping on the streets. Thats assuming that you're not one of those that just stay between our office, the mall, and the safe gated community in the suburbs where the hobos are nicly or of sight out of mind. This is what most people do...

You can do one of two things. a) Take the position that's you've helped one guy out of jail. If every body helped one person, everybody in need would be out of homelessness in a forth night. Quite frankly, your guy is just so much better of just living on the street than in jail, so if you take this position you've done your part for king and country. I will not fault you for taking this position.

b) Start working on something, anything, that goes towards a solution that take care of everybody.

I'm a bit astonished that you can't go to the court and argue that as there is no way he is not going to get some kind of compensation, the state can just as well right now front up something like $1000 - $10000 to help him get reestablished. If there is some crap about there is case law not too, then this is call to start working on abolishing the whole concept of common law and switch to a civil law system. (I know this means getting the legislative to replace the current body of case law with some more sensible civil code. A task for which the word "hard" falls short.)

I just take the position we need to work on the whole problem , and that doing this by individual you're effectively just doing a band aid. Remember the phrase "the road to hell is paved with good intentions?" You make actually be making it worse by doing it by individuals as it may hide the true scope and scale of the problem.

Are you seriously saying this lawyer is doing the wrong thing? Why don't you go and exercise your judgement what you think is right in your own life instead?

Shame seems to be a lost value.

He did the right thing in getting in getting this guy out of jail.

On quite frankly thats more than enough to feel proud.

His question is "what now?" from the point of view that the guy he helped is out on the street.

I get it, I'm just saying that at some point you need to start looking at the bigger picture.

And yes, I do always look at the bigger picture when I choose to contribute.

I'm a little pissy since looking beyond the inch in front of your nose seem to be a lost arts.

Yeah, if our system puts innocent people away they should reimburse them for that severe fuck up. Maybe focus on changing that law, for the big picture.

And changing the law was what I was hinting at

> A year ago, I saw a Dateline NBC episode about an Iraq-war vet, Sgt. Ray Jennings, who allegedly killed an 18-year-old girl in a parking lot. The evidence didn't persuade me, so my dad and I started our own investigation.

You're amazing!

I donate to The Innocence Project, because I think putting innocent people into jail is just about the worst thing you can do to someone short of rape/kill them.

Indeed, and then when you look a little deeper and realize that the goals of the "Justice" system are essentially to "prosecute and convict" as many people as possible and the people who prosecute are almost 100% protected from anything bad they do as long as they are chasing those goals

And then realize that even if it becomes obvious that someone is (or most likely is) innocent or has been pushed into a plea deal to avoid an even longer sentence for something they didn't do

You just want to puke

Somehow the ideals of justice got thrown out somewhere here in the US

Apologies if you already thought of the following:

Post it on Reddit and also see if CNN will pick up your story. I have seen CNN post stories involving GoFundMe campaigns related to good/human interest stories in the past and those campaigns got a good boost. Plus, the folks on Reddit also always love to support a good story.

If Mr. Jennings does decide to open up in the future, maybe even try to get an "IAmA wrongly convicted man" story published where Reddit can interview him? That would be an interesting raising awareness attempt.

With regards to Reddit, you might try reaching out to Alexis Ohanian via Twitter or other channels to see if he has any suggestions.

P.S. Go Claremont :) Used to live there.

Maybe premature to think about this, but once the full story can be told, this seems like the perfect candidate for Serial Season 3...I'm really fascinated to know what jurors, detectives, and prosecutors were thinking.

(Coincidentally, the accused murderer who was the focus of Serial's first season, has just been granted a new trial, according to an announcement just 5 minutes ago http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/us/serial-adnan-syed-new-t...)

I'm an Afghan combat veteran in Los Angeles who has recent first hand knowledge of how to navigate the homeless-to-housing pipeline through the West LA VA, along with a great resource list of other things: transitional housing, transport, getting into the VA system, psychiatric care, benefits claims, VSOs (veteran service organizations) and so on.

Also, if Ray wants to speak to a good counselor, a Vietnam combat vet and outstanding man, I can't speak any more highly than my own counselor. I credit with him with me still being around.

Happy to assist in any way whatsoever. My email is username at gmail.

Post in the appropriate "Hometown forum" on AR15.com. As he is a veteran, I'm confident that someone there will be able to help - I've watched the members of that site have come through in a big way innumerable times in the past.


This may not be the greatest idea, and may not even be realistic but are there not cash advances on a pending/future lawsuit? I imagine the terms are not friendly, but it may be more successful than a GoFundMe campaign if he becomes desperate enough.

Unfortunately, Ray's case has not advanced far enough to make litigation financing a practical option. Financing firms need significantly more assurance of a realistic payoff than they would be able to obtain at this juncture.

Do you have a link to anything more concrete about that?

Just my own experience submitting judgments to litigation funding firms while cases were pending on appeal.

You succeeded in getting a lawyer to take on this case(okay, he was your father, but still.) Now try doing the same with getting a top notch PR person with experience getting television exposure.

1) Reach out to top PR consultants

2) Explain this story to them in a paragraph

3) Tell them you need their help in helping get his story out

4) Big part of getting his story out would involve pushing his gofundme page.

I hope you do not take this suggestion too seriously. He didn't want to be convicted and he may not want the entire rest of his life to be dependent upon him telling his story and spilling his guts in public to pay the bills. It is one thing if he WANTS to tell his story. But maybe he just wants his damn life back. In which case, this could be just a way to add insult to injury.

I would try to give him options for getting his needs met that did not require him to make a spectacle of himself to eat. If he wants to be a crusader or if he finds it therapeutic to talk about it publicly for the rest of his life, that's fine. But maybe he just wants his life back and THAT'S IT. In which case, trying to go this route without asking him how he feels about it or offering him other alternatives is not great.

"trying to go this route without asking him" - who said anything about not asking him? Seems pretty obvious that this would be the implied first step.

I have spent 4.5 years homeless. Prior to that, I was an award winning student, and then a respected military wife and homeschooling mom. (Edit: Oh, yeah, I also worked for a Fortune 500 company for over 5 years.)

Being homeless has given me loads of firsthand experience with how cavalier people are about completely disregarding the human dignity and agency of individuals they view as charity cases. So, I felt compelled to speak up and say "Please, don't view this as necessarily a great idea. There is more at stake here than money. Please, don't sell this man out because of his current financially desperate straits. That can make it impossible for him to get the life he desires and it can be done to him without his permission."

And the degree to which people here are shouting me down suggests to me that, no, most folks here wouldn't ask. They think it's a great idea. I am a lone voice on the side of respecting his dignity, personal choice and right to privacy first and foremost. And I find it baffling that people can claim well "Obviously, we wouldn't do any such thing" while doing exactly that thing. I have always found that baffling. But here it is again.

Just my 2 cents, so please read with a grain of salt.

From your story, you appear to have a stronger connection to Ray's story then most folk on this site. Since you were in similar circumstances (without means), you have an understanding of how one can feel in that situation and your reaction is just, when viewed from that side.

On the other hand, people who read HN are entrepreneurial in spirit and instantly see it through their lense of "solving a problem". It is my opinion that most folk here have no problem doing what is necessary to get their story across or "sell themselves" to achieve a goal (within reason). Hence, to them, Ray's situation should be attacked with a similar POV as drumming support for a startup or idea.

I believe the misunderstanding comes from the way you are viewing Ray as a person and attempting to preserve his decency in the event he's not comfortable with some of the suggestions while others are viewing his situation as an issue to solve/conquer without similar experience. Both opinions are right but for different reasons.

Regardless, I'm glad that you had the strength to overcome your own hardships. Hopefully Ray has similar success.

Thank you for commenting.

My view is strongly shaped by the negative reactions I have gotten over the years on HN, where I have only sought to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur, but have largely failed in that endeavor. So I am very familiar firsthand with how much harm can be done to one's ability to support themselves when there is a lot of public attention given to them in a way that frames them as a victim, a charity case, and so on.

I have about six years of college. I was an award winning student. I am the top ranked woman on HN while homeless and, yet, I cannot get people here to take me seriously that the only damn thing I need in order to make my fucked up life actually work is arranging for an (adequate amount of) earned income that does not keep me ill.

In spite of the famous saying that There is no such thing as bad publicity, I have experienced firsthand that there absolutely is such a thing as bad publicity.

Entrepreneurs are promoting their work and accomplishments. It has a completely different impact on your life when what is publicized is how you have been a victim, how pathetic your life currently is and so on. That in no way convinces people to give you paid work, whether as an employee or a freelancer.

Why do you feel you are the lone voice on the side of respecting his dignity and personal choice? That is only true if a) he has the same priorities/perspective as you b) his priorities/perspectives are violated by the OP(there is no shed of evidence of this; plenty to the contrary.)

Also, his definition of dignity could be not being homeless or dependent on his kids. If that were true, it would be in contrast to your view on human dignity.

Given that MY view is that he should fundamentally have a say, there is no way that what he wants for himself in any way contradicts what I am saying here. You are putting words in my mouth based on prejudice. I have not suggested he should value being homeless. Nowhere have I suggested any such thing.

I suggested that he should be given options and not have publicity crammed down his throat as his only option. If he desires to go the publicity route, awesome! More power to him. But if he doesn't desire it and is given zero options, he may go with it because he has been in prison for 11 years and the world has changed and he has few connections out in the world and a fuckton of obstacles.

Well if someone try to shout you down, I'll shout you up! :-)

yes. to the op, did you find the line between what you want or think is reasonable to achieve vs. what the person wants? that's a great act of communication.

Depends. If he has a family who is now estranged, or trouble getting a job, a PR campaign may be beneficial.

It's one thing to get acquitted in court, another thing to get others to believe you are innocent.

I don't think you know what you are talking about.

If no one wants to hire a felon to do some kind of entry level job, how about a felon being followed around by the paparazzi (or otherwise very much in the public eye)? Does that sound better to an employer?

I seriously doubt it.

Because paparazzi and other journalist have such a long attention span concerning "human interest" stories about ordinary persons.

A former felon with tons of press about his innocence is psychologically much less risky of a hire than a former felon without a ton of positive press(about perseverance, forgiveness, positive attitude etc.)

A ton of positive press and publicity for the sake of making a buck are potentially at odds. Lurid stories tend to sell better than feel good ones.

If the goal is publicity to make a buck, that may well undermine him getting a normal job at all. It is entirely possible that (once you start down that path) the outcome will be that he has no real choice but to continue telling his lurid tale as the only means he has to put food on the table, like it or not.

I write this knowing how bad of an idea it is but it still is a gut reaction so I will say it. Find a way to move him to Oakland and get him to be on the YC Basic Income experiment. I bet the learning to YCR from this would be extremely high, given I feel like fixing the prison system will probably be on their agenda for future research.

It would pretty much ruin the experiment if they allowed volunteers.

I take back my terrible suggestion. His family is down there and there should be no reason he moves away from them.

I've read about halfway through it and I'm just appalled. They prosecuted Jennings for the sole reason that they had no idea how to find the actual killer. But someone had to pay, and Jennings was the least unlikely suspect that they actually knew how to find (though they had to wait for him to come home from serving in Iraq!).

This conviction is a black mark on the record of the great State of California. And it really shows the dangers of listening too closely to victims and their families, who are (understandably, in their pain) often much too quick to fixate on a suspect. Yes, they wanted justice for their daughter -- I get that. But true justice required finding the actual killer. Putting an innocent man in prison is not justice for anybody.

BTW I've chipped into the GoFundMe campaign.

I own a small business in OC (miltonsecurity) and I have a Vet program where I hire them for up to 6 months, pay for training courses (CCNA online at the office) and rotate them around to different groups (sales, support, engineering) If they get their CCNA we then advance them.

I would be willing to do this for him (its not a lot of money to start, but its something, and he can get some training while he waits for the DA)


Woah, thanks to all the HN posters who just started donating money!!! That's REALLY generous of you guys. I appreciate it, and so does Ray.

What'd he do in the military? He may be able to leverage those skills for immediate employment.

He was an infantryman. Kicked down doors in Iraq going room-to-room searching for insurgents.

Until the charges are formally dismissed, it's hard to imagine any employer will actually be willing to hire him. The DA's office is really making his life hard by refusing to just immediately stipulate that he's an innocent man.

I suspect you could probably convince smaller businesses to be ok on the background check, with disclosure. If I were hiring, I'd do it on his merits (Iraq vet makes up for the extra hassle with a background investigation, at least for me.)

(Also, fuck the DA. What is it with SoCal and horrible DAs?)


It's not really a surprise; no decent person would voluntarily sign up to send pot-smokers to prison.

Are there any job boards for businesses that would consider hiring felons (or innocent folks waiting for record to clear)?

I had no luck finding legit sites with a quick Google search, but maybe others are aware of something?

If nothing exists, that sounds like an interesting development opportunity.

Bakeries are actually one of the business types that hires a large number of felons. You're separated from the cash, kept in a kitchen away from customers, and it doesn't pay the best.

But when finding other employment is hard, it's a pretty good option if you can work on the necessary skills.

Could he re-enlist? He's not technically a felon if he's exonerated.

It doesn't look like he's been exonerated. He's been released from prison on his own recognizance while the state evaluates evidence. He's in a kind of limbo.

If he's formally exonerated, double jeopardy will prevent the state from ever trying him again, so the state has an incentive to keep him in that state.

Has he expressed what kind of work he would like to do if he could?

We're trying to figure that out. This whole thing has been pretty overwhelming.

Ray mostly just wants to spend time with his kids, whose lives he has been missing from for so long.


Brilliant. A man gets out of prison for crimes he didn't commit and you suggest he go and do something violent and illegal.

Jon Eldan, a former corporate attorney who works with exonerees, runs a project called After Innocence that may be able to help/provide some guidance with respect to healthcare, pro bono legal representation, and social services: http://www.after-innocence.org/

You may want to reach out to the Medill Justice Project at Northwestern University (http://www.medilljusticeproject.org/). What you and your dad did is what they do all the time, so they may have some resources that can help out.

I'm maybe a little optimistic but why not ask a big and rich university to give him a free education and shelter for 3/4 years ? It could be good for him and for the university image (It would be a better usage of university money than recruiting people bases on their athletics skills IMHO).

Talk to the St Vincent de Paul society [1]. It's part of the Catholic Church, but they are there to serve everyone, regardless of religious beliefs, and won't pass judgement or bang on about their own religious beliefs. Helping people in Ray's situation is what they do every day, with material assistance, counseling or any other need. Even if Ray doesn't want direct assistance, he may get some useful advice by chatting to them. No need to walk into a church. Just walk into any of their shops and ask to talk to someone, or Ray can call them and they will discretely come to him.

[1] https://www.svdpusa.org/Assistance-Services

Reach out to faculty at UCLA (and other unis/colleges in the area) who work on issues of incarceration. See for example the list of attendees/organizers at this conference: https://law.ucla.edu/centers/social-policy/critical-race-stu.... They often have slush funds to hire research assistants, guest speakers, etc.

One place to look is resources for veterans. California has some great ones.[1] See about filing for any disabilities that may be related to time in service and if there is any way to get treatment and help through the VA. Also, look for other non-profit veteran resources beyond just the state and federal.


Hollywood, maybe? Netflix made a series on Steven Avery that created an enormous amount of attention to that case. Him being in the army, coming back to his country, being arrested for a activity that he didn't do, spending 11 years behind the bars and finally being released as an innocent man is a great story to tell. Since hollywood is running out of stories these days that could be an option. Hell, maybe Netflix would want to tie this to the next season of "Making a murderer"?

It might be a naive question, do you know if Steven Avery or his family came away from those TV shows with some money?

Don't know those details but his lawyers obviously worked with Netflix on creation of the series. It would be hard to imagine that there was no compensation involved.

Also on a different note, investing a little money/time on creating an emotional video and posting it on social networks might help on advertising the GoFundMe campaign thus generating more funds.

There are many organizations around the country that supply free business attire to people in need. In New York City, where I'm based, main one is "Dress for Success" and in Baltimore there is "Success In Style". I'm sure there is something similar in Clint's area. There might be a directory these organizations online OR just call up either of the ones I mentioned, I bet they could connect you to a place that would help.

Before I moved away recently, I had dinner pretty regularly with the guys at Dismas House Nashville (dismas.org), which provides transitional housing for former offenders. They do a great job helping people get back on their feet with housing, jobs, etc. I don't know if they can help directly, but if Ray has roots in North Carolina perhaps the staff there (I've worked with Davey and Scott) know people in the southeast region who could help.

For some local reentry links in the area you can use 211 San Diego:


Also, I can put you in contact with an individual in the LA area that may have some contacts as well (he served 25+ years in federal prison and is works to help people who have been released. He is in LA). My email is in my profile.

I was thinking of starting a website a while ago and even bought the domain, then released it, called www.helpahomelessperson.com. The goal behind it is/was to just list a homeless person and their needs, a person who is more well off would have to post their listing most likely and they would take pictures, video interviews and tell their story for them.

Then you would have people that wanted to help (visitors) and would browse around the site and find a story of someone who struck a chord with them and they could donate anonymously or publicly in terms of anything they wanted.

The key to the site is for someone to be an amabassador for the homeless person and really get that persons story out there and up on the site. The 'internet' would do the rest.

Also caution would need to be taken to not force someone to accept a person's donation, because some people might expect something in return or just be bad news, like a company who just wants publicity.

Anyways, the idea is still valid, I just haven't had the time to pursue it yet.

This happens all the time I am sure. Would be a great Show HN.

If you don't know what church the Mormon Church will help whomever.


In addition to what others have covered, connect him with a pro bono counselor to help him smooth out the inevitable ups and downs as his new life unfolds, and also to help coordinate other medical care. Also, help him get signed up for base health insurance under Obamacare. Finally, find him a pro bono accountant, if you can, to help him discover and correct any tax issues that may have come up while he was in prison. It would suck for him to go from freedom right back into the court system due to some easily corrected tax issue.

I read this post earlier and then just read this City Journal article where the founder of the company America Works describes his history with the war on poverty and welfare to work programs. The focus is to get people entry level jobs and he apparently has a good track record of doing it.

Good luck!


Have you tried contacting a social worker in their locality?

[Off topic] I am surprised that the DA reopened the case, particularly with an actual jury verdict under their belt. What incentive do you think the DA had to reopen the case? Were they just afraid to lose on appeal? Speaking of appeal, how far up in the court system did the appeal go? And was the original prosecutor still at the DA's office?

District attorneys are supposed to work for justice, not to win cases. If there is compelling evidence that a guilty verdict is incorrect, then re-opening the case is the right thing to do.

> The most obvious answer is litigation. And in a year or two, Ray will probably receive some compensation from the State. Unfortunately, there's no way to access those funds in time to cover his immediate expenses.

Make sure this money gets managed properly. You don't want him to spend this money in just a few months.

"The 12 jurors convicted Ray, then went to a candlelight vigil with the victim's parents."

Words fail me.

This is fantastic! It's a shame to lose eleven years of your life, but it's inspiring that a citizen was willing to put in the effort to clear his name.

Outside of the immediate help, it'd be great for Dateline to do a follow up story documenting your efforts.

You might try getting in touch with a local Quaker Meeting. Quakers tend to care a lot about social justice (many have backgrounds in social work) and often support the types of organizations that help folks find things like housing, food, and clothes.

From the sounds of it the man is former military and has been mistreated by the justice system. I presume his "record" will soon be clean.

We should find this man a job inside the criminal justice system. Would he consider working in a police department?

From the various articles, he was in the process of becoming a US Marshal when these events unfolded.

A lot of colleges and churches will lend people suit jackets and or leather shoes for job interviews. That really helps people, just make sure they feel comfortable and warm/cool enough and don't smell bad for job interview.

I'm amazed both at the injustice of this ruling and at the nobility and skillfullness of you actions which rescued Mr. Jennings from decades of imprisonment. Well done sirs! Sadly I can't help with you original question.

Basic simple cheap outdoor/indoor clothing that is suitable for job interviews. See if you can find it at goodwill. Merino sweater, patagonia jacket or old wool suit, glasses, toothbrush, good backpack, from thrift store.

I tried to contribute and I get this message:

Campaign Not Ready There's an issue with this Campaign Organizer's account. Our team has contacted them with the solution! Please ask them to sign in to GoFundMe and check their account

Man, that's insane. Does anyone have links to articles about the prosecution? I want to see how this was sold to the public so I can look out for "warning signs" that show up in other cases.

Go to reddit, there'll be people willing to help. Start with an AmA

Very hard to understand how he was convicted in the first place:


I assume you will be going into criminal defense law once you pass the bar? Seems like it would be a waste for you to do anything else.

Actually no. I hope this will be the only criminal case I'm ever involved in.

I'm about to spend a year as a Visiting Researcher at the Moscow Institute of International Relations, where I'll be writing my dissertation on nuclear game theory and international law.

I read the articles a bit, but I didn't find any information on who the real killer was. Are there any leads?

Yes, but I can't talk about them because it's part of an active investigation.

Also, was there one piece of evidence that really proved he couldn't have done it? I read a bunch of it, and it sounds like you can't prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt, but that he still might have done it (meaning, there just isn't much to go on).

1. There was no evidence of Ray's guilt. Zero. Nada. Every single accusation is refuted point-by-point in our letter to the DA's office, which I invite you to read.

2. There was physical evidence that directly exonerated Ray, including the the negative results of the gunshot residue test on his uniform, and the absence of pseudo-stipling on his pants.

3. There was overwhelming circumstantial evidence pointing to Ray's innocence. For example, the prosecution could never explain why he would have brought an unregistered 9mm firearm to work in the first place. Nor could they explain why, after committing the murder, he would have stayed at the scene and called the police.

4. There is significant evidence pointing to the guilt of a different individual, which will be revealed once the current active investigation is finished.

Your comment might be read to imply that he shouldn't be exonerated unless proven innocent, but giving the benefit of the doubt I expect you're just wondering whether the evidence does in fact prove innocence, or whether it was simply shown not to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (both of which should result in exoneration). I'm curious myself.

I know and agree he should be exonerated if the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard can't be reached. I was just curious if there was some evidence that showed that he was factually innocent.

Are you by chance a cop?

Basic good looking comfortable outdoor/indoor clothing from thrift stores suitable for job interviews.

Try Reddit.

There must be subreddits on rehabilitation or something.

What did he study in prison?

Clint (or @dang if it's too late for Clint to edit the OP):

Can you please update the OP to include this:


Put it on its own line like that, near the top.

You have many up-votes (probably thousands of readers), but only a few donations. This might be because the URL is easy to miss.

A lot of people skim large posts.

This was a very good suggestion! :)

Ask Peter Thiel to fund his litigation against the state and to put up his living expenses until he wins.

If Peter helped this man to get on his feet and find justice, that would be a very noble act. I'm personally willing to donate this exonerated man a computer and teach him how to code user interfaces remotely if he wants. If I could afford to do more, I would. OP Please e-mail me at eddie@trycontractit.com

That's very kind of you, Eddie! I'll be in touch.

Ray actually just got a laptop, and I'm teaching him the basics of computing. It's amazing how much things have changed in 11 years!

Sounds great. Anybody want to give Peter a heads up? :)

"one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms"

If that doesn't work, maybe Thiel has an extra pair of bootstraps to loan the young man.

I don't understand why there's such unanimous words of support for someone who directly contributed to the half million deaths in the Iraq war. I know it's unrelated to his case, but perhaps his prison sentence and current predicament can be seen as karmic retribution. I know that's not how justice works, but I don't think we'd see such enthusiastic support for a serial killer who had trouble supporting himself after getting released.

Maybe you will experience some "karmic retribution" for rationalizing an innocent man's wrongful imprisonment and equating Ray with a "serial killer."

Ray enlisted in the Army National Guard in the 90s when he was 17. Do you think that was morally reprehensible? If not, when did he lose your respect and sympathy?

He followed orders to deploy to Iraq once the United States had already invaded the country and deposed its government. The missions he carried out were intended to find bombmakers who were indiscriminately slaughtering civilians and soldiers with IEDs.

He never took the life of a single Iraqi. His main priority was ensuring that the young men under his command came back alive to their families in the United States. Was that not a task that justified his presence and his best efforts?

Individual soldiers are not in a position to judge the merits of foreign military interventions. They do not have access to the intelligence that political leaders rely on in order to make those decisions. A military can only function when soldiers fulfill their responsibility to carry out all lawful orders.

The responsibility for holding our political leaders accountable for improper military interventions falls on the PEOPLE of the United States, not the soldiers who have taken an oath to serve their commander in chief.

Equating an average American soldier serving in Iraq with a Nazi war criminal is not only disgusting but counterproductive. It erases the moral culpability of the latter for willfully carrying out genocide.

The Iraq war was a horrifying mistake. But our leaders' misjudgment doesn't entitle you to slander the names of the men and women who risked (and gave) their lives in that conflict.

The way society is presently arranged, military personnel are absolved of (a great deal of) their moral agency. They have surrendered it to a higher authority, to the state. You can see it experientially in the Milgram experiment. It's incredible more people don't find this troubling, it has me at a loss for words.

It seems to be that way. Weren't the Nuremberg trials supposed to have established the idea the soldiers, or at least officers passing orders along can be guilty even if they're following orders? I suppose those were for more clear cut war crimes and the Iraq soldiers were mostly quite removed from the actual killing they triggered.

I don't think most people mind killing that much. It's only murder that makes [most of] us uncomfortable. And given that no society can afford great compensation for every soldier, extreme reverence is all we've got.

And in regards to other states it's pretty much a Prisoner's Dilemma.


Personal attacks are not allowed on Hacker News. Between this and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12014468, you've crossed the line badly, twice in one thread, so we're banning this account.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12013800 and marked it off-topic.

Did he say he was? He said the army gave him valuable training and experience, not that he agrees with everything the country's leadership has chosen to do with it.

Don't feed the troll!


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12010937 and marked it off-topic.

Meaning if he ran cat5 cables for the Army he can run cat5 cables for anyone else.

Unfortunately I can't imagine many private companies are in need to of the skills one learns in the infantry.

I was a sergeant in the infantry and went to Iraq as well. There is no better preparation for managing a team to solve a problem under intense pressure. I ran my own development business for many years and intend to do so again. The US Army Infantry is responsible for who I am today. I am confident the Army gave Ray Jennings skills he will be able to use for the rest of his life.

He achieved the rank of sergeant - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that leading a team of four infantrymen into battle probably counts as "management".

It very much counts as management and many companies give preferential hiring to people with military experience. Even low ranking people have to qualify for a security clearance and pass a physical and there is a long list of things that can exclude you from fitness to serve your country.

If he had not been in prison for 11 years, his past military experience would absolutely open a great many doors for him. Successfully serving and being honorably discharged says a great many positive things about a person, something many businesses are very aware of and actively look for.

I wish this question could be directed at the people who put him in prison.

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