Wrongly Imprisoned Man Seeks Reforms


By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 7:42 a.m. ET

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It's been seven years since Kevin Green stood in a California courtroom and wept as a judge apologized for mistakes that put him behind bars for 16 years.

The judge said he hoped the second half of Green's life could somehow make up for the time lost in prison before DNA tests proved he didn't kill his unborn child and bludgeon his wife nearly to death.

Years later, Green is well on the road back.

These days, he tells all who will listen how law enforcers need more training. He says Missouri and other states with capital punishment should stop executing to eliminate any possibility of condemning innocent people. He says DNA tests should be more available.

``I bring my personal experience to the issues,'' Green, a 44-year-old grandfather, said Wednesday night from his Jefferson City home. ``I try to get across the need to recognize what needs to be changed, accept the possibility of changing it and just doing it.''

Green gives speeches to law classes and conventions, pleading with would-be police and prosecutors to focus more on facts than keeping score of convictions. He was invited to speak Thursday to Saint Louis University's Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice -- a no-brainer for university criminology professor Chuck Terry.

``This guy has a compelling story,'' said Terry, who until 1990 served about 12 years in Oregon and California prisons for drug-related crimes.

Terry has no quibble with Green's insistence that ``somebody out there needs to hear what I have to say.'' Both men think Green earned the right to say it.

Back in 1976, Green joined the Marines straight out of high school and earned a rare merit promotion by Sept. 20, 1979, when his life went haywire.

Green, then a Marine corporal living in California, said he went out for a hamburger and returned to find his pregnant wife unconscious from a beating that triggered premature labor and the stillbirth of a full-term girl fetus.

After a monthlong coma, Dianna Green remembered her husband as the culprit. Kevin Green believes an inadequately trained, perhaps well-intentioned investigator planted suspicions in his wife's head.

In 1980, Green was convicted of second-degree murder after his wife testified he severely beat her because she refused sex. He was given a 15-year to life sentence and by 1984 was at the brink of suicide.

``I said, `God, I can't do this anymore,''' he recalled. ``It dawned on me that I needed to get on with my life.''

He studied computers and got a college degree. He was denied parole at least four times, often because he wouldn't admit guilt.

``My sister used to say, `If all they want you to say is you did it, go ahead,''' Green said. ``I never really considered that a possibility.''

By the mid-1990s, while Green pined away in prison, Orange County, Calif., investigators updating a database of DNA ``fingerprints'' found evidence allegedly linking convicted rapist Gerald Parker to unsolved murders by a suspect authorities dubbed the ``Bedroom Basher.''

When confronted, Parker confessed -- including to the attack on Green's ex-wife. Before long, Green was freed.

In the years since, he has hopped from job to job, doing everything from calling bingo games for the elderly in Salt Lake City to earning $7 an hour working at a Wal-Mart.

All the while, he said, ``I've come to understand that you cannot live in the past. You have to get on with your life and accept the things you can change.''


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