One Inmate’s Louisiana Story

I have a rather unique story that takes many twists, but it truly doesn’t take an engineer to figure this case out.

On January 21, 1986, I was arrested in a small town named Pearlington, Mississippi and accused of committing the following crimes: 2 counts of aggravated rape, 2 counts of armed robbery, 1 count of crimes against nature, 1 count of assault and battery, and 1 count of auto theft. All these crimes added up to two life sentences and 300 plus years.

I flatly refused to plead guilty to any of these charges even after the police department in Slidell, Louisiana beat a so-called “confession” out of me. The DA saw that I pled “Not guilty” to all charges all the way to my trial date.

About 1 hour prior to trial, the DA sent my mother into the parish jail claiming the judge was going to give me life and that if I took 40 years, they would drop all other charges except the rape. I told my mother that I didn’t do any of it, and I would rather take life than 40 years. I was 17 years old at the time, and me and my mother were ignorant to the game that was being played. After much tears and pleading by my mother, I agreed to take a plea of 40 years for forcible rape.

In 1991, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals vacated my 40 year sentence and remanded it back to District Court for an evidentiary hearing. I appeared before the court on September 21, 2001 with a public defender. Once again I was denied by the court. But, during this hearing, a lot of facts came out that are pretty amazing.

1. At the time my first trial was supposed to take place, the DA didn’t have any of the arresting officers ready to go to trial. He stated that one was no longer with the department, and the other had gone to work for Customs.

2. Supposedly a knife was used in the commission of the crime. The Louisiana State Police crime lab listed a gun and bullets in the forensic report.

3. A sex crime kit used in the processing of this case. According to the forensic scientist, all exhibits were free of seminal stains. Hairs were processed that were not a match to mine.

When the DA was questioned during the hearing as to all the discrepancies, all he could say was at that time they were having a problem with the machine that was used to process sex crime kits. He had no answers for the other discrepancies.

That is just a summary of the foolishness that caused me to spend 20 years 9 months and 9 days in prison.
Upon my release, my case takes yet another twist. I am told by my parole agent that I have to go to sex offender classes and pay $50.00 a month per class for two classes a month. I had to send out flyers of my status with a three mile radius of my residence. I also had to give the police department photos of my vehicle AND my wife’s vehicle and have “SEX OFFENDER” placed on my driver’s license in bright orange letters.

Even though all of these aspects are current laws in Louisiana, there is one major flaw. They don’t apply to me because I copped out to the charge and one cannot subtract or add to an agreed upon contract, to wit, A Guilty Plea or Plea Bargain. However, I am being forced to abide by these guidelines or risk going back to prison. Then in January of 2008, I was forced to sign a contract agreeing to register for life as a sex offender or get arrested on the spot even after I carefully explained to the sheriff’s department that the law only applied to child predators. They still made me sign it.

There is yet another twist to my case. On October 16, 2008, my parole was revoked and I was sent back to prison for having a letter opener in my vehicle. According to the Louisiana Parole Board, a letter opener is a dangerous weapon. On the other hand, the Louisiana Criminal Code of procedures states: Dangerous Weapons include any gas, liquid, or other instrument which in the manner in which it is used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm. With that said, how does a letter opener lying on the floorboard of my vehicle amount to a dangerous weapon. At that rate, the screwdrivers I had in my trunk could have been construed to be dangerous weapons.

I am back in prison on a technical violation serving 9 years for a letter opener. I stayed out of prison 16 months. Not once did I ever miss a sex offender class. I never missed a single payment, and I never missed a visit to my parole officer. I kept a job and never got into a single incident prior to this. Where is the justice in this foolishness?

Louisiana incarcerates more people than any other state in the US. People all across the nation know this, but when is someone going to step up and say enough is enough? It won’t ever be a person in the South to do this because the people of the South have their minds twisted and their head turned backwards when it comes to the justice system. Most lawmakers don’t even understand what they pass into law until they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Citizens of the South rarely pay any attention to the laws passed in Louisiana until it hits home when their brother, sister, mother, etc get penalized by the state. Then they want to get concerned.

The justice system in Louisiana needs reform period. People have long known this. Right now in this state, inmates are doing 85% of their sentence. That law took effect in 1999. Right now as a result of this brilliant idea by lawmakers, every single parish and DOC facility is filled to capacity. That’s totally sad. At least 15 to 20% of those people are parole and probation violators. Why lock a man like me up to become a tax payer’s burden when I could be out in society helping to raise the economy up in this state instead of bringing it down?

Have the citizens of Louisiana stopped to think about all of the parolees and probationers that were violated and sent back to prison for trying to make sure their loved ones were safe during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita? Some of these guys called Louisiana to let their probation officers know where they were, and as soon as they came back to Louisiana, they were violated. On October 16, 2008, 36 people went before the Louisiana State Parole Board at Hunts Correctional Center. All 36 people were revoked. What does that say about Louisiana?

Stephen Sams
Currently located at Elayn Hunt Correctional Center