Gloria Killian is a California exoneree whose story is profiled in “Pruno, Ramen, and a Side of Hope: Stories of Surviving Wrongful Conviction.” She is an accomplished public speaker and writer.
“FREEDOM’S JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE”
On 8/8/2002 I was released from The California Institution for Women after being incarcerated for 17½ years on a sentence of 32 years to life for a crime I did not commit. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had reversed my wrongful conviction, and ordered my release from prison. It was the happiest day of my life, but little did I know that I was beginning another surrealistic journey into a world that was unknown to me.
I was released from prison with some legal documents, the clothes on my back, my underwear, and a serious case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had no money, no identification, no clothes, and no clear idea of how to proceed with my new life. It didn’t matter, I was so happy to be free, grateful to be alive, and determined to help the women I left behind.
My family died during my incarceration, so a friend picked me up and took me home to live with her in Pasadena, California. She had a beautiful house, a beautiful dog, and a beautiful bedroom for me with trees and flowers outside my window. I laid there in my lovely new home, wide awake, shaking, and jumping a foot at every little sound. I was suffering a major attack of PTSD.
My lawyers informed me that I had to be in Federal Court on Monday Morning at 10:00 AM in Sacramento, California but I had no money or credit cards to purchase a flight, no clothes to wear in court, and no legal identification with which to get on the plane. Once again, my friends came through for me and I got on the flight using my Prison I.D. card, which I found horribly embarrassing.
It took me six weeks to get my Driver’s license because I did not have a Parole Officer to complete the necessary paperwork. Of course, I didn’t have a Parole Officer I was released with no criminal conviction, but suddenly I needed one. As one of the early exonerees, I was a rare creature and people didn’t know much or understand about my situation. I finally was able to open a bank account by taking my Prison I.D. card and a handful of newspaper articles to the bank. Everything I tried to do was so difficult.
Fortunately, I received a lot of publicity when I was exonerated and people were wonderfully kind to me. Total strangers, sent clothes, jewelry, money, flowers and gifts, which was wonderful, but the people responsible for my wrongful conviction continued to harass me. In every interview they referred to me as a vicious criminal who was only claiming to be innocent. Every time I testified at public hearings, the Sacramento County D.A. issued a nasty press release or some other ugly comment. The abuse continued until a couple of years ago when a 9th Circuit Judge told them to leave me alone or else retry me which they cannot do. I am innocent!
I am now 71 years old and the friend who took me in from prison is 94; when she dies I could very well be homeless. I receive minimal Social Security because I wasn’t earning money during my incarceration. I still suffer from PTSD as well as medical problems arising directly from my wrongful incarceration. Yes, I am deeply grateful for my freedom and my life, but I am still being punished for a crime I didn’t commit.
Gloria Killian, Exoneree
Read Gloria Killian’s story profiled in Pruno, Ramen, and a Side of Hope: Stories of Surviving Wrongful Conviction
Available on Amazon, ©2015 Courtney B. Lance and Nikki D. Pope © 2016 Post Hill Press