- Doug Tjapkes
Maurice Henry Carter March 29, 1944 – October 25, 2004
Some things were never the same after that memorable October 25, 16 years ago. Some things never changed. What changed the most was my life! My two careers had centered on two of my favorite things: radio and music. My 29 years as a radio broadcaster, and 21 years as a church organ salesman were just exquisite. But that all changed in the mid-1990s when I met an indigent black man from Gary, Indiana, sitting in the Michigan prison system and claiming wrongful conviction. No big deal, right? All prisoners say they’re innocent, right? Well, the old news reporter in me smelled a rat, and I wasn’t wrong. This was an innocent man who had been caged in the hoosegow since the 1970s for something he didn’t do. Thus began a 9-year effort to free a wrongly convicted prisoner the likes of which had never been seen in the State of Michigan. Sadly, Maurice Carter, who over time became my brother and a member of my family, was never exonerated. His release in July, 2004, was granted by Governor Granholm because he was dying of Hepatitis C. His freedom lasted only three months, to the day. The bad news first. -Prisoners are still being wrongly convicted. -Prisoners are still being denied adequate health care. -Tommie Lee, the thug who actually committed the crime, is still free, laughing and boasting how he shot “that white cop.” Now the good news. -When I met Maurice, he was a forgotten man, and had few friends. When he died, he was a celebrity, and surrounded by love. -His story, now being told in book form and a stage-play, has inspired and continues to inspire thousands. -The project we started at his behest is now a leading prisoner advocacy agency in the State of Michigan, responding to nearly 2,000 calls a month and touching the lives of prisoners daily! As I reflect on this today, in my own sunset years, I find the words, scribbled in a note to me by my dear friend and former pastor Keith Tanis, still relevant: It was an amazing year---Maurice getting outta jail, and then outta here altogether. Heaven is closer. Life is precious! Keep praising the Christ. Drink good wine. Laugh a lot. RIP, my brother Maurice. We’ll meet again.