The best way to describe my feelings after attending the parole hearing of gang leader and rapist Joseph Evans is - stunned.
I had no idea what to expect concerning the procedures and protocols of a parole hearing and I certainly was not adequately prepared for what I was about to experience.
As the victim on record for the worst case of sexual assault in Detroit history, I considered it my duty to remind the parole board of the extreme violence that was perpetrated against me during the night of February 12, 1976.
The details of my ordeal are documented in the Canadian bestselling book “The Queen’s Daughter” www.queensdaughter.com
The hearing was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel representing the State of Michigan, and Michael Eagen; Chairperson of the Michigan Parole Board.
Arriving at the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility a little late, the hearing was already in progress with prisoner Evans making his statement. His back was toward me the entire time as he was sitting at a table opposite the men that were conducting the hearing. Evans was taking responsibility for the crimes he committed, expressed his remorse and apologized to the court. I continued to feel sick to my stomach as I had felt for the previous week leading up to this day.
After his statement was completed, Joseph Evans was submitted to a serious of grueling questions from the panel that lasted more than an hour. Most of the questions pertained to his state of mind when committing the crimes. Why did he do what he did? What was the motivation? I could understand that the strategies behind the questions were designed to determine whether there was a possibility of a repeat of violence outside of prison, if parole was granted. They were looking for the trigger that would ignite criminal behavior if he were released.
During a break I explained to Mr. Rothermel that I had forgiven Evans and his co-defendants many years ago and that I did not harbor any anger toward the men. He seemed surprised and probably grateful that my testimony would not be overly emotional, and certainly not rage driven or hysterical.
During my testimony, I reminded the listeners of the extreme violence that occurred and that prisoner Evans was not a gang member; he was the gang leader. I questioned his motivation for letting me go; was it out of compassion or mercy? Or, was he asserting his power one last time? All of the other men wanted me dead because I could identify them. I wanted to die and had begged Evans to kill me. His response – “You die when I say you die”
Not for one instant during the twelve hours I was held captive, did I believe I would live. I honestly welcomed death. A part of my soul actually did die that night; and it would change my life forever.
Joseph Evans was seated five feet away and facing me during my testimony. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and his wrists and ankles were in chains.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office was represented and their opposition to parole was made clear for the record.
Evan’s sister, mother, cousin, friend and an advocate for prisoners testified in favor of parole. Evans was allowed one final statement before the hearing ended during which he apologized again for what he had done. He cried asking for forgiveness. I cried too. It was extremely emotional and confusing. Were his tears part of a con or were they genuine? Why didn’t he cry during my testimony or turn and direct the apology to me personally? If I were in his shoes, that is what I would have done.
Mr. Rothermel concluded the hearing by summarizing everyone’s testimony and declaring that the Attorney General’s office, although they did not actually have a vote in the actual process, would strongly oppose the parole of Joseph Evans.
We will hear the verdict in approximately two months time. A panel of ten board members will review the transcripts of the hearing, and cast their vote. Whether Evans is set free or whether he remains in prison, has no affect on me. I did my duty and fulfilled my responsibility as an advocate for victims of sexual assault.
An unexpected gift from this traumatizing, reliving of a nightmare did manage to surface however: closure. I truly feel free for the first time since that horrible night back in 1976. I am free and thinking of future possibilities!
To be continued in next week’s blog: I am Free.