Wrongful Convictions Follow-Up: Ronald, Randell, Kuba

An Innocent Man Paying a Heavy Price
"I spent 21 years in jail for a crime I did not commit. Those 21 years cost me everything," Ronald says. "I was beaten to a false confession for, like, 16, 17 hours. I figured the truth would come out when I got in front of this judge. And it didn't happen that way. When the judge handed down the death sentence for me, I really couldn't move. I was stuck. It's like the world became like a bubble, and I was looking at it from someplace else. And then to actually go on death row and see the sadness in people's lives and stuff, it's horrifying. At any minute, somebody's going to die. Emotionally, I had shut down. It's like your spirit goes up and down, and to get up in the same conditions, in the same cell, looking at the same wall, doing the same things, I'm up in hell. I learned to channel my anger and put it where it would help me the most, and that was to fight, to prove my innocence. I survived. Sometimes I wanted to give up. I didn't even want my sons having the thought that I was guilty. When I was told that I was going home, I hadn't cried in 19 years. That's all I did. I cried myself to sleep until they came and got me, and I actually walked out the door.

[AD]"It's like I'm still in a bubble right now. Things still are not real to me," Ronald says of his newfound freedom. "I wake up, and I just listen for a guard to come knock on my bars and tell me to wake up. I guess I'm just going through the phases right now of trying to believe this is really happening for me. Justice has served me poorly. It has served my mother, my father, my sons, my grandmother, my family poorly, because I was an innocent man sent not just to prison but to death row."

"I'm just speechless. I'm overwhelmed by this," Dr. Phil tells Ronald. "You've been out for six months. How old are you now?"

"I just made 44 today," he says.

"Happy birthday," Dr. Phil tells him. "So, you spent half of your life in prison."

"Correct," he says.

"And 11 of those years on death row. What do you say to yourself every day on death row, when you know you're innocent, and they're waiting to kill you?" Dr. Phil asks.

"It's not what you say to yourself; it's what you do to yourself. My thing was, I had to get over it. ‘All right, I'm here now,'" Ronald says. "So, I had two execution dates. I first got sentenced to death in 1990, and they gave me the second execution date in 1994, after my first appeal was denied. So, it comes down to you have to not feel that pity for yourself. If you're a fighter, you've got to fight."

[AD]"Twenty-two hours a day, you're in a cell by yourself. And now you're out. Is it hard to be around people?"


"I don't ride the buses. My father bought me a car just for that reason, because being around people is not good for me," Ronald says. "Somebody told me that I have poor telephone [etiquette]. I don't feel comfortable around a lot of people, like, conversation with people is very short. You know, I say what I have to say, and that's that."

Dr. Phil asks about Ronald's confession to the murders.

Being wrongfully convicted has a ripple effect on the families. When Ronald was convicted, he had a 3-year-old son and a son who wasn't born yet. Ronald Jr., 24, and Randell, 21, have only known their father for the past few months. Are they able to have relationship with this man or has this wrongful conviction stole that as well? Ronald Jr. joins the show via telephone and Randell joins Dr. Phil onstage.

Ronald says other than writing letters; he didn't have any contact with his sons. He met his youngest son for the first time when he got out of prison.

"How would you define your relationship now?" Dr. Phil asks Ronald's youngest, Randell.

"I'd describe it as not so much a father/son relationship, because I never missed a dad in my life because I had a stepdad, luckily, but I'd define the relationship as like being an older brother, a bigger brother," he says. "He can teach and hopefully he can get to a point in my life where I feel he is my dad too, and I'll have two dads. Some people don't even have one dad, and I'm lucky to have two. Just take it day by day and just roll with the punches. As long as he's cool, I'm cool."

Dr. Phil asks Ronald Jr., "You were 3 when your dad went away. How would you describe your relationship since he's been released?"

"I think my father and I have a good relationship, for the most part. I always knew my father from day one. And when I was old enough to understand what was going on, I always knew that he did nothing wrong," he says. "We always kept in contact with each other. He always knew where I was, and I always knew he was coming home. Anybody who knew me always knew that that's what I thought."

[AD]Randell explains that he calls his father often, to make sure he's OK and to build a relationship.

Ronald says he knows the man who stepped in as stepfather to his sons and supports their relationship with him. "In my opinion, he raised both my sons well," he says. "They both graduated from high school, college, working. [Randell's] trying to work in music. I don't have lazy kids. They are actually good dudes," he says.

Ronald wasn't allowed to further his education while on death row, so he's having trouble getting a job. All he wants to be is an active and contributing member of society, but so far, he's had no luck. "My thing is, I just want to work. Just flat out need a job to work," he tells Dr. Phil.

"What do you want to do?" Dr. Phil asks.

"There's nothing that I won't do," he says. "If I worked in the penitentiary baking cakes for two pennies a day, I think I can go out there and work at a job that's paying me $8 or $9 an hour."

Dr. Phil turns the camera. "Well, he lives in Chicago, and I'm on in Chicago, so Chicago, I'm talking to you. We need to find this man a job. He's going to put me down as a reference, so don't hold that against him," he says.

Ronald smiles.

Dr. Phil introduces the senior vice president of media operations for eLearners.com, Kuba Poraj-Kuczewski.

"I'm excited to be here on behalf of eLearners.com, an online resource for education," Kuba says. "At eLearners, we believe in giving people a second chance, so I'm here today to present you with a $7,000 scholarship package." The package is designed to help Ronald get his GED and then an associate's degree. "We also got a laptop to get your started," he adds.

Dr. Phil hands Ronald the computer. "You have to figure out how to work all of that, because this is a computerized world, and things have changed," he says.

[AD]In addition, Goodwill Industries wants to help Ronald find employment in his hometown, so they will be meeting with him to assist in finding a job he can do while pursuing his education.

"Thank you," Ronald says, shaking Dr. Phil's hand.