Incarceration Nation

Innocence: Is It Enough?

By Charles “Joe” Gilyard

If you were to ask me that question 36 years ago, more than likely I would have answered, “Sure, why not? However, if you were to ask that same question today, I will definitely respond with a resounding “NO!” I’ve been pleading my innocence for over 36 years. I have had the proof of my innocence for 36 years, and yet I am imprisoned.

If I had a story to tell, I don’t think it would be unique or different from many others that you have read or heard about. Someone spending countless years in prison for crime(s) they are innocent of, and God forbid hearing or witnessing a person being murdered by the state and later found to be innocent of the crime he/she was put to death for. There are far too many situations like these, but if you’re not a “celebrity” or of wealth your situation is placed on the back pages of the newspapers, and spoken of softly on the TV and the radio if at all.

Prisoners like me, we get no airtime! Why, you ask? Because from day two, I became a number, not a person, not a human being, not someone who had rights, not someone innocent until proven guilty—just a number, AY-3679. I get no mail without the number. I get no meal without that number. I get no visits without the number. When I’m asked to identify myself, I must give that number, before I say my name, as a matter of fact after giving my number, my name doesn’t even register, after a lifetime (50 years) of training. I have become Inmate AY-3679.

People like you, who have never experienced this may say, “Don’t let your circumstances define who you were, nor what you have become.” But I ask? Who am I? At 57 years of age, I’ve spent 50 years of my life being a prisoner. My innocence was lost, or shall I say taken way long before l knew what it meant. I was given to the system by my mother when I was just seven years old, sent to a “child’s prison” called Southern Homes for Boys in Philadelphia, and that’s when my “training” began as just a number. So tell me again, who am I? My appeal to you is not about the child that was given to the system, but about the young man still an adolescent who was taken away by the system and sentenced to life imprisonment for crime(s) that he never committed. It’s about a 57 year old man who wants a chance to live life outside of prison walls. I am not requesting a second chance, because I never had a chance to begin with.

November 18, 1982, I was walking down the street with a friend. An undercover police pulls up, and says there is a warrant for my arrest. At that point I had no idea why there was a warrant out for me. I was handcuffed, taken to 8th and Race Street—better known as “Homicide Division.” Once there, Detective Frank Ansel, screaming and yelling that I was a, “Psycho Son of Bitch,” and “You Kill babies and Old Men,” accosted me! I was beyond shocked at these accusations, but never the less, I adamantly denied killing anyone. I was then told that I was being “charged” with a murder and robbery of an elderly man, Mr. David Johnson (85 years old). Truth is, I had absolutely no idea what was going on because I’ve never killed anyone, I was told that the victim lived in Richard Allen Homes with which I was familiar, because I had lived there for a few months with Mona Moore, the mother of our daughter, Shonda. The last time I was there was on November 3, 1982. On that date Mona and I had a terrible fight (physical,) so I started thinking, “Why would fighting with Mona have me at the Homicide Division? I know I did not kill her.” I was then informed that on November 4, 1982, Mona called the police (actually the detectives that were investigating the crime) and said, “I have some additional information concerning the murder of David Johnson. Joe and my brother Derrick robbed and killed that old man.”

Because of that second statement by Mona, there was a warrant taken out for my arrest and I was charged with the crimes.

On February 14th or 15th of 1984, I was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, and criminal conspiracy. The evidence used against me at the trial was (1) Mona’s testimony, which is “Joe told me that him (Joe) and my brother (Derrick) robbed some guy and that Derrick killed the man.” (2) Detective Frank Ansel took the stand and said that I told him that Derrick and I robbed this man and that Derrick killed him. Actually, Detective Ansel didn’t really testify, he read the jury a statement/confession that he said he got from me. When Detective Ansel was questioned about this statement/confession, his response was that “Joe never saw the statement/confession. Joe never signed the statement/confession, Joe never adopted the statement/confession, and that the statement /confession was not verbatim.” He then said that he wrote the statement/confession 12 hours after Joe was taken from the police station and moved to the detention center. That’s it! Based solely on the above evidence, I was given a life sentence.

As I mentioned at the start of this appeal, I’ve had proof of my innocence for 35 years. It’s true because from the very start, I told the police that “I was working at the time of this crime,” yet it did not become an “official alibi” until one year after my being imprisoned. Let’s start with that: The crime happened on October 4, 1982 between the hours of 9:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. in North Philadelphia. During those hours I was working in West Philadelphia. My employer and co-workers were willing to testify on my behalf (PROOF). Eight days after the crime (October 12, 1982) Mona was taken into custody by the investigating officers, and asked why her name was on the check of the victim (David Johnson.) Her response was “that her brother Derrick gave her the check and that it already had a signature on it, and that her brother probably had stolen it from somebody, and that he was alone when he gave her the check.” (Mona’s first statement.)

Four months after my arrest Derrick J. Moore was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland for unrelated charges. Mr. Moore immediately confessed to the murder and robbery of David Johnson. After being extradited back from Baltimore to Philadelphia, he makes another confession that it was him and his sister Mona who committed the crime against David Johnson, and that “Joe was not involved at all!” (PROOF)

Six months after my arrest, Mona Moore makes her third statement. In that statement she says, “I know that Joe had nothing to do with the crime I accused him of being involved, because I know that Joe was at work at the time the crime was committed, I lied on Joe because I was angry. I told my best friend, Jackie McDuffie, that I was going to lie on Joe before I did it. So on November 4, 1982 I called the cops and implicated Joe in the robbery and murder of David Johnson”

Six months after my arrest Derrick J. Moore writes a third confession to the District Attorney’s office, the Judge of the court, and the attorney that was representing him, and the attorney that was representing me. He stated again, “Joe Gilyard is innocent of the crimes he is being charged for, he was not involved, please call me to court so I can tell you this face-to-face. I, Derrick Moore, killed David Johnson, my sister Mona set him up to be robbed and it (the robbery) went wrong.”

All of these people, Assistant District Attorney Rodger King, Honorable Lisa Richett, Andrew Gay, who was representing Derrick, Richard Michaelson, who was representing me at the time, Frank Shannon who was a private investigator hired by my lawyer and took the third statement from Mona, and finally Jackie McDuffie were all witnesses to my innocence, including Derrick Moore himself, (PROOF) Yes! I have all the sworn affidavits, and all the statements made by these people as PROOF. No! None of this was ever used at my trial, my alibi was never presented as such and none of the witnesses were ever called to testify.

So I ask again, is innocence enough? You tell me!

Write to Joe:

Smart Communications/PA DOC

Charles “Joe” Gilyard #AY-3679

SCI Rockview

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733