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March 1, 2024 12 mins

On Part 1 of a two part episode, Rickey Godfrey shares his amazing story of being jailed for 31 years for a crime he didn't commit.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Well, actually I spent thirty one years, so my first
day of sunshine, it was glorious.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
More than three decades behind bars for a crime he
didn't do, locking up the not guilty. On this episode
of Blackland and now as a brown person, you just
feel so invisible where we're from, brothers and sisters. I
welcome you to this joyful day and we celebrate freedom.

Speaker 3 (00:26):
Where we are. I know someone heard something and where
we're going.

Speaker 2 (00:32):
We the people means all the people.

Speaker 1 (00:34):
The Black Information That Work presents Blackland with your host
Vanessa Tyler.

Speaker 2 (00:51):
When the prison door slams shut and you're on the
inside behind bars, a cynic may say everybody behind bars
says they're in, but some really are making the time
they're serving the hardest time of all. Ricky Godfrey had
to spend thirty one years behind bars trying to convince
people he's innocent. Finally their doors are open, he's out.

First of all, how are you have you adjusted to
being on the outside?

Speaker 1 (01:22):
Well, mentally right now, I'm doing well. You know I'm
doing well. You know I'm still adjusting, you know, to
be here and to know, you know, what happened to
me and that type of injustice still looms over me.
You know, it's a it's a bit of a pill
to swaddles. I'm still kind of like, you know, trying
to adjust to that part of my life here. But

at the same time, I am happy to be free.
I'm happy to be here with my family, with my wife,
with my kids, with my grandchildren, with my mom, you know,
and some of those friends that you know, I've met
over the years.

Speaker 2 (01:58):
So you know, all those people you mentioned while you
were doing time, they were doing time too. These are people,
your children, grandchildren you mentioned. They had to grow up
without you.

Speaker 1 (02:09):
Absolutely, and that's the sad part about it, the sickening
part about it, you know, to steal me away from that,
to not be able to enjoy that, that growth and
things like that, and to have them endure, you know,
sort of what I ending, and that is to have
to deal with the prison situation, the system per se.

So yes, they absolutely did do that time with me,
and they had to be made to endure that, and
that is just the tragedy.

Speaker 2 (02:39):
You spent thirty years in the California prison. Tell me
about your first day of feeling the sunshine of freedom.

Speaker 1 (02:46):
Well, actually, I spent thirty one years. So my first
day of sunshine, it was glorious. You know, I had
the opportunity to go to a beach, you know, my
wife and I it just was I just really still

in the moment, you know, to breathe, you know, the
fresh air, you know that wasn't stale, you know, so
to speak, to put my feet in the sand, to
touch the water, and just to you know, enjoy the
atmosphe fere altogether.

Speaker 3 (03:27):
You know, it was an amazing feeling.

Speaker 2 (03:29):
When you were convicted. You were a kid eighteen. Prison
basically raised you. How was that?

Speaker 1 (03:35):
It was a struggle, you know, because I didn't conform,
and you know, sometimes I would get in trouble. You know,
some people go in there and they say that you know, well,
I'm innocent, so I'm gonna do everything right. No, mine
was a rebellious type of attitude because I didn't belong there.
So I wasn't going to listen to what you know,
I was told to do. Let me home to my

family and then I'll be you know what. I I
do the things that I'm supposed to do. But other
than that, no, But after a while, you know, I
realized that I had to really like adjust my thinking.

Speaker 3 (04:08):
I had to adjust my attitude. Was it easy?

Speaker 1 (04:11):
No, And it wasn't easy all the way to the
time I left out of that place.

Speaker 2 (04:16):
Did you do that? Did you adjust yourself at like
you said? And I know you said you had to
settle in you lost a little bit of the rebellion.

Speaker 1 (04:25):
I just as slightly, you know, I just as slightly
to the point where I wasn't catching you know, the
write ups. I didn't do anything violent or anything like that,
you know, to give myself in in you know, a
deeper situation, because I knew that if I did that
and once this conviction you know, was set aside and vacated,

that that thing would loom over me. So I didn't.
I didn't go that far. I did, you know, small
infractions and stuff like that. But after a while I
realized that it did me more harm than good because again,
you know, I was in their world, so they had
the key they had to control, so I had to
sort of conform to that, and you know, eventually that's

what that's what I did to settle. And I didn't
want to drag my family, you know, through that, to
not receive visits, to not you know, utilize.

Speaker 3 (05:16):
The telephone and things like that.

Speaker 1 (05:18):
So I gave in, you know, I gave in to that,
But it wasn't because I was I was guilty. It
still remained the fact that I was innocent, but for
the sake of my family and me just not want
to cause harm to myself.

Speaker 2 (05:31):
Some details about the case. You know, every parent tells
their kids choose your friends wisely, they can get you
in trouble. Yours did take us back to nineteen ninety.

Speaker 3 (05:43):
Two drug shit.

Speaker 1 (05:45):
I got caught up in that, not the uses of it,
but the selling of it. You know, I became infatuated with,
you know, the community who I would call our role models,
you know sort of speak, who committee crime and sold drugs,
who you know, looked at fancy dressed fanscy had fancy corus,
you know, jury and all that thing.

Speaker 3 (06:05):
So this is what I aspire to be.

Speaker 1 (06:09):
And do you know so on this particular day in
ninety two, me and the group of individuals riding around
in a court and we were selling drugs. We weren't
looking for any trouble or anything like that. We wasn't
set out to go find someone to do anything too.

Speaker 3 (06:27):
We just like I say, were just there to make money.

Speaker 1 (06:30):
So, as we're traveling, we encountered a van, which is
the victims van, and I'm gonna put a name to him.
The name is Harvey north Leet. And I didn't know
this person. I had never saw this person. I have
never had any encounter with this person. Apparently, the occupants

in the vehicle that I was traveling in knew to
this individual, so they flagged him down got out the
vehicle eventually, and as they got the vehicle, I sat
in the back seat on the right side passenger passenger
and in the back steat on the right side passenger,
and I was rolling some marijuana that we were smoking.
So as I'm rolling the marijuana, I here would appeared

to be a gun shot. Where I come from, growing
up the way that I grew up, we're taught that
when you hear gun shots or anything that's remotely similar
to that, you duck, you get out of dodge, protect yourself.

Speaker 3 (07:28):
And that's what I did. I dug down in the seat.

Speaker 1 (07:31):
As I dug down in the seat, momentary later, the
occupants of my vehicle jump jumped back in the vehicle
and we.

Speaker 3 (07:38):
Left the area. As we was leaving the area.

Speaker 1 (07:44):
One of the witnesses who recannied began to act the
person that was driving, did you do that for it?
At that moment, that's when I realized that he had
shot a gun and that he had shot some win.
I didn't see him shoot anyone. I didn't know that

he had shot anyone until this person began to ask him,
what did he do that for it? So I asked
to be dropped off at my cor which they did.
They dropped me off of my car prior to the
actual person saying, Hey, don't talk about this.

Speaker 3 (08:22):
You talk about this, it would be consequenceous.

Speaker 1 (08:25):
So I left my car, left away from that area
where my car was port went home.

Speaker 2 (08:31):
That was hardly the end of it, but the beginning
of thirty one years of Ricky Godfrey his life.

Speaker 1 (08:39):
Three days later, I was informed that the police was
looking for me to talk to me about a homicide
that had a curate. Once I spoke with them, they
arrested me and I never saw the streets again, and
that was the crime map in July thirteenth.

Speaker 3 (08:57):
I was arrested July sixteenth, and I never all the.

Speaker 1 (09:00):
Streets again until April to twenty first twenty twenty three.

Speaker 2 (09:04):
Did the criminal justice system fail you? Did you have
a good lawyer?

Speaker 1 (09:08):
The criminal justice system failed me one hundred percent. I
did not have a decent attorney. In fact, the attorney
that they gave me worked out of the country Kasa County.

Speaker 3 (09:21):
Public Defender's office.

Speaker 1 (09:23):
She had never fought a capital punishment case prior to
this case being handed over to it, so her experience
was she didn't have experience.

Speaker 2 (09:34):
So they offered a deal twenty five to life to Godfrey.
That was an offer he could refuse and did so.

Speaker 1 (09:41):
Once I didn't take the twenty five year deal to
life that was being presented to me by the District
Attorney's office, they decided to foul it as a capital
punishment case.

Speaker 2 (09:52):
Which means the jury that would find him guilty could
also put him to death.

Speaker 3 (09:57):
S understand that there is a verdict, you may frame
the jury.

Speaker 1 (10:03):

Speaker 2 (10:04):
In other words, you could have You could have been
dead right now had they been able to expedite the
death penalty phase.

Speaker 1 (10:10):
Yes, that's the painful part of it, like, you know,
and I should not think like I could not have
been here, you know.

Speaker 3 (10:16):
If those jury, which by the way, was.

Speaker 1 (10:20):
Eleven White men and one Filipino lady that just over
my life. Uh, if they had have decided that, you know,
I should get the death unity, I would not have
been here.

Speaker 3 (10:30):
Instead they getting kind.

Speaker 2 (10:31):
To say that you actually pulled the trigger or that
you were just there when the pig borger was pulled.

Speaker 1 (10:37):
Know, these individuals concocted a story and told the police
the authority that I committed this crime. And so that's
how I ended up, uh going to trial. But one
of the one of the witnesses came forward UH doing
trial and got understand and testified that the police hurst

him forced him to say that I committed this crime.
That's on record, that's in trial record. And they asked
him like who is the officer? And he told them
they told me if I didn't say that Ricky Gaffrey
committed this crime, that I would be choiced with it.
I'd never been in no situation like this before. So

I said they what I thought they wanted to hear,
and I blame him. Yes, So that's that's a record.

Speaker 3 (11:26):
That was the first.

Speaker 1 (11:27):
Recantation nineteen ninety two and three, and then later on
two thousand and six, and then again in twenty ten.
The second witness recanted instead that he was pressured by
the police.

Speaker 2 (11:43):
Godfrey SAIDs the person who could hold the key to
his freedom was threatened with jail himself. It looked like
his life would remain in a California prison. In Part two,
hear how Ricky Godfrey got out and how others are
also leaving prison behind a walk to freedom that took
him thirty one long, agonizing years. I'm Vanessa Tyler. Join

me next time on black Land
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