My name is Michael Reed Dorrough. I have been incarcerated for the past 31 years for a crime that i did not commit. And i am serving a sentence of life without possible parole.
In April 1985, i was arrested, along with two other people, and charged with the shooting death of Elbert (J.R.) Robinson, in the Nickerson Garden Housing Projects, in Los Angeles.
There was no physical evidence in my case. No guns. No bullets. No bloodstains/clothing. No fingerprints.
There were two witnesses for the prosecution that connected me to this shooting.
A woman named Linda Toliver, whom i had known for no more than a few weeks in my life, and who claimed that i was at her home in the Nickerson Garden Housing Projects, on, March 6th, 1985, and that i had admitted to her that i had committed this crime. (I was in San Diego visiting friends at the time and I have proof of this).
And, Thomas Vandiver. An alleged eye-witness who. claims to have witnessed the shooting.
Both Toliver and Vandiver admitted that they only agreed to cooperate with law enforcement because they had been arrested on narcotics charges two weeks after the shooting; they were afraid of going to prison for five years, which-is what the police told them that they would get if they did not cooperate; and they admitted that they would do anything to get out of the trouble that they were in.
The trial jury in my case convicted me or murder, but, they found that i did not personally use a firearm in the commission of the crime. This meant that the jury did notconsider me to have been the actual shooter. And, just as importantly, it meant that the jury had rejected Linda Toliver’s testimony that i admitted to her that i had committed this crime. As well as Thomas Vandiver’s testimony that he had witnessed the shooting. Or that he had witnessed me commit this crime.
Had the jury believed this, they would have certainly found that i had personally used a firearm in the commission of the crime. The jury would have found that i did shoot Elbert Robinson.
The jury finding that i did not shoot Elbert Robinson also ran contrary to the prosecutions only theory in this case. It was the prosecutions theory that i, and my alleged co-defendants were each armed with a different caliber weapon, and that each of us shot Elbert Robinson.
Although the jury did not find that i shot Elbert Robinson, i was sentenced to life without possible parole. My alleged co-defendants, who were found to personally used a firearm in the commission of the crime, were sentenced to 28 years to life. One of my alleged co-defendants was paroled last year, because he became an informant.
Governor Jerry Brown has now admitted that the determinate sentencing law that was implemented in 1977, was a mistake, due to the unfairness of the sentencing process after 1977. The same crime(s) committed prior to 1977 required a 7-year-to-life sentence.
This has to be because, in large part, these prisoners have in fact transformed themselves. They have reclaimed their humanity, and they are making sincere efforts, constantly, to contribute to helping others, particularly young people, to reclaim their humanity as well. With the belief being that this will enable those who have transformed themselves / who have repented, will learn to respect the humanity of people. Wherever they are. Whoever they might be. As we have.
Redemption and Rehabilitation are part of our democratic tradition. The death penalty, whether it is life without parole or lethal injection, is a form of hate.
And hate has stripped the nation of its humanity.
If we are to fulfill our democratic potential, we must commit ourselves to abolishing life without parole sentences. And all forms of hate.
It can have no place in a system that, in a democratic society, must be fair.
“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of resistance.” – Robert Kennedy
Michael R. Dorrough #D83611
P.O. Box 5248
Corcoran, CA 93212
Website by supporters of Michael