OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — His murder conviction overturned, Keith Carnes met the people who helped free him from prison Friday.
They call themselves Miracle of Innocence, but organization leaders say in reality convincing courts someone behind bars may be innocent, is a lot of work. It starts with research and legal filings. But with so many requests from Missouri and Kansas inmates coming in, the process can take time.
“Volunteers write letters of hope just to let them know we haven’t forgotten about you,” Laura Guy, Miracle of Innocence Executive Director said.
For Keith Carnes it was 18 years and seven months before he walked out of a Missouri prison April 11. Carnes was sentenced to life in prison for the 2003 murder of 24-year-old Larry White.
Friday for the first time he put faces to what had just been names on paper of the people he thought might be the only ones who believed in him.
“It was good seeing them I’ve been waiting to see a few of them like Ruth she was one of my biggest writers,” Carnes said.
There were hugs, photos, and a few tears.
“We’re just happy after 19 years almost he’s free. That he’s able to just do something as simple as enjoy cake and punch and shake hands with some of these people that have been praying for him and supporting him all these years,” Darryl Burton, co-founder of the organization and himself an exoneree, said.
The celebration only so long. Because for this group there’s a lot of work ahead.
“It’s going to take everybody to do this work. It’s great Keith is out but there are more Keith Carnes in prison that shouldn’t be,” Burton said.
Miracle of Innocence says they raise about $350,000 for each case they help appeal.
That’s just the first part of their effort, the next is helping people who get out of prison reacclimate to everyday life.
“You come home and you’ve got to deal with trying to reacclimate to a society that you don’t know it’s like taking a person from US and just dropping them in Japan it’s a culture shock,” Burton said.
For Carnes the biggest challenge so far?
“Man that technology. I’m still trying to get the hang of everything,” Carnes said.
He’s already looking at classes to help him learn modern technology to help him get a job after he gets his drivers license.
In the meantime, Miracle of Innocence is helping with transportation as well as housing, and counseling.
“I’ve been through it, Lamonte’s been through it so he has the benefit of a resource for him to know that he’s not alone. We’re going to help him every step of the way,” Burton said.