MB: When you were in prison, did you ever feel hatred toward the American legal system?
It does upset you. What makes me feel the worst is thinking about how much it took to get something done right that was done wrong. And I think that a lot of people don’t understand that convictions sometimes happen quickly — mine, for example, you know, nine days — and to turn this whole thing around took 21 years. And it took a lot of people. So, you know, I think a better system should be in place to look at cases like mine.
You’re not going to move forward in a system where men who’ve committed crimes — you know, who rape women, who’ve hurt children — move through. They get out. And that’s, you know, heart-wrenching. I’m not saying that they don’t deserve a second chance if they’ve done their time. But to sit there as an innocent man and know a guy next to you has raped a woman or a child and see him go through in a short amount of time while you’re sitting there innocent for years and years … and then to see a small (but some) percentage of those guys come back. And you’re still there! And they might leave again!
You know, many people came up to me during this time when the few articles came out [about Baran’s case] and said, “We know you are innocent; we believe in you.” I’ve had therapists say the same thing: ‘you don’t have the signs of pedophilia.’ You know, not talking to anybody. Being alone; not being social. And I’ve had people come up at work, guards, as well as everybody else. And I think that was what was so powerful about that. Because, you know, my character and the way I was, which was just being me — I wasn’t trying to impress them.
CT: You've touched on this a couple of times: how did you keep going, spiritually?
I come from a family with strong women. All the women in my family worked, they all had families. With my mom, it was okay to cry. You didn’t get that “Oh, don’t cry.” You know, like a lot of fathers do to their sons. I got that it was okay to cry; talk about it. So, I think that, in coming out so young, and being discriminated against, and picked on — I think that all those things together combined for me.
The women in my family — I always admired them. You know, my grandmother, who was sick with cancer, but yet took my cousin Christopher in; raised him since he was a baby. Or my Aunt Cecilia, who had cancer. My mother, who worked two jobs and kept us all going, who wouldn’t buy herself anything so we would have clothes so we wouldn’t get picked on. I think that was the difference. And I think that that strength came with some of my experiences coming out young, being in junior high school, and having people say things to me. But when I did realize that I was different and that that differentness was “gay” — I, because of the family I came from and from my mother’s support, I said, “Well, you know what? I’m gay. This is the way it is.” So I just told my ma first, and then I didn’t hide it after that. If somebody asked me, I told them. Even in junior high.