First and foremost, thank you! For all of you who contribute your time, efforts, and resources toward truly securing a better world through compassion, acceptance, restoration, and equality (C.A.R.E.). As your efforts and empathy work in tandem with our earnest desire for redemption; together we facilitate healing. Within the fractured past of individuals like myself, healing has often seemed elusive. But, like a gaping wound, caused by traumatic injury, it often requires two sides to be stitched together in order to effectively heal. True healing and restoration requires the essential elements of community; coming together to address the root causes of destructive behavior and identifying it with patience, understanding, forgiveness, and support. Together we can bring about healing one stitch at a time; stand, together, inside, trauma, cruelty, harm. It’s with this hope in mind that I share my story...
My name is Maurice Jennings
I was born April 17, 1979 to a 14 year old. My mother is a survivor of sexual assault, child abuse, neglect, and incest. As a result of the trauma my mother endured, she resorted to self-medicating to cope with the pressures of her young life. So, by the time I was capable of my first memory, my mother suffered from an intense addiction to crack cocaine.My first memory is of my mother being abused within one of her many abusive relationships. To this day, I am reminded of my mom being punched and then bitten on her left arm as I observed from the backseat of a car. I remember the pain I’ve felt inside as I sat helpless as a small child as my mother screamed. That memory replayed in my mind every time I would see that scar on my mom's arm. A scar that remains there till this day.
Scars have a way of reminding us of traumatic episodes in our life, as they are visual reminders of past injuries; but it’s the scars in our hearts, those inward scars that manifest themselves once triggered by impulsive and erratic behavior, that are harder to see. These scars require the most attention as they tend to fester due to lack of exposure. When untreated, these scars have the potential to infect significant portions of our lives and the lives of those closest to us. You see, watching my mom come home with both eyes swollen shut and black and blue gradually shattered my innocence. As I was hurt, watching the shame exude from her person, I became angry and bitter.
As a child, my mom was my only source of love, and her reserve was depleted. I would often do what I could to help out, by keeping my younger siblings quiet, and I would sweep the carpet (due to the lack of a vacuum). I wanted my mom to feel special, like a queen, even if the world didn't make her feel as such. Nevertheless, the addiction endured and as a result, we were often evicted from our home as the welfare money was used for cocaine. We are routinely homeless, living in shelters, motels, or other relatives homes. It was always temporary because me being the oldest of five children, I learned we quickly became a burden. Unfortunately, due to my mother's drug addiction, me and my siblings were often left deserted, in unsafe environments for days and even weeks at a time. It’s this abandonment, as a child, that I now understand to be the root cause of my insecurities growing up. But the abandonment also led to me being sexually abused.
While being left at my aunt's house, my older male cousin (who is now openly gay) started telling a story using my toes, which led him using my “pee-pee“ to tell the story. Also, when I was about nine years old, an older teenage girl took me to her father's garage. She laid me down and climbed on top of me. Those incidents caused an overwhelming sense of shame, anger, and insecurity. This caused a need for validation through acceptance. But, acceptance for so long was unattainable.
Racial discrimination and prejudice only exacerbated my feelings of low self-worth. Compounded by the poverty, due to unstable living conditions, it was hard as a child when you go to school and you’re made fun of because your clothes aren’t the nicest. Then, on your way home a car full of grown-men throw beer cans at you and call you the N-word.Then, only to go home hungry to find us having an extension cord running to the neighbors house because the power is off. These occurrences were regular part of my childhood. But nothing could have prepared me for the pain I would suffer later in life.
It was August 24, 2009 and my kid brother who was the youngest of us all, and more like a son to me, was just released from his first prison term. He was sent to prison as a result of being on probation for a minor marijuana possession and then being arrested again for protecting our mom from yet another abusive boyfriend. He witnessed our mom being beaten up and he attacked the man that was beating our mom. For that, he was sent back to prison. He served two years.
On his first day home the unthinkable happened. While preparing to leave from our sister's home, before I could start the car and leave, a San Bernardino police patrol car blocked my car and coached my vehicle. When I asked the officer why I was being blocked in, he immediately responded with vulgarity‘s to the effect of “mofo , don’t ask me no mother-f-in questions!“. At which point, I grabbed my phone and began recording the interaction. The phone was confiscated and placed in the officer's pocket. He then stated “oh you’re being a funny mother-f-er, do you want some of me?". I was then ordered out of the vehicle and was immediately tased. I was thrown to the ground, cuffed, and had a knee placed on the side of my face. As I was pinned to the ground, I was forced to watch as my brother was severely beaten and then shot. After he was shot, he was cuffed and drug near me as I witnessed his life expire. I was arrested and held as a John Doe for two days so my family had no idea if I was dead or alive. My kid brother's body was held in the morgue for 40+ days and we were denied access to view or confirm his death. The San Bernardino court coroner's office claimed that the coroner was, coincidentally, gone on vacation.
The reason the officer claimed he shot my brother was, he picked up the officers taser off the ground., allegedly. When the six officers were striking him with the batons, as one officer testified, she was trying to break my brother's bones. Another testified that she swung her baton with all her strength to break his arm but miss and struck him in the temple (the side of his head). One officer shot him and another tased him at the exact same moment. (A few years later another man was shot in the same area, again for allegedly grabbing an officer's taser.) This was the most painful experience I had ever experienced. But, it was also the lack of accountability and the depth of the systems that collaborated together to obscured the facts of my brother's murder that left me feeling beyond hopeless.
And these are the causative factors that contributed to my life crime.
I 'd endured racism, neglect, poverty, molestation, abandonment, and loss. Serious wounds which have never been addressed, just covered up with the Band-Aids of alcohol and acceptance or perceived acceptance.
I now know that I self-acceptance is essential to sustaining any healthy relationship, because self-love must proceed in any other facet of love. Because if you can’t love yourself it’s impossible to love anyone else. And, full disclosure, I am by no means attempting to justify or excuse my past criminal and selfish behavior. I am aware that my toxic trauma resulted in the senseless harm of others. For that, I am ashamed, remorseful, and diligently working towards making an amends. I accept full responsibility for my bad choices and actions. It’s the gravity of the pain caused by these actions that imparts a strong desire to be better. I have no control over the past, but I CAN control my decisions moving forward. I truly believe that by understanding how we made the mistakes of our past, it can guide us towards a successful future. I have come to a point in my life where I recognize the importance of first identifying the destructive patterns and practices in my life. Once I can honestly except my flaws only then can I begin the process of working towards transforming them.
I was given 250 years for a crime I didn’t commit. But again, I put myself in a position due to my unaddressed issues, to be wrongfully convicted. You see, due to my lack of self-esteem I would frequent massage parlors that function as brothels. Because I felt worthless as a black man, which I felt the world despised. I would build courage by overindulging in alcohol and silence the shame I experienced walking into such establishments. But the isolation caused by a lack of self-worth is lonely - and loneliness is a heavy burden which can breed desperation and uncharacteristic actions in order to gain acceptance. Because I didn’t feel attractive or desirable, nobody could tell me otherwise. The pressures of loneliness influenced my decisions to purchase an unethical form of companionship. This decision led to unsubstantiated charges of "attempted"sexual assault. I was originally accused of being some sort of “serial predator”. But once my DNA cleared me of any and all sexual assault investigations I was being charged with the “attempt “ to assault. Nevertheless, the damage was done. Due to social media posts and press releases to the news, my character was assassinated. It fractured relationship with friends family and my community. To this day if you Google my name, I’m characterized as some sort of cereal predator. And that’s due to the prosecutors office creating a false narrative in order to obtain a conviction.
I will always profess my innocence. I also don’t blame the victim in my case. I say victim because after the trial, investigators found that the prosecution gave her an ultimatum. 1. Because, she had several arrests for prostitution, if she didn’t testify, she would be arrested for obstruction and deported. Or 2. she could testify that I attempted to assault her and she would not be charged and given $10,000 for victims restitution. Furthermore, I had previous encounters with this person. She never called the authorities, that call came from a Pizza Hut. This person testified that she didn’t want to testify at the trial but the officers insisted. This was the prosecutors covering up the defaming of my character by paying someone to secure a conviction. Again, I recognize that my conduct an engaging in the immoral and shameful act of soliciting prostitution was terribly wrong. I was in dark places of low self-worth, shame, and depression. I by no means am attempting to excuse my actions, only explain circumstances surrounding my actions.
Due to my inability to hire effective representation I will most likely die in prison. 10 years into a sentence of 88 years to life for the alleged attempted assault has taken me through a wide range of emotions. Although I am innocent as charged, I’m guilty of exploiting the difficult circumstances of the person who felt her only option was to sell herself. And for that I am ashamed.
I’ve grown to turn that shame into passion as I now share with all who will listen about the importance of honoring and respecting women. I need to encourage, support and command the strength of the amazing women who contribute substantially to the furtherance of us as a human race. I am quick to call out music, ideas, and language that objectified women. I also educate others with the information I’ve acquired with transforming the perception of what it means to be a man. Responsibility, reliability, accountability, and integrity accompanied with discipline, wisdom, and humility are all characteristics that exemplify manhood. I’ve been alcohol free for the past 10 years of my incarceration. I am an active participant in the self-help groups like A.A., A.V.P. (alternatives to violence program). I’m also involved in a theological/college course called T.U.M.I. I am actually I am actively working towards a college degree as well.
These are the active steps I’m taking towards making amends I am proactive in my contribution towards positively impacting everyone I encounter and work towards creating a legacy that demonstrates just that.
Thank you for your time and hearing my story