Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
BY LINDA GIANG
“ Seven women and five men all broke down in the court room, the whole jury started crying, saying it’s too late, I hit the floor and started crying, ‘it wasn’t me, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it’”, said Dewey Bozella. That was the day his battle with the American justice system began.
For an hour, Bozella shared his inspiring story of his journey and struggles with nearly 100 people in the Roy Irving Theater on Monday. Dewey Bozella was a boxer from Brooklyn who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he says he did not commit. He was released in October 2009, since then, he’s been sharing his inspiring story.
Bozella described his troublesome childhood after seeing his father beat his mother to death. The years following were rough; he went from foster home to foster home. He started hanging around a crowd that introduced him to bad habits. His life took another tragic turn when his brother was murdered in a fight. In an effort to get away, Bozella moved to Poughkeepsie, NY. After four months, he was arrested for the murder of a 92-year-old woman. He spent 28 days in jail before being released due to lack of evidence.
Bozella placed the past behind him and got this life together. Nearly six years later, his case was reopened. Three witnesses testified against him, despite sufficient fingerprint and DNA evidence, he was sentenced to 20 years to life.
“I’m 23 just turned 24, I’m getting my life together, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to, I’m staying out of trouble and I get arrested for a murder I didn’t even commit, I’m mad, I’m angry, I’m frustrated, how do I deal with this? And I carried that with me,” he said.
His anger and hatred provoked him to get involve with the wrong crowd and activities in jail. “I didn’t care, life didn’t mean anything to me, if you killed me, thank you!”
This dark mentality continued until one day a veteran inmate named Shareef approached him. “He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself” said Bozella. Shareef told Bozella that the troublemaker in front of him isn’t who Bozella was inside. Bozella went back to his cell and had an epiphany. He realized that if he didn’t care about himself, no one would.
“If I were to die right now, no one would even know, I became exactly what they wanted be to be; a savage,” Bozella recalled.
At that moment, he was a changed man. He began to train his body during the day and took classes at night. His hard work and determination earned him his GED, bachelors and master’s degree and a lightweight boxing champion title. Bozella even met his wife while incarcerated and married her a year later. She strengthened his perseverance.
At parole meetings, Bozella was offered several deals to admit to the murder. He had a chance to walk out of prison the same day he admitted at his parole hearings, but he refused. Each time he went to parole meetings, he had another 2 years added on to his sentence for not admitting to the crime. He had three meetings while in prison, which equals to 6 extra years. Bozella realized that unless he got additional help, he would die in prison. That was when he began writing letters, to the Innocence Project, an organization that helps wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, and news programs like 60 Minutes to help clear his name. After numerous failed attempts, Bozella started to lose hope.
Just as the light at the end of the tunnel started to dim, he got a call from the Innocence Project. Unfortunately, all the evidence in his case was destroyed. There was nothing they could do. Bozella’s last hope rested on the police officer that arrested him. It turned out that the officer kept all documents pertaining to Bozella’s case at home. Dewey Bozella was soon after released from prison. Shortly after his dismissal, Bozella began training teenagers at a boxing facility. Bozella had always dreamt of having a professional fight, and in 2011, his dreams came true. Bozella went against Larry Hopkins, and was victorious. Right before his match, Bozella received a phone call from a fan, President Barack Obama, congratulating him on his accomplishments and wished him luck. That was his first and last professional fight.
During the Q & A, Bozella explained the roots of his strength and courage throughout his battle. “I only had two option, live or die, I chose to live, I wanted to do something with my life because I haven’t done anything yet”.
When asked if he was still angry today, he replied, “Not at all, if I stay mad, I would only be torturing myself, and hurting those around me, I let it all go so now I can smile”.
Bozella clearly had fans in the student body. Several people asked to take pictures with him while others just wanted a few minutes of conversation. And if there was one thing he wanted the students to remember, it was this: “Never let fear determine who you are, and never let where you’ve been determine where you are going.”