The man, Richard Midkiff, was 19 when he was sentenced to 38 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. After serving 23 of them, he was released in June of last year. He works full-time and then some, starting his days at 5am. He just got engaged last month. Now the state wants to put him back in prison for 15 more.
To be sure, he committed a serious crime. In 1996, he was the getaway driver when his 17-year-old accomplice entered the home of a man they went to rob because they thought he had drugs.
His accomplice shot the man, and here is what Mr. Midkiff has said about it: “This doesn’t take away either of our guilt, which I have been trying to reckon with ever since, but nowhere in the realm of possibility did I think he would shoot this person.”
No matter. Like the shooter, he was charged with first-degree murder, and he agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. The victim’s family wanted the shooter to get more time than him, so the judge sentenced him to 38 years and the shooter to 38 and a half.
In prison, by all accounts, Midkiff turned his life around. How much? The warden of the prison has called him, “the very embodiment of how we would all ideally want the justice system to transform people into productive, loving citizens.” Please understand: they do not say that about inmates, generally.
In 2018, his 17-year-old accomplice was released when the trial court agreed he had served enough time for a crime he committed as a minor.
Then Midkiff was released when the court agreed the accomplice was supposed to serve more time than him. The victim’s family did not oppose his release.
But the state appealed it, and two weeks ago, an appeals court ordered him back to prison for the remaining 15 years. Even that court, however, admitted that he had served his time in a “remarkably favorably way” and appeared to be a model of rehabilitation. He was given 15 days to challenge the decision.
Somebody has the power to do the right thing here. I hope someone does.