The Other Side of the Fence: David Robinson reflects on his first year of freedom

Updated: May. 14, 2019 at 10:27 PM CDT
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HAYTI, MO (KFVS) -From life without parole to freedom.

One year ago today, May 14, David Robinson walked out of a Missouri prison with the murder charge against him dismissed.

((Source: KFVS))

The Sikeston man spent nearly 18 years locked up for a crime he did not commit.

He's had a whirlwind of a year. Some of it good, some of it bad. He’s been forced to juggle a weird kind of celebrity along with his own emotions.

I recently sat down with David and his wife Pat to find out how both their lives have changed, now that he's on the other side of the fence.

“I have never been out this long since I was 12-years-old. 1979. 40 years. I’ve never been out a year," he said.

Since walking out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center May 14, 2018, Robinson’s packed years of life experiences into just 12 months.

“I’ve been in so many places, I can’t name them. I’ve met so many people I can’t remember their names," said Robinson.

Robinson married his longtime love, Pat Jackson. He’s traveled with family, watched his daughter get married. He reconnected with his father after 40 long years.

“Yes, we do have a relationship now. Did it bother some people? Yeah," he said. "But, I want to be happy because it’s something I wanted for years. And I finally got it.”

But the man who always professed his innocence quickly realized, not everyone sees him that way.

“Everybody ain’t happy to see me or are happy for me," he said.

((Source: KFVS))

And there’s no playbook for the newly exonerated. No system in place to help him get back on his feet. He still hasn’t been able to find work.

“It’s real frustration because my wife, she’s working like two-three jobs and is gone all the time," he said.

“People think just because he gets out and life goes on, everything is just easy," said Pat Robinson. “But you know it’s just not easy. At all.”

Pat Robinson says she’s learning to put herself in his shoes.

“So, if he decided he wanted to get up and go outside at two or three in the morning, that’s something I had to accept”, she said.

And then there’s the lawsuit Robinson filed against the City of Sikeston. It seeks damages, but not in a specific dollar amount.

“Yes people might, they might think I’m...I might be a gold mine to some people, I don’t know”, Robinson says of the suit.

“You’re going to always have those opportunists,” Pat Robinson adds. “And that’s what I call them. Opportunists."

I asked Robinson how he handles them.

“I didn’t see your name on my visitor’s list," he said. "I didn’t see your name on a money order when I was in jail. I don’t see it now.”

On his attorneys’ advice, Robinson doesn’t live in Sikeston. When he’s there to visit, he says he’s constantly looking over his shoulder.

“It’s hard for me to see the people who lied on me, falsely accused me of murder. If I see them, I can’t help but wonder when are they going to try and make a move on me again? Or, will I be the next black man found dead in Sikeston?” he said.

But, Robinson’s also quick to add this.

“And not all cops are bad cops. I stand by that. I don’t care who don’t like it or what," he said.

Robinson’s newfound celebrity is about to spread outside the Heartland. A documentary on his case will air on Amazon later this month.

“I feel like when this thing here takes off with this documentary on a larger scale, much larger scale, there’s going to be more newfound friends and newfound enemies," he said.

“You’re going to always have those people that’s going to always in the back of their mind feel like he was a murderer who got off”, Pat Robinson said.

“What happened to me did something to me to make me want to be that force on the positive side," Robinson said.

And that's what he’s trying to do. He spends much of his time volunteering or at church. He's also connected with The Jaws of Justice Radio group, which is focused on economic, political and criminal injustice.

But, there's still that nagging concern all this good could be taken away.

“My greatest fear would probably she tells me it would probably be somebody close to me that probably would try to set me up or make me look bad," he said.

Blessed. Cautious. Frustrated. Better, not bitter.

All words David Robinson uses to describe his feelings over the last 12 months.

“You know, like I tell my wife I just want to move on with my life. Or what’s left of it because, I mean, I just want to be at peace.”

David Robinson is looking to the future.

He says he'd like to work as a paralegal or attorney's assistant.

After nearly 18 years of learning every aspect of his own case, he feels he’s already got a head start on the kind of training he’ll need.

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