Just days ago, Corey Turner put another writ of habeas corpus in the mail. It’s his latest effort, another in a seemingly never-ending series of legal motions, to overturn his conviction for the 1995 murder of Richard Woods.
Turner has been relentless in his pursuit to clear his name. Over the 27 years he has been incarcerated, Turner has developed quite the legal mind, filing several habeas petitions independently and arguing his cases on his own behalf. The law, at least the practice of it, wasn’t something Turner had any experience in before he found himself facing what is essentially a life sentence.
Prior to his conviction, when he was just 23 years old, Turner did have run-ins with the law as a low-level drug dealer in Hartford, but those were the mistakes of a young man he says was “trying to take shortcuts”.
“I was living on the wrong side of the law,” Turner said. “I wasn’t an angel, but I sure wasn’t a murderer either.”
CII has previously reported on the circumstances of Turner’s trial and the suppression of key evidence by Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Joan Alexander, then a state’s attorney prosecuting the case. Alexander made insinuations to the jury about the contents of a recorded prison phone call of Turner speaking with his alibi witness and accused him of fabricating his alibi.
When Turner’s attorney moved to have the tape played for the jury so that they could hear the conversation for themselves and not have to rely on Alexander’s characterization of the phone call, Alexander objected. Her objection was sustained, and the jury never heard the recording.
However, the recording isn’t the only evidence of his innocence that the state suppressed, according to Turner. He says that on the night of the murder, he witnessed a canine track, when police use a dog to search for a suspect, being conducted by the Hartford Police. While he has been raising the issue of the canine track since his criminal trial, Turner has been unable to find any record that it happened.
He believes the police suppressed the canine track evidence because it didn’t support the state’s case against him and proved his innocence.
Though no record of a canine search could be obtained through FOI requests, false and inconsistent statements made by the canine handler present at the crime scene, former Hartford Police Sergeant Stephen O’Donnell, and the policies of the department at the time lends credibility to Turner’s claim.
Turner’s journey has brought him to the height of who he is today, a man dedicated to self-education and fighting for his liberty. He knows he’s not meant to be in prison, he’s meant to be on the outside with his sons. When Turner was incarcerated, he left behind two young boys, Corey Turner Jr., and Christopher Turner-Williams.
Turner recently reconnected with Christopher and over the last few years, the two have developed a relationship that has transcended the confines of Turner’s imprisonment. While the pair has been able to fill the voids in each other’s lives caused by Turner’s absence, Christopher has also taken on a role as an advocate for his father after studying his case and believing him to be an innocent man.
Turner’s relationship with his son, Christopher, hasn’t always been as strong as it is now. Christopher was just two years old when his father was arrested and charged with murder, and since then, Turner hasn’t seen the outside of prison. As a result of Turner’s incarceration, a chasm formed between them.
Beyond the physical barriers imposed by Turner’s incarceration, Christopher remained emotionally distant as well, stuck in a prison of his own. Although Turner tried to develop a relationship with his son the best he could, Christopher kept him at arm’s length, fearful that his father would not accept his sexuality.
“I’m not straight and I had a lot of fears about what my dad would think even though he was incarcerated, so that led me to keep a lot of distance,” Christopher said. “He would reach out to me, he would send me letters, he would have the family reach out to me, but I was young, I was naïve, I didn’t know how to deal with myself or the fear of the idea of being rejected by him for a very long time.”
Turner and Christopher’s situation is not uncommon. In a society that locks people up at a rate higher than anywhere else in the world, children are often referred to as the “hidden victims” of incarceration. The “tough on crime” policies enacted in the ‘80s and ‘90s not only led to skyrocketing prison populations but also an epidemic of children being stripped of their parents.
Researchers estimate that 2.7 million children in the U.S. have a parent who is incarcerated and more than 5 million children—7 percent of all U.S. children—have had a parent who was incarcerated at some point. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, of the children with parents incarcerated in state prisons, about 1 in 5 (19 percent) are four-years-old or younger.
The absence of a parent is not without consequences. There is ample evidence that the incarceration of a caregiver leads to negative outcomes for the children affected. Studies have shown that the children of incarcerated individuals are more likely to develop learning disabilities, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, and, due to the loss of income, are over 90 percent more likely to experience childhood homelessness.
Additionally, children of incarcerated parents have been found to be three times more likely to come into contact with the justice system than children without incarcerated parents.
For Christopher, the distance from his father proved to be detrimental. Growing up in the North End of Hartford in the early 2000s, Christopher noted a certain “toxic masculinity” that existed around him and being subjected to those environments made it difficult to accept himself and his sexuality.
“At a young age, I was very depressed, very sad, and had a lot of doubt about who I was and I very often questioned if I belonged here,” Christopher said. “Although I had a loving family, I felt like I could not share that part of myself with people at that point. I’ve accepted who I am now, but it was very difficult, getting to this point.”
Prior to 2020, the pair didn’t communicate consistently, rarely, in fact. In addition to the barrier imposed by the cost of prison phone calls, life just got in the way. However, through limited contact, Turner seemed to pick up on the intricacies of his son, which led to a conversation about his sexuality.
“He straight up asked me ‘are you into females?’,” Christopher said. “[When I told him no] you could tell he was very taken aback like, ‘Okay, I suspected it, but to hear it is something else’, but it wasn’t a visceral or horrible reaction. And he was like, ‘Okay, this is something I’m going to have to come to terms with’.”
The revelation was very difficult for Turner. Not only did he grow up in a time and in an environment where homosexuality wasn’t as accepted as it is today, but it also clashes with his religious beliefs.
“I’m a practicing Muslim, but before I became a Muslim, [homosexuality] was just something that was extremely taboo in my household, in my community,” Turner said. “It was rough. I told him where I stand on those things as far as my faith is concerned, but I’m his father, I love him, and that’s the foundation we stand on. I love my son unconditionally.”
After this exchange, they wouldn’t talk for a while. Turner thinks his son may have felt the rejection from his father that he had long been fearing, but Christopher denies that. He attributes the gap in communication to the circumstances of their lives at the time. Christopher was a young man, “rippin’ and running”, as he puts it, and living his life. Turner, on the other hand, was fighting to be free.
It wasn’t until 2020 that contact became routine and the father and son were able to forge an unbreakable bond through prison bars.
While Christopher lived his life on the outside, Corey Turner was working to ensure he could one day see him beyond the gates of the Cheshire Correctional Institution. About 30 miles west, Corey’s older brother, Charles, is housed at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. Charles was charged and convicted as an accessory to the murder of Richard Woods.
Twenty-eight years ago, while Woods and a few neighbors were standing in the front yard of a multi-family home on Homestead Ave. in Hartford, a masked gunman crept up from behind the building and began firing at Woods, hitting him three times, then fled. While he lay on the sidewalk bleeding to death, he allegedly said “Boku shot me”. Boku was Corey Turner’s street name at the time.
It was this dying proclamation, known as an “excited utterance” and an exception to the hearsay rule, that was the state’s “most compelling” piece of evidence against the younger Turner brother. However, despite there being several witnesses in close proximity to Woods, the only people who supposedly heard Woods speak those words were Kendrick Hampton and Jesse Keith.
Hampton, who was the state’s principal witness, was found to be “vague and inconsistent” by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny. Ultimately, Hampton gave an account that conflicted with other witness accounts and mischaracterized basic details of the case such as the time it happened, the timing of events leading up to the shooting and the clothes Charles Turner was wearing.
Keith, or rather, the person who testified under the assumed identity of Keith, was likely an imposter. According to the trial transcripts, another witness for the state, Darius Powell, said Keith was his brother-in-law and had recently died. After Powell testified to that, state’s attorney Joan Alexander called Keith as a witness.
Besides the credibility of the witnesses, another issue with Woods’ alleged excited utterance is the fact that the gunman wore a mask. Furthermore, multiple witnesses testified that Woods never turned around and faced his assailant.
Nevertheless, the jury elected to convict the Turner brothers, based largely on Alexander’s insinuations about Corey Turner’s conversation with his alibi witness from prison and her accusation that a recording of the phone call proved that Turner fabricated his alibi, even though she would object to the jury hearing the tape.
“In electing to testify, [Turner] gambled that the jury would not believe him,” Judge Chatigny said. “By their verdict, the jurors made it clear that they thought his alibi was false.”
The Turner brothers have maintained their innocence.
Since their conviction, the Turner brothers have filed several court actions in an attempt to get the decision overturned but have yet to find success. Part of the reason their convictions have stood is that overturning a conviction is difficult in general. Defendants are only allowed one appeal, called a direct appeal, in which the appellate record is limited to what happened at trial. No new evidence can be presented.
And it’s not enough to prove there was an error, an appellate must prove there was an abuse of discretion or a violation of their constitutional rights based on the record that is developed through the trial transcripts. This is a tall order and, as such, approximately 95 percent of convictions are upheld.
If the direct appeal fails, there are other post-conviction avenues, such as writs of habeas corpus to provide relief. However, even federal judges have been critical of the writ’s efficacy in vindicating a person’s rights.
“Once known as the Great Writ of Liberty,” Wisconsin District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote in 2018, “Habeas corpus has been so extensively diminished that it is no longer a protection against unlawful imprisonment but rather an empty procedure that enables and may actually encourage state courts to disregard constitutional rights.”
Corey Turner’s first habeas petition, in which he argued that his counsel was ineffective, failed. In that writ, filed in 2002, Turner argued that his criminal trial counsel, Attorney Leon Kaatz, was ineffective for his failure to get the recording of Turner’s conversation with his alibi witness, Fonda Williams, in as evidence for the jury to hear.
State’s attorney Alexander objected to the tape being admitted on the grounds that it was hearsay, a prior consistent statement, and not inconsistent with Turner and Williams’ trial testimony. The judge agreed and sustained the objection. However, there was another way Kaatz could have gotten the tape into evidence.
The tape was admissible as a prior consistent statement, and an exception to the hearsay rule, if offered to rehabilitate Turner’s credibility after he was impeached by the state’s claim that the recording contained evidence that he fabricated his alibi. But Kaatz failed to make that argument and the jury never heard the tape.
Why did Turner’s habeas petition fail? The short answer is that Kaatz perjured himself during the proceedings.
Following his criminal trial, Turner filed a grievance against Kaatz where he voiced several complaints against his former attorney, including his availability to interview witnesses. Kaatz addressed this complaint directly, stating that over the course of the case, Turner had proffered him three witnesses that he wanted to have testify at the trial: Brian Jones, Armando Colon and Fonda Williams.
Years later, Kaatz would change his story.
Prior to his first habeas trial, Turner wrote Kaatz a letter to see what his position would be regarding his failure to have the prison phone call recording admitted as evidence. In response, Kaatz sent Turner a letter wherein he accused Turner of sending him another alibi witness, prior to Williams, who was clearly not credible.
“You did, at one time, give me the name of a woman who was a friend of yours and stated she was an alibi witness,” Kaatz wrote. “I interviewed her and determined that she was a totally uncredible witness. It was clear that anything she was saying was not true and that she was lying to protect you.”
Kaatz provided that letter to Angela Macchiarulo, the state’s attorney representing the warden in Turner’s habeas motion before the trial. At the trial, Macchiarulo elicited testimony from Kaatz consistent with that letter, that Turner sent a woman to him who he deemed to be not credible, and then Turner came up with Williams.
That’s not all he said.
Kaatz also testified that he intentionally didn’t get the tape into evidence because he thought it would support Alexander’s claim that Turner fabricated his alibi.
“He said that it was his strategy to keep the tape out, ’cause he thought it was a double-edged sword, it would hurt me, this was completely bogus, something that was never the position he took at my trial,” Turner said. “To me, it was essentially an ambush.”
Indeed, Kaatz did believe that the recording would have helped rehabilitate Turner’s image in the eyes of the jury. In a 1997 motion for a new trial, Kaatz said, “Whatever negative drawbacks that would have been involved in allowing [the tape into evidence] were de minimis compared to the potential positive effects it may have had on the defense case”.
Fifteen years later, Kaatz recanted his 2002 testimony at Turner’s habeas trial and said that he made it defensively after failing to raise the proper grounds as to why the tape should have been admitted into evidence for the jury to hear.
“[the recording would have] dispelled any thoughts that the jury might have had that [Turner] tried to influence the testimony of Fonda Williams,” Kaatz testified at Turner’s habeas trial in 2017.
“I did not read even a scintilla of pressure or anything in that phone conversation from Mr. Turner to Fonda Williams suggesting he was trying to influence her testimony,” Kaatz said. “Whatever negative drawbacks that would have been involved in allowing [the tape into evidence] was de minimus compared to the potential positive rehabilitative effects it may have had on the defense case.”
Kaatz also added that he attempted to correct his statement that Turner had sent him another witness prior to Williams during the 2002 habeas trial, but wasn’t allowed.
Though Kaatz recanted his prior testimony, it was too late. The damage was done.
When attempting to overturn a conviction, after each failure the standards for the burden of proof become greater going forward. Turner’s early loss set the stage for which all of his subsequent actions have taken place.
Despite the setbacks, Turner remained fiercely committed to fighting his conviction and getting home. He had such a singular focus on his case, in fact, that Turner lost sight of everything else in his life, including adjusting to his situation and being the best parent he could be in the circumstances given.
“I was so hell-bent on getting home and putting a lot of time, energy and effort into fighting my case that I could have been more balanced in how I reached out to both my sons,” Turner said. “I thought that was being a good parent, trying to get home to them.”
Turner’s cellmate at the time, who was also a father, had the opposite perspective. One day, his cellmate remarked that Turner spent an awful lot of time studying his case. His cellmate didn’t fight his conviction. Instead, he resigned himself to his sentence and focused all of his efforts on being as active in his daughter’s life as he could.
“I learned a valuable lesson in that,” Turner said. “He didn’t really fight his case, but I fought my case and really did little of anything else, just blinders on. The best thing I can do for my kids is to get home to them, right? So, having him bring that to my attention, it let me realize that I could be doing more in terms of writing and reaching out to just cultivate the relationship.”
Turner and Christopher hadn’t talked since their conversation about Christopher’s sexuality. A chance encounter would bring the father and son back together. In 2020, Corey Turner’s sister ran into Christopher at a mall, got his number and relayed it to her brother. Turner called him and the ensuing conversation turned out to be a pivotal moment for Christopher that helped him reach a point of self-acceptance.
“He told me ‘I felt like I could sense these things about you, and you know that’s never gonna change my love for you or my care for you’, Christopher recalled. “It was appreciated, and I really needed it, but I think at that moment, in regards to me trying to figure out a lot without having a male figure in my life to help navigate it, that was a very key moment that gave me the courage and belief in myself and helped me move forward.”
Since that day, their relationship has been “on fire.” After a lifetime of being estranged, Turner and Christopher were finally able to bond as father and son. Through their conversations, Christopher got to know Turner more intimately and the insights he gathered into his father’s personality shattered the preconceived notions Christopher once had of him.
“He is a very structured person I’ve come to find, I was severely impressed,” Christopher said. “I never thought my dad would be as smart as he is, but I think very highly of him. He’s big on discipline, he’s big on self-education, spirituality, that’s not what I thought he would be like.”
Turner was similarly surprised by how much they have in common despite being apart for most of Christopher’s life.
“I’ve just seen a lot of myself in him, a lot of the qualities that he has,” Turner said. “He takes great care of his mother, he’s crazy about his mom and I’m a momma’s boy, too, and that’s something that I love about him. That’s something I’d like to take credit for, I know I can’t because his mother raised him, but it’s great that he loves her the way he does.”
Although Turner is limited in the ways he can parent his children, his guiding philosophy is not to dwell on his absence, but instead, focus on the means of communication he does have and to maximize them. Letters, phone calls and visits are what he has, and he tries to make the most of them.
Corey hasn’t let his physical absence stop him from making sure Christopher is on the right track in life. One of the first subjects Turner addressed with his son was financial literacy and planning for his future. Christopher works as a creative designer, and though he’s making a good salary, he admitted that, prior to his father assigning him books on financial education, he was a reckless spender.
“I needed that talk. I never really had someone sit down with me and be like, ‘you need to self-educate yourself around financial literacy’ and how to understand what I have, liability versus an asset, what it’s like to save money and to make money work for you so that you don’t have to constantly chase it,” Christopher said. “He had that talk with me and it was very impactful, and it felt very profound, it felt very God given for me. He’s got every intention to give me his best knowledge that he knows will benefit me.”
For Christopher, his father’s presence was something he yearned for his whole life. Finally, being able to have the relationship and fatherly guidance he was missing, it was like a new world opened up to him. He likened the experience to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, a story that depicts characters chained inside a cave since birth, confined to only watching shadows on the cave wall, rather than seeing true reality.
“It’s very much like Allegory of the Cave, you don’t know what is out in the world until someone shows you the outside, and it felt very much like that with him,” Christopher said. “When I got access to our relationship again, I felt like I was walking out of the cave, being unshackled from the life I knew and getting to see what it could be in the context of our relationship.”
Turner expressed similar feelings, saying that his relationship with Christopher has shown him what he has been missing as a parent while he’s been incarcerated for the last 27 years.
“You don’t know what you missed until you experience it, right?” Turner said. “He told me he got so used to not having a dad, it almost became normal. I never stopped being a father, I wasn’t not there by choice, but I wasn’t present to watch him grow and to walk with him and talk with him. I see how beautiful of a person he is.”
While he has been able to strike a balance between his duties as a parent and his need to fight for his freedom, Turner is still trying to balance the scales of justice.
While Turner has spent countless hours poring over documents and transcripts, filing freedom of information (FOI) requests and formulating legal arguments to overturn his conviction, there’s one piece of evidence that has eluded him in his efforts to clear his name.
Turner says that, on the night of the murder, he witnessed Hartford police conducting a canine search at the scene of the crime, but he has been unable to find documentation that it ever happened. The FOI requests that Turner filed have come back empty. CII also submitted an FOI request and was told that the department has no records responsive to a canine search on or around the night of the murder.
However, the canine handler present at the crime scene that night, Stephen O’Donnell, has given varying accounts on whether or not he performed a track that night and what his position was with the department at that time. Additionally, O’Donnell gave false statements to Turner’s private investigators regarding the Hartford Police Department’s policies on documenting canine searches.
Conversely, Turner’s allegation that he witnessed the canine search has been consistent going back to his criminal trial in 1996.
Turner testified that on the night of the murder, his brother Charles dropped him off at the apartment of Christopher’s mother, Fonda Williams. When Charles returned to pick him up in the early hours of the next morning, he informed his brother that Woods had been shot and they briefly visited the scene.
It was at this point that Turner said he first observed the police conducting a canine track.
“They were pacing a canine back and forth from the side of the house where the shooter came and fled after shooting Richard,” Turner said. “I thought nothing of this at the time. The dog eventually took over after he paced him several times back and forth and led the officer handling the dog and two other officers into the backyard, outside of my line of sight and that’s when we left.”
After leaving the scene, Corey and Charles went to a bar and stayed for about 15 minutes at which point Charles asked his brother to take him home, according to Turner. While en route to drop his brother off at home, Turner said he got another look at the alleged canine track.
“I drove west on Albany Avenue, took the left on Woodland Street and when you go down Woodland Street, you go over Woodland Bridge and under it is the train tracks that run east to west behind 145 Homestead Ave. where Richard was shot,” Turner said. “The police was being led on the tracks and in the back of this old factory, it was called Sealtest back then, they used to make milks and juices, and so this is like five, at least like three blocks away from where the shooting took place.”
When Turner was arrested and learned that Hampton claimed to have seen him getting into the car with Charles about four houses down from where the shooting took place, he asked his attorney where the report of the canine track was. The police denied having any knowledge of it. The three witnesses from the Hartford Police Department that testified at Turner’s criminal trial testified that no canine unit was brought to the scene.
Turner, never one to sit idle, did some investigating. Through a Google search, he found a 1995 Hartford Courant article about the Hartford Police Department’s six-man canine team. Listed as one of the teams in that article was Sgt. Stephen O’Donnell and his canine Kitt. Turner then looked at the police report for Wood’s murder and found the name of the person in charge of the crime scene: Sgt. Stephen O’Donnell.
In 2015, Turner’s then-habeas attorney, Donald Meehan, hired private investigator Thomas LaPointe to interview O’Donnell and inquire as to whether or not he performed an undocumented canine track. O’Donnell’s account was consistent with what Turner said he witnessed.
O’Donnell told LaPointe that he had a “vague recollection” of responding to the scene on the night of Woods’ murder and doing a track with Kitt where he took him behind the Homestead Avenue address and toward the train tracks. He claimed that he had done tracking in that area on other occasions, so he couldn’t be sure the track he did was related to Turner’s case, but he stated that he was certain he was a sergeant at the time and handling a canine.
Though he lacked certainty that the track he recalled was related to Turner’s case, O’Donnell said that it was “very likely” he did a track, but added that at the time of the incident, formal reports were only necessary in cases where positive results were discovered.
Turner filed an FOI request to obtain the department’s policy for reporting canine tracks and found that handlers would have had to file a report that they did a track regardless of whether the track resulted in positive or negative findings. After reviewing O’Donnell’s statements and finding inconsistencies, Turner’s mother hired another private investigator, Jacqueline Bainer, to follow up with him.
This time, O’Donnell gave a much more confused version of events. O’Donnell said he told LaPointe that he did not recall if he was handling a canine on that night, but that he was very good about writing reports and if his dog picked up on a scent, he would have reported it.
O’Donnell then went on to say that he wasn’t a canine handler at the time of Woods’ murder. He told Bainer that he graduated from the canine training academy in 1994 and passed up his first opportunity to be promoted to sergeant because there was language in the union contract that prevented him from being a sergeant and a dog handler at the same time.
He said that he finally accepted the promotion in May 1995 and was without his canine for about six months while the contract was revised to remove that language before getting his dog back in November. He also reviewed the dispatch log and said that none of the other officers at the scene were trained to handle canines.
Again, Turner fact-checked O’Donnell’s statements and found more inconsistencies. Turner obtained O’Donnell’s personnel file which showed that he graduated from canine training in 1992, not 1994, and that he had been working as a sergeant and a dog handler since 1993.
At Turner’s habeas trial in 2017, O’Donnell’s story changed yet again. O’Donnell testified that he was a canine handler at the time, but that he couldn’t say whether or not he did a track that night. If he did a track, O’Donnell testified, it would have required him to report that he had, a statement at odds with what he previously told LaPointe was the department’s policy.
When Turner, who was representing himself at the time, asked him about his statement to LaPointe, that only positive findings were required to be reported. O’Donnell denied saying it.
He also reversed course on the statements he made to Bainer. He testified that he wasn’t forced to give up his canine because of language in the union contract, but that, for a reason he could not explain, he was given the choice to relinquish his handler duties in order to move up to sergeant. He said he chose the promotion.
It was due to circumstances where the department had only one working canine unit, according to O’Donnell, that allowed him to return to service with his canine while also in the position of sergeant. It’s unclear how the department could have gone from having six canine teams working in March 1995 to having just one in November.
But, again, according to his personnel file, O’Donnell had already been working as a sergeant and a dog handler since 1993. He was also identified in the 1995 Hartford Courant article as being a sergeant and working with his canine, Kitt.
For Turner, the truth is inconvenient but obvious. He contends that O’Donnell created these false narratives to alibi himself away from the dog so that the state could refute Turner’s claim that he witnessed an undocumented canine track that would have implicated someone other than himself.
“So basically, this is what the police did,” Turner said. “They did a track, they knew that the track would directly contradict what Hampton said, so they suppressed it, and went and got a warrant under false pretenses.”
O’Donnell did not respond to requests for comment.
While Bainer was tasked with finding information about the alleged canine track, her investigation revealed something unexpected.
The motive the state established during Turner’s criminal trial was that he killed Woods because of a dispute over the proceeds from drug sales. One witness testified that he saw Turner and Woods arguing “a day or two” before the shooting, but Turner was incarcerated at Rikers Island in the days leading up to the murder and didn’t return home until the night before, making it unlikely that confrontation ever occurred.
Another detective, who knew Woods quite well, had a different theory of motive. According to Bainer’s report, when she interviewed Officer Mark Castagna he told her a detective he was good friends with, Nick Russo, was at the crime scene on the night of Woods’ murder. Though Bainer never spoke to Russo directly, Castagna did and said Russo remembered Woods.
According to Castagna, Russo had arrested Woods twice, once on manslaughter charges for which Woods served time in prison, and again on sexual assault charges. Castagna said Russo always believed that Woods’ murder was retribution for the sexual assault.
For much of his childhood, Christopher didn’t know why his father was in jail. His mother, worried about the impact it would have on him, kept him in the dark until he was a teenager. But even then, he wasn’t aware of the circumstances of his father’s trial that led him to be incarcerated. It wasn’t until Turner and Christopher reconnected in 2020 that he would learn about Alexander’s tactics.
“He was like, ‘I would never just tell you this, you can go see it for yourself, I want you to read this stuff, I want you to be able to get a hold of the transcripts, the memorandum.’ He made it very clear to me, ‘this is something you can go read for yourself and see what they did to your dad,’” Christopher said. “They manipulated the truth to incarcerate him.”
As Christopher reflects on his life, he can’t help but feel cheated. Though his mother was very loving and attentive, life as a single mother isn’t easy, and with his father’s absence, he had to take on the “man of the house” role. Christopher said he had to learn how to take care of himself and take on adult responsibilities at a young age, like being the breadwinner of his family.
“I really do think if my dad had been a part of my life, a lot of things would have turned out differently for me,” Christopher said. “[I] look back on [my] life, like, wow, the result of my life is because of somebody else’s lie essentially, and not to blame it for every bit and piece of my life, but the result of me not having my dad, off someone else’s willingness to lie on the truth. That’s tough to eat.”
Last year, before the Judiciary Committee, Christopher advocated against Joan Alexander’s confirmation to the state Supreme Court, arguing that her conduct during his father’s trial illustrated that she was unfit to serve on the state’s highest court.
Despite hearing testimony from Christopher, Turner’s Attorney Alex Taubes, and having the opportunity to listen to the recording of the phone call between Turner and Williams, the committee voted unanimously to confirm Alexander.
“It was a big blow for me,” Turner said of the hearing. “I’m sitting here and I’m listening to [Rep. Steven] Stafstrom, basically like ‘this is the justice system we have it’s not perfect, this guy got a life sentence and all, but this is the justice system we have. We need to focus on [Alexander’s] tenure as a judge, not her impropriety as a prosecutor.’ I had to sit with that for a few days. That was rough to swallow. Like my life has no value.”
Justice Joan Alexander declined to comment for this story.
While Turner has spent over half his life behind bars, recent developments offer him and his family hope that his incarceration might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. In early February, the Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Turner a commutation hearing. The date of the hearing has not yet been announced.
Though his fight to exonerate himself continues, there’s an air of inevitability between Turner and Christopher that one day it will happen. The pair have long been thinking about what they’ll do when Turner is released.
The first thing Christopher wants to do with his father when he gets out is to play a game of chess.
“We talk about it so damn much,” Christopher said with a laugh. “For me, that’s the first thing that comes to mind, maybe there’s something way more amazing to be doing, but that’s the first thing we can do, a good game of chess.”
When told his son’s plan for their first rendezvous, Turner erupted with laughter.
“He not ready for that yet, Turner said. “But as I whup him, I’ll show him what he’s doing wrong. I told him he’s got to step his game up in order to sit across the table from me, but I’m looking forward to that as well.”
For Turner, he puts his plans in two categories: what he wants to do and what he’s going to do.
“I would like to get one of those campers and just hit the road and just go see the country, go visit some of my folks in the south, and spend time on the road, just us, me and [my sons],” Turner said. “That’s on the wish list, but what I’m going to do, God willing, is just be present.”
“Because that’s going to be the most important thing for me just to stay close and keep them close,” Turner said. “A simple meal, a conversation, go for a walk, go hit the gym together, just stay close. Just to be present. And so that’s what I’m just looking forward to, just being present, having those meals together, just sharing time and sharing space. There’s nothing bigger than that right there.”