I would never have met Greg Taylor, the Raleigh man who served 17 years of a life sentence for a murder he did not commit, without first meeting his father, Ed, at the Guilford County Courthouse in 2010, on election night.
As we watched the returns roll in, Ed told me about his son, who had been released earlier that year, and how he used to think that everyone who got arrested by the police had done something wrong.
I visited Greg at his home in Durham, after he had just gotten his first big check — $750,00, which barely begins to cover his suffering and time — and while he was trying to re-acclimate to the world after almost two decades of forced absence.
“You know they made a bunch of new Star Wars movies?” I asked him.
When I saw him last week at the preliminary screening of a new documentary about his case, he told me had gotten himself all caught up on Star Wars, including Rogue One, which he had seen with his grandsons just a few days earlier.
I told him that I think about him all the time: the injustice, the years, the slimy details.
From the beginning, police told Greg that if he testified against Johnny Beck, the innocent black guy he had been smoking crack with on the night of the murder, they would let him go home.
He never took the deal.
In 2013, Greg got a $4.6 million payment from the State Bureau of Investigation, the law enforcement agency that essentially framed him in 1991. He’s not rich — think about the money he couldn’t earn, the investments he couldn’t make, in the years between 1991 when he was arrested and 2010 when he was finally released for context — but he’s comfortable as long as he keeps his job, which is fine by him. Work is one of the pleasures of being free.
Greg has been traveling and spending time with his family. He’s single, with some money in the bank. His smile looks genuine.[pullquote]I told Greg Taylor that I think about him all the time: the injustice, the years, the slimy details.[/pullquote]
It’s not behind him, he says. It never will be. But these days he’s more concerned with what lies ahead.