On Sunday, approximately 100 people came to the Aloft Hotel in Minneapolis to celebrate Marvin Haynes as a newly free man. Haynes was exonerated on December 11 after serving nearly 20 years in prison on a false murder charge. Haynes says this past month has been significant for him. He says that he has been showered in communal support, has integrated back into his family, and has even secured a job.
“This is because a collective of individuals fought for me when everybody turned their back against me,” said Haynes. “I'm definitely appreciative of everyone supporting me, and this doesn’t stop. I was in there with other people who were wrongfully convicted. There were people who I was in there with who are actually innocent. We need to fight… . This journey does not stop, we need to continue to fight injustice.”
Haynes expressed deep gratitude to the Innocence Project, to Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty (who apologized to him the day of his release and attended the celebration), and to journalists who were careful with their wording when describing him and his case.
But his first thank you was to his sister, Marvina Haynes, who he says was the first one to believe he was innocent and do something about it.
His sister, Marvina Haynes, says she always believed in her brother, and knew she was going to do everything in her power to bring him back home.
“We had people – community leaders – saying ‘don't help that boy.’ And when I heard these words, it just made me fight harder for my brother. So when people told me Marvina, you're not going to be able to get your brother out... Next thing you know, I testified in front of the nation… In front of people all over the world. It was God’s plan! I took trips all over the world to spread my brother’s message. And not only his message, but other people who are wrongfully incarcerated today.”
Marvina Haynes says she feels her family deserves an apology, referring to community members who doubted her brother's innocence, and also to those who joined a “stop crime” protest during the investigation of Marvin’s case. She says they supported his guilty verdict.
“My brother was already guilty before he even made it into the courtroom. They already knew what they were going to do with him,” she said. “When we jump the gun to stand in solidarity with a system that we know is built to take our black men, take our children, our fathers, our uncles – we’re just as guilty as them.”
Marvina has created a non-profit to help other innocent inmates’ stories be told.
Before the night continued on with food, laughter, hugs, and celebratory tears, a prayer was said for Marvin and his family.
“Continue to lift him up. Raise him up to the man that you created to be. Not what this world tried to create out of him and out of his life. We pray for my sister Marvina. I thank you for giving her the strength to fight for her brother. It was her voice that caught everybody else's attention, and then everybody rose up,” said Toshira Garraway of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. “We thank you for the community. We thank you for everybody that is here today to love on Marvin. To let him know that he is a Black man that is loved.”
Marvin says there are no words to describe how he truly feels being a free man; he is just hoping that it won’t take this long for others in his shoes.