Chaneya was now 16. After her mother starting getting high again, Chaneya and her siblings had moved back in with their grandmother, and she sometimes found herself stuck playing the role of mini-mom. Chaneya balked at doing laundry—“I was like, Why do I have to wash their clothes, too?—and when she had to babysit, she barely took an interest. “Being in charge was real simple to me: ‘Everyone, do what you want; I’m just going to sit here and watch TV. As long as nobody’s bleeding, we’re good.’ ”
Even more than she despised her parenting duties, Chaneya hated watching how her father’s imprisonment affected her siblings. There were the major events where her dad’s absence felt palpable—birthday parties, school events, holidays. And then there were the quiet moments, too, when one of her siblings looked upset, and she’d know they were thinking about their father. Nobody had to say anything, and in some ways, silence was easier than the alternative. Eventually, though, the day came when one of her brothers became so enraged that he struck the lowest possible blow, hollering at her: “You’re the reason that Daddy’s not around anymore!”
Inside Green Haven, Daryl was beginning to realize that the older his children got, the less they needed him. His girls were now teenagers, busy with track practice and homework and boyfriends. Visits became less frequent, and when they did write, their letters were full of stories about boys. From Chaneya, he learned about Brandon (“He’s from New York but he lives in Georgia”); Tyrese (“He says that he loves me … but I don’t know if I’m in love with him”); and Brice (“He has a son about to be 1 and he’s 18 years old. Yes he is one of those bad boys”).
But while his older children seemed less dependent, Daryl needed them more than ever. His mother had died, and his wife stopped visiting (Charade declined to be interviewed for this story). When his children came to visit, he’d take them outside in the yard next to the visiting room and he’d walk a loop with each child, trying to connect. Sometimes, when they’d all be seated at a table, he’d talk so much that his daughters would fall asleep.
Chaneya graduated from high school in 2006, and that fall she left Newburgh for Morgan State University in Baltimore. Months would go by when Daryl wouldn’t hear from her. He couldn’t text, e-mail, or even call her; she had no landline, and the prison system doesn’t allow inmates to call cell phones.
Three days after Christmas in 2011, Daryl called his mother-in-law’s house, and he happened to reach Chaneya, who had come home for a quick visit.
“Hey, Daddy,” she said.
“What’s happening?” he asked.
“Something’s got to be happening ’cause I ain’t talked to you in almost two years …”
“Nah, nothing’s happening. Still in school.”
When he nudged her on why he hadn’t heard from her, she said, “If I’m in Baltimore, I’m not in New York. So it’s not like I can just come see you whenever I want … I just happened to come home because I had time and my friend, well, my boyfriend, happened to give me money to come home.”
“I see. Okay. Well, does your boyfriend have 44 cents?”
“ ’Cause that would be the next option. It’s called a stamp and an envelope.”
He explained that he was still fighting to get free, and that soon he was planning to “send some paperwork to the governor”—a clemency application. “I’m only gonna put the paperwork in, but it would be nice for you to write a letter.”
He didn’t tell her what to write to the governor, but earlier in the call he had asked, “If you had the power to correct everything that went wrong, would you do it?”
“Yes,” she said.
One might expect that in a criminal case such as this—where the victim has repeatedly said the crime never happened—events would unfold in a certain way. That if Chaneya and her father joined forces and tried hard enough, they could find a path to exoneration. And that ultimately, their story would end with the front door of Green Haven swinging open, Chaneya and her father embracing in the prison driveway, brushing tears from their eyes. But that’s not what happened.