One month after she spoke with her father on the phone, Chaneya, then 23, wrote a letter on his behalf to Governor Cuomo. His office passed her letter to the attorney general’s office, which forwarded it to Orange County district attorney Francis D. Phillips. Phillips asked the state District Attorneys Association to review her father’s case, and for nearly a year, a team of prosecutors did just that, digging through the old case files and interviewing everyone involved, including twice meeting with Chaneya.
A few weeks ago, Phillips released their 81-page report, “Re-investigation of People v. Daryl Kelly,” signed by ten prosecutors, including five upstate district attorneys. The prosecutors described Chaneya as a “poised, mature, bright, young woman.” But they did not believe her. As they put it, she “can neither explain why she falsely advanced such a horrible allegation, nor why she adhered to it for so long and repeated it to so many different people.” The report described her father as a “pathological liar” and “ego-inflated narcissist” with a “propensity to posture and blather.”
The Orange County district attorney’s conclusion: “We find that Daryl Kelly was not wrongfully convicted.”
Chaneya wasn’t surprised. During her interviews with the prosecutors, she says, she got the feeling they were more interested in protecting her father’s conviction than in listening to her. “There was a point in time in there that I just blew up,” she says. “I got really upset. I was just like: I’m tired of this. I just want you guys to listen to me … I’m telling you that nothing happened. Why is it so hard for you guys to understand that? Absolutely nothing happened.”
Daryl Kelly is now 54 years old and rarely sees his children, most of whom no longer live in New York. Chaneya lives in Baltimore with her boyfriend and their 1-year-old son, and works as an assistant manager of a retail store. Nearly a year has passed since she last visited her father. These days, the person Daryl calls most often is Peter Cross, an attorney working pro bono on his appeal.
Recently he was transferred to Fishkill, a medium-security prison, and when he got to his new bunk, he didn’t put up any photos of his family. “Prison is not my home,” he says.
Instead, he keeps his pictures of his children hidden inside a photo album. Every now and then, when he wants to feel less lonely, he’ll sit down on his bed and study snapshots from all the years he missed: the kids posing in front of their church, Chaneya in her gown at high-school graduation. When he gets to the last page, he slips the album into a plastic bag to protect it from dust, places it back inside his locker, and closes the door.