Several years before his death, Paul Hays joined two other homeless men in creating a camp on a multi-acre, privately-owned wooded property on the far east side of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kim Whiting is an author, former mental health counselor specializing in the treatment of survivors of abuse and trauma, and a member of The Reporters Inc.’s advisory committee.

A homeless friend freezes to death

How much are we, as a society, to blame?

March 2023


“Kimmy!” is what he enthusiastically called me, and he’d light up the moment I, or anyone he cared about, came into view.

He loved music, and to share with me lyrics by Tulsa native Johnny Winters, his favorite artist.

Once, on his birthday, my kids and I met him at the downtown Tulsa bus station and surprised him with a mini-cake, singing “Happy Birthday.” He was blown away, overjoyed and so grateful. It was such a small gesture, but apparently having anyone celebrate him was rare and very precious to him.

He knew the Bible inside and out and also taught himself almost everything there is to know about Buddhism. He was whip-smart, tech savvy, and could fix just about anything.

He’d walk several miles to our house, offering to do repairs or yardwork. He wanted so much to be a gift to us, not a burden.

He was easily moved to tears, by tender and kind gestures, moments of pride, and the beauty in music, animals, landscapes and people.

These are some of the many memories that stand out for me, about my homeless friend Paul Hays.

In late January, I learned that Paul had been found frozen to death. I’m not sure if he’d been too far away from the three warming stations (all near each other in a mostly industrial area of downtown, and miles away from other parts of Tulsa) or just too incapacitated to even try to get to them. Having seen his steep decline during the previous year, I assume it was the latter. An employee working in a downtown Tulsa building went outside in the back for a cigarette and found Paul dead, wearing two jackets and no shoes. It was tragic that a man with such a warm heart had died from the cold. And alone. (more…)

The cover of Justin Brooks’ new book.

Yes, YOU might go to prison

California Innocence Project Director describes horrifying real-life scenarios in new book

March 2023


Imagine this mind-boggling scenario: you’re going about your normal daily life when suddenly you’re accused of a crime you didn’t commit. Surely the truth will eventually prevail, right?

Instead, you’re arrested, convicted, and sentenced to prison. Your claims of innocence are doubted, ignored, disregarded.

Sound far-fetched? Think it could never happen to you?

Think again.

Anyone can be wrongfully convicted.

That’s the message of Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, in his new book, You Might Go to Prison, Even Though You’re Innocent. He reveals how it really could—and does—happen by sharing details from dozens of wrongfully accused cases and people that he and others have tried to help and exonerate.

“The book is filled with stories of ruined lives due to wrongful convictions and supported with research proving how common wrongful convictions are,” Brooks explained during a lengthy question-and-answer session with The Reporters Inc. (See below.) “No one wants to believe that innocent people go to prison because then you must accept that one day you might go to prison. But the reality is you might.”

There are 10 chapters in Brooks’ book, each title exploring one of the many reasons why, and how, innocent people actually end up behind bars:

* You Hired the Wrong Lawyer (Pleas with No Bargain)

* You Live in the Country or the City

* You Are in a Relationship and Live with Someone Who is Murdered.

* You (Kind of) Look like Other People in the World

* You Get Confused When You Are Tired and Hungry, and People Yell at You

* You Have or Care for a Sick Child.

* You Got a Jury That Was Blinded by “Science”

* You Work with Children or Let Them in Your House

* Someone Lies about You

* You Are Poor and/or a Person of Color

Brooks explores several harrowing cases in each of these chapters. Some involve his personal experiences representing innocent people; others are cases from other Innocence Projects around the world. These are heartbreaking and agonizing narratives, in which the average person can easily picture him or herself. Landmark litigation and research are intertwined with the stories. (more…)