When Freedom Rings..Help Michael start life over.

Many of you are already familiar with the sad injustice that Michael’s Story tells. For those of you who aren’t, I encourage you to read the entire story. The details have been condensed as much as possible without omitting pertinent details. All the names, except Michael Pasour’s, are being withheld to respect privacy. I am Michael Pasour's mother. I thank you for taking the time to read his story and for showing interest in the journey he faces. World renowned author John Grisham wrote a commentary in 2018 titled “Why the Innocent End Up in Prison”. Grisham serves on the Board of Directors of the Innocence Project, an organization of legal professionals, journalists, and other well-known figures who advocate for the release of persons who have been wrongfully convicted. To date, the Innocence Project has played a part in exonerating over 2000 people who were wrongfully imprisoned. Grisham says it is estimated that between 2% and 10% of inmates in the U.S. were wrongfully convicted. He states that once an innocent person is convicted, it is next to impossible to get the person out of prison. If, and when, the person is freed, it is then next to impossible for them to get reestablished in society without financial, emotional and community support. Ask yourself, “What would I do if someone attempted to abduct my child?”. You would call the police immediately, give them as much information as you could provide, and pray the suspect is located before he successfully abducts a child. Right? That’s exactly what Michael Pasour did in 1998 when a man tried to lure his girlfriend’s six-year-old son, whom he’d been raising as his own, into a car as the child was playing outside the family’s home. Below is an outline of what transpired that day. ·       A car pulled up to where the 6-year-old son of Michael’s girlfriend was playing outside the home that the three of them  shared.  Michael, who was just inside the front door, saw the car pull up to the curb and started outside. ·       The child ran to Michael and told him that the man driving the car had told him to get in the car with him. ·       Michael got a description of the car and a partial tag number as it sped away. ·       Michael’s girlfriend called 911 (1st call to police). Police came to the home and a report was filed. ·       A few hours later a family friend, who was at the family’s home at the time of the abduction attempt, left to pick up dinner items. He returned and told Michael that the car was at an apartment complex only blocks away. ·       Michael asked his girlfriend to call 911 again (2nd call to police) and tell them where the car was. Then he and his friend left to meet the police there. ·       Arriving before police, Michael spotted the suspect’s car. He asked an elderly woman on a nearby porch if she knew who owned the car. She pointed out the suspect’s apartment. ·       Michael asked her to call 911 (3rd call to police) to give them the exact address of the apartment and to tell them the call was related to an earlier abduction attempt. ·       As Michael and his friend waited for police to arrive, they were confronted by the suspect coming toward them with his hand behind his back. When he got closer, he pulled out a handgun. ·       Michael and his friend instinctively tackled the man and fought to disarm him. ·       Realizing that the gunman wasn’t fighting back, Michael got up. He saw the gun lying near the gunman and kicked it several yards away. ·       He “high-fived” his friend saying, “Man, that was close!”, expressing his relief that neither of them had been shot. ·       He quickly turned to the gunman and realized he was still on the ground and had begun making a gurgling sound and was gasping for air. ·       Michael turned the man onto his side to keep him from choking and yelled at the lady on the porch to call 911 for an ambulance. (4th requested call was for an ambulance) (Note: There was just over 1 minute logged between the 3rd and 4th calls to 911). From the time Michael and his friend arrived and asked the lady to call police until the time she placed the call for an ambulance was less than 2 minutes. That’s how fast it all transpired.  ·       Police arrived within minutes and they rolled the man onto his back again. ·       Paramedics arrived moments later and pronounced the gunman dead. ·       Michael and his friend were taken (separately) to police headquarters and each was asked to give a written statement of the incident. ·       Later that evening they were both charged with murder. How would you wrap your mind around what has just happened? Michael tried to do everything right that day. 1st... He had initiated or requested numerous calls to police and paramedics. Common sense tells us he wouldn’t have gone there intending to hurt the man knowing he had summoned police to meet him there. 2nd… He hadn’t taken any weapons with him when he went to meet the police at the apartment complex. He clearly didn’t go there looking for a fight. 3rd… When he noticed the gunman was gasping for air, he tried to save the man’s life by positioning him so that he could breathe and asking for an ambulance. Michael fought to protect himself and, sadly, it resulted in someone dying and Michael being charged with murder.   Fast forward……. The week-long trial was riddled with inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case and missed opportunities by Michael’s court-appointed attorney. One witness, who was walking in an area that was downhill and hundreds of feet from where the incident took place, told police that Michael kicked the gunman. However, this witness was at a vantage point well below the ground level where the gun was kicked. It would have been almost impossible for him to tell what was being kicked. He also told police that Michael and his friend were “running around giving high-fives”. This witness wasn’t close enough to hear what they were saying and to know they were just relieved that they hadn’t been shot. After closing arguments, very lengthy and confusing instructions were read to the jury, during which, the jury members were not allowed to take written notes. The jury deliberated for a full day before requesting, numerous times, that the judge provide them a written copy of the jury instructions which they could take to the deliberation room. They clearly stated that they understood the instructions pertaining to 1st and 2nd degree murder. They said it was imperative that they understand the difference between the lesser charges of self-defense and involuntary manslaughter. It seemed clear that they were trying to decide between self-defense and involuntary manslaughter. (NOTE: The judge was presiding over his first murder trial since his appointment as a judge. He had been a prosecutor for many years and only weeks earlier had prosecuted the very high-profile, Rae Carruth (former Carolina Panther) murder trial. It is my opinion, and that of many others in the courtroom that day, that the judge was still in a "prosecutorial state of mind”. He even referred to himself as “The State” instead of “The Court” several times during the trial.) The judge told the jury, repeatedly, he couldn’t provide copies of the written instructions and that they must interpret the instructions from what he had read to them. Later, however, after being sent home for the weekend, when the jury returned, the judge gave them the written instructions they had requested earlier. However, he added a written footnote pertaining to 1st and 2nd degree murder as he interpreted it. It seemed the judge was leading them away from the lesser charges. (NOTE: A judge is expected to be impartial and it is the jury’s duty to interpret the instructions as they are written. I have no legal expertise, but in my opinion, the judge clearly swayed the jury to find Michael guilty of nothing less than 2nd degree murder.) Ultimately, after receiving the revised instructions from the judge, the jury convicted Michael of 2nd degree murder and he was sentenced to 23 years and 9 months in prison. A well-known appeals attorney took on the appeal case pro-bono (free of charge) because he saw the injustices. But, as John Grisham wrote, it is next to impossible to get a convicted person exonerated once they have been convicted.   Fast forward….in February 2020 Michael Pasour will be released from prison after serving almost 19 years in prison. He has been a model inmate with no history of any violence or drugs during his long incarceration. While incarcerated, he was handpicked by prison staff to be a Peer Counselor, a position that enabled him to mentor inmates who needed guidance. There are numerous prison officials who can attest to his respectful nature and his readiness to be released. Michael’s return to freedom will be difficult. It’s very challenging for convicted felons, especially those convicted of murder, to establish themselves in any community. There are very few programs to help inmates integrate back into society. I realize that asking people to contribute monetarily to a convicted felon is like asking dogs not to bark. Keep in mind that up to 10% of the people incarcerated in the U.S. were wrongfully convicted. Michael Pasour is one of that 10%. I am asking you to help a good man return to a normal and productive life. Michael’s first concern is to make restitution to the deceased man’s family. He will need clothing. Next, some type of transportation to commute to work when he finds a job.  Along with that comes auto insurance, healthcare and dental work, etc. The list is long. As you can imagine, these are just a few of the needs that he will face. Michael has never lost sight of the fact that someone died at his hands. Although, he had no intention to harm anyone, a man died because he fought with him. He realizes that. That haunted him the day it happened, it haunts him now, and it will haunt him for the rest of his life. This story is in no way intended to offend or judge the deceased gunman or his family. They have also endured many years of sadness and their loved one will never return home. My heart sincerely goes out to them. Thank you all!


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Teri Li Thompson 
Lancaster, SC
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