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October 4, 2012

From Death Row to Witch City

Arkansas man resettles in Salem, Mass., after spending half his life in prison


But this is still hard, starting a new life after 18 years on Death Row, going from a prison cell so small he could take only two strides in one direction, to a book tour with so many stops he can’t count them.

From leg shackles

to airplanes

“Yeah, you’re happy to be out, but you get crushed by the anxiety, the fears and uncertainty.

“I basically had to learn to walk again,” he said. “I had to learn to use silverware again, because in prison you eat with your hands. I hadn’t been anywhere in 20 years. I had been in a box.”

And now he is in Salem at Halloween, his favorite holiday and his favorite time of year. And yesterday he walked down the pedestrian mall in the mist and drizzle.

Over coffee, sitting at a small table, smiling and laughing, he was asked one last question.

So how are you doing?

“Getting better,” he said. “That’s what I usually say. ... I’ve been out about a year and a month and it’s gradually getting better with time.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.




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