September 30, 2022

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Ex-prisoner, teacher reunite at Montgomery ISD retirement party

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There are still several Texans who know the name Kerry Max Prepare dinner — a man who has fought the point out judicial process for in excess of 40 years to demonstrate his innocence. But the Prepare dinner we know now — an author and advocate residing in Houston nevertheless battling for the court to declare “actual innocence” — may well not have been achievable with no the assist of a male named Steven Meeker.

Cook dinner was arrested in 1977 for the murder of a female named Linda Jo Edwards in Tyler, Texas, a crime he has generally maintained he did not dedicate. In excess of the up coming 20 decades, Cook was tried using four periods for the criminal offense: a responsible verdict in 1978, a retrial in 1992 right after an appeals court overturned the initial verdict, a second responsible verdict in 1994, and a fourth trial that finished in Cook dinner getting a no-contest plea following yet a different appeals courtroom overturned the 1994 conviction.

From the beginning the scenario was comprehensive of questionable law enforcement get the job done and a county District Attorney’s business office with a extensive file of extremely-intense prosecutions. Cook dinner used around 20 a long time on demise row, enduring extraordinary violence and sexual assault although there.

“They stated I was there to be executed, not educated,” Prepare dinner said of staying on death row. “So, I could not go to university no matter what, and as a ninth grade drop-out that was the detail I needed the most mainly because I didn’t realize until eventually I strike the wall of dying row how critical an education and learning was.”

In 1988, just after a significantly brutal sexual assault by other prisoners, and the information of his brother’s dying, Prepare dinner attempted suicide by reducing himself in various areas. He was sent to the psychiatric ward in a further unit at the jail in Huntsville where he achieved Steven Meeker, a teacher with Windham Independent Faculty District which operates in prisons across Texas.

Probability meeting

For aspect of the day, Meeker experienced a classroom in the jail where by he would train the core topics for the GED check. For the other part of the day he would stop by individuals who could not depart their cells. This is where he achieved Prepare dinner.

“Usually they’d want to convey to me their story 1st, so I read a lot of attention-grabbing stories. Then I would say ‘Well, I seriously cannot do everything about that, but whilst you are here I can support you get your substantial school diploma, so why really don’t we work on that,’” Meeker claimed. “That’s very a lot the way that I was when I achieved Kerry for the initial time. But there was something about his tale.”

“He walks up to my cell and he’s received free of charge planet clothes on. You don’t see people today with free environment dresses any more so I’m seeking at the sneakers, the belt, I like that shirt — for the reason that I have not witnessed any individual in free of charge world cloths in many years,” Cook explained of his initial sighting of Meeker. “He explained to me who he was — Windham School District — I explained ‘I’d give anything to acquire my GED.’”

For various months they labored collectively to prepare Cook to get the GED. Meeker was only permitted to meet up with with Cook 2 times a week so he would carry him materials to get the job done on and exhibit him what to do, and when he would return later in the 7 days they would go around it. Though doing work with Cook dinner, Meeker noticed an clever male who picked up concepts immediately.

“Kerry picked up on things actually swiftly, and uncovered points rapidly, so we were being in a position to go really quickly,” Meeker said. “It was just a several months of working with him that I reported ‘I imagine you’re ready to get the GED.’”

Since Prepare dinner was on demise row, Meeker asked him why he was so eager to get his GED.

“Yes, but I’m innocent, and the only chance I’ll ever have of receiving myself out of right here is via an education and learning,” Cook dinner informed him.

Graduation Day

Cook dinner handed the examination with substantial scores in several topics. When Meeker arrived to convey to him the very good news he brought together a certification he had printed out at his business office so that Prepare dinner could have bodily evidence of his achievement.

“Congratulations, graduate,” Meeker claimed that working day, handing Prepare dinner the certificate through the bars and shaking his hand.

Meeker snuck in a camera and a single of the guards allow slide the rule about no pictures for just a several seconds, extended sufficient to get a picture of Prepare dinner and Meeker together, with Cook holding his new certificate.

The photograph is the only proof of the certificate still left. At some issue, Cook dinner reported, it was taken from his cell all through a shakedown by the guards. But he ideas on discovering out how he can get a copy of the serious 1 from the state.

More than the months that Meeker assisted Cook dinner prepare for the GED they fashioned a friendship. Cook dinner was very careful who he spoke with simply because he didn’t want to jeopardize his situation, but his link with Meeker gave him hope. No a single else was telling him he was smart, or inspired him to proceed his instruction.

In August of 1989 Meeker and his family members moved to Seattle in which Meeker ongoing to instruct outside of a common classroom. He has labored at a psychiatric facility, and a juvenile facility. He promised to write to Prepare dinner and for a number of months he did, sending him shots of Seattle and telling Prepare dinner to come check out when he got out. He credits God and his religion for bringing him to the jail at that time.

“To be fully genuine with you, I required a position and that is what I found,” Meeker explained. “But even bigger than that, I gave my everyday living to Christ when I was 18 and I have sensed that he guides me wherever he needs me to go, and he opens doorways for me, and then when I go through the doors he allows me to do what demands to be carried out there.”

Eventually, Meeker and his spouse and children returned to Montgomery County and Meeker found much more training positions with neighborhood school districts. He ended up educating sixth quality geography in Montgomery Impartial School District — the initial career in instruction he at any time experienced. Together the way he would inform his students about his pal Prepare dinner, who was adamant about finding his GED when on loss of life row.

Meeker retired this year following 42 yrs of training, prolonged more than enough to see a single of his previous learners turn out to be his principal. The geography department at his university created unique T-shirts in his honor and the facility in which the retirement celebration was held was packed. Amongst the many customers of his loved ones, his close friends, his college students and former pupils, and his co-workers was a exclusive guest Kerry Max Cook dinner.

‘Changed my life’

“I experienced to go, no issue what, because I realized it was heading to be a area whole of educators,” Cook reported. “I needed to inform them, ‘You men are not generally appreciated. You’re not to start with responders but in a way you actually are mainly because what Dr. Meeker did for me adjusted my lifetime and enabled me to start off my instruction.’”

Meeker met Cook dinner at one of the cheapest points of Cook’s daily life. His brother had just been murdered, the appeals court docket experienced just reaffirmed his conviction, he had been brutally assaulted, and he was commencing to feel hopeless.

“When I hit demise row I didn’t know product sales tax from syntax,” Cook claimed. “He gave me the skills that would afterwards help me struggle my way off of demise row.”

Right after he was released in 1997 pursuing the second court docket of appeals verdict that overturned his conviction, Cook dinner became an outspoken advocate from the loss of life penalty and commenced traveling the globe telling his tale. In 2016 a county judge in Tyler threw out his conviction but he carries on to battle for exoneration and a ruling of “actual innocence” from the Texas Courtroom of Criminal Appeals.” He talks of heading back to Montgomery ISD with Meeker to communicate to his former college students alongside one another and share their story.

“As a instructor you never ever know the impression you have on people today until finally many a long time afterwards occasionally,” Meeker claimed. “It’s actually gratifying to listen to any person arrive again and say ‘you really created a distinction for me,’ so it is one of the factors I experience sorry for any individual who’s not a trainer.”

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