Adam Braseel was wrongfully convicted of murder 14 years ago. Though he hasn’t been officially exonerated, he is out of prison now and beginning to put his life back together.

The wrongful imprisonment was caused by sloppy police work, prosecutors bent on victory, and the unhappy coincidence of the actual murderer looking like Braseel and driving the same color car. You can read about the case here, or listen to an excellent podcast here. What caught my attention was something Braseel said in an interview.

As nightmarish as the years in prison were, as much time as he lost, Braseel said his life right now is, well, almost blissful.

“I’m having the best days of my life out here,” he said.

He wasn’t talking about going fishing or taking a vacation or eating non-prison food. He was talking about things which go wrong.

“I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to get stuck in a traffic jam,” he said.

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have a car. And to have the opportunity to lose my keys. It’s just a unique perspective on life now that I have.”

Here’s an audio clip, so that you can hear his voice:

What I like about Braseel’s story is that it makes me feel shame. Not the crappy, useless, everyday shame which many of us feel already, but the best kind of shame, the type you feel when contemplating someone who has really been screwed over, but who is not defeated or consumed by it.

When I see the grace and courage of that person, I think, Damn, if he can do that, I can definitely do better with whatever bullshit I’m worried about.

I had a similar feeling watching Love on the Spectrum, a reality TV show about autistic adults dating. I don’t know how the show was received by people with autism (or by those who love them or live with them). But from the outside, I felt awe and, yes, shame. The patience, courage, and good humor of the show’s participants floored me. The compounding awkwardness of dating and being filmed and trying diligently to learn the social cues and customs which may come naturally to others … it was a lot to ask. But the show’s participants kept showing up, kept giving their best effort, kept winning my heart over and over. Watching them, I thought, What the fuck do I have to complain about?

Maybe shame isn’t really the right word. Maybe it’s a mixture of wonder, admiration, and — when you boil it down — love. I feel all those things watching Love on the Spectrum, or listening to Braseel discuss his wrongful imprisonment.

I feel hope, too, because the courage of others reminds me that whatever may happen to me, I still have a choice. I can respond with anger, grievance, isolation, sadness — my favorite responses! — or I can aim higher. I can choose, as Adam Braseel does, radical gratitude.

The Tennessee Parole Board has voted unanimously to recommend exoneration for Braseel, which would remove the felony from his record. The final decision is up to Gov. Bill Lee.

Braseel is now 38. He was imprisoned at age 24.

The audio clip above is from the Criminal podcast, hosted by Phoebe Judge. The episode “Red Hair, Gold Car” aired on Feb. 7, 2020.

Braseel, left, at the time of his arrest, and the late Kermit Bryson, right, who is believed to bave been the actual murderer

About Kit Troyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles. He worked previously as a newspaper reporter and a criminal defense attorney. For the last 15 years, he has been a stay-at-home dad. But that gig is running out. Kids will soon be moving out and moving on.
This entry was posted in COURAGE, HEROES, SELF HELP, SPIRIT, UNIQUELY AMERICAN BULLSHIT. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE

  1. msjadeli says:

    To find a reason to be grateful every day of one’s life is a way to honor the gift of it.

  2. Wise Hearted says:

    This is a great post, not just because it is well written but because of the content. I love hearing, reading, watching people who have been dealt a bad deal or born into a family that did not function well, over came it. To be put in prison for something you did not do is exactly what Jesus did, He willingly suffered all sort of hardship capped off by dying on the cross for others in for He was sinless. Why? Look in the mirror, for me and that causes shame. But He does not want us to live in shame so He hides are sins in the deepest part of the sea and never brings them up again. How blessed we are and how ungrateful we are often. I love what God has done for me and one way I can honor that is by being grateful and enjoying every day and little thing He gives me. Great post.

  3. Reblogged this on Time Traveler on the road of Life and commented:
    Damn, I was lower than a snake belly because my new computer program is not working right! I wish Mr. Braseel well and hope he lives a happy life from now on. He certainly deserves it.

  4. Oh dear! I do try not to scream at the way others drive… but it’s a long-ingrained habit (and one almost as bad as their driving.) Lol.

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