If a mother's worst nightmare is the death of her child, I don't know what to call what Nicole Harris went through. The mom from Chicago was just released from prison after serving nearly eight years for a crime she didn't commit. Harris was sent away for murdering her 4-year-old son, Jaquari Dancy, in 2005, but the conviction has been overturned.
At the time, back in 2005, Harris confessed to cops that she was to blame for the boy's death. He'd been found with an elastic bedsheet cord around his neck in a bedroom in the family's home. What kind of mother confesses to such a thing?
A guilty one, right? Because no mother in her right mind would want the world to think she did something so heinous to the child she loved.
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I know I wouldn't.
But that's easy to say, isn't it? From the outside? As a person never charged with a heinous crime, a person who has never had to answer questions from police while struggling to make sense of tragedy?
I know what grief has done to me in the past. I've broken down, cried hysterically, wrapped myself in a comforter, and hidden away. And that was at the death of a grandmother, not a child.
So who is to say what a mother should or will do when she's grieving? What is normal?
Nicole Harris' murder conviction has been overturned because it turned out she spent 27 hours being interrogated before she confessed. What's more, it turns out her other son was never allowed to speak in court about what he observed: Jaquari putting that cord around his own neck.
So much for being in your right mind. I can't imagine what I'd do after 27 hours of being questioned by cops, especially when you factor in that this poor woman was already dealing with -- as I've mentioned -- a parent's worst nightmare. Her child, her beloved 4-year-old, had been found dead in her home.
What do you expect a mother to do with that? While we all grieve differently, it's certainly to be expected that this kind of traumatic news would render a mother unable to think clearly, would make difficult the process of answering even the most basic questions from police.
Cops have to do their jobs; I get that. But when you're grieving, you can't just tell your brain, "OK, now is the time to defend myself, deal with being heartbroken later." And so, unfortunately, we end up with cases like Nicole Harris.
Even more unfortunately, it can take years and years and countless appeals to undo the additional hurt of these cases. It's good news that Nicole Harris is out of prison today, but this whole mess is going to leave years of scars.
Put yourself in Harris' shoes. Can you see how she made a false confession?
Image via Chicago Police