A Love Story – An Innocent Man and a Leap of Faith – David and Linda Boyce
From our Impact Update:
David Boyce served 23 years in Virginia’s prisons for a crime 42 pieces of DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit. Released in 2013, he shares a snippet of his story.
Dave, most of us cannot wrap our minds (or hearts) around what you’ve been through. How did you make it through?
“For the first 10 years, I tried to do it in my own power. I came to the end of myself. I was at the point of suicide. I was probably looking at spending another 30-50 years. The idea of spending that much time in prison was overwhelming. I was laying in my bunk and it all crashed down on me and I cried out to God, “If you are real, you have to show me that you are real.” Once I came to the end of myself, it was Christ who sustained me. Without that, I would have taken my own life. When Paul reiterates, “my grace is sufficient for you,” I can look back and see what he means. It truly was the sufficient grace of Christ. I didn’t have the strength, endurance and emotional capacity to get through on my own. “
You worked as a Chaplain’s Assistant while in prison, what did you learn about chaplaincy that surprised you?
“How busy they are!!!! They really are overtaxed. I can’t see how a chaplain can do it without assistance. I would work full-time with Chaplain Simmons. In between the guys that needed counseling there were other guys that needed resources, materials, Bibles or a book on grace. Every day the chaplain would have 13-20 guys who needed to talk. He’d see 50 guys each week. “
Too often, we fail to consider that innocent men and women are serving time for crimes they did not commit. What do you want the world to know?
“I think there is a little bit of an awakening – but the public does believe the misconception that everybody in prison deserves to be there – and prisoners shouldn’t have any type of comfort. I understand that. What I say is not to diminish the victims. But, to classify generally everybody as being socially unfit and undeserving of any kind of comfort, care and consolation? Nobody wants to believe that someone will spend 20-30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. That means that the system is broken… and that it could happen to them. The reality is that I had to go through the exact same dehumanization as everyone else. It didn’t matter if I was innocent or not. It was difficult. It was difficult psychologically. When I got to the point when they turned my DNA down… I told God, ‘If you want me out of prison, you’ve got to make it happen.’ Two months later, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project came to me. It was a God thing from the very beginning. I can understand that now. God had given me a purpose while I was in there…to mentor younger Christians, and to serve as an example and to counsel some of the young gang bangers.”
More on Dave:
What did you do volunteering in the chaplain’s office?
We went through and organized the shelves – and while I was doing that, it allowed the chaplain to do it. Taking materials to the guys. It eventually got to the point that I could leave the chaplain’s office and start delivering the books myself. He would have a list of 13 – 20 people who wanted to sit and talk with him each day. The guys would have had to wait too long to talk with him if he didn’t have help. Chaplain Simmons would see at least 50 guys a week one-on-one.
Knowing you were innocent, how was your prison experience different?
While others may concede that they did what they did and that they have an understanding and different attitude. But it was really hard when I was first I prison… as an innocent man. When I got turned down for DNA, that was really hard. I had every expectation to get out and be at home with family and friends… but I wasn’t ready. I see that now. It was after that Linda started visiting, we got married, I gave my life to Christ and got involved with doing God’s will inside… by mentoring some of these young gang bangers, lead bible study and fellowship… When I went back to Augusta last week, a man came up to me and said, “You are the reason that I went back to church. I watched how you lived your life under your circumstances.” “Everything you said about your case was true – so maybe everything you were saying about Christ was true… “ By the example of the life I lived – and even by the Kairos video – lives are changing. I can see God using this – it doesn’t justify what the state did – but really God was allowing it to bring more glory and more people to Christ and make my exit out of prison in such a spectacular fashion, that all of us are amazed. I am continuously amazed by what God is doing.
What did you hope for once you got out?
To be invited back… I always wanted to go back – and prayed we’d go back – but never thought we would be INVITED back. We went back in, I dressed up. I wanted to be someone who inspired these guys. “Let me tell you what God is doing!” April 26th 2013 – God has done incredible things in our lives. Now – we have our own business. I hired my first electrician – formerly incarcerated. There were a lot of days that I didn’t believe I would be out of prison to have a company – but he gave me the vision, he gave me the name. But, it is my idea that we hire these guys… give them a chance. God is granting bigger and bigger jobs.
How did you sense God’s grace in prison?
As far as being an innocent man in prison. It was difficult. It was difficult psychologically. When I got to the point when they turned my DNA down… I told God – If you want me out of prison, you’ve got to make it happen. Two months later, the mid-Atlantic innocence project came to me. It was a God thing from the very beginning… I can understand that now. But because I knew I was innocent, it wasn’t the end of the world because God had given me a purpose while I was in there… to mentor younger Christians, and to serve as an example and to counsel some of the young gang bangers. They didn’t know anything but gangs and thuggery life style. They are just young… they grew up on the street.
This isn’t the life I imagined… where our best friends are killers – One of my best friends for years – been in prison 40 years – he is a brother in the Lord. The world only wants to see the one thing he did 40 years ago – but he isn’t that same man. To think that after spending 23 years in prison, I’m excited to go back. My friend said, “Man, didn’t you get enough of that when you were in there?”
Dave said, “You would think so.”
So how was your innocence proven?
The state paid for all of it – 2000 dollars a test. They did 44 or 45 tests…. The judge came out of retirement and used Dave’s letter [previously written requesting help sharing about the passed polygraphs] as a motion. I had done a polygraph somewhere around 2000. The best polygraph guy in the state came to the prison. The machine does two kinds of tests at the same time. I passed both of them. Not knowing the crime, anything about the crime, anyone who could have done the crime. I had mailed those results to the court. The judge wrote me back the following year. They had written it in as a constitutional right to have DNA testing. The judge wrote me and told me how to do it. Dave asked for the evidence to be preserved. “I got a letter that it had been preserved and an attorney had been assigned to my case.”
Dave’s amazing grace sums it up this way…
When it’s over, that wasn’t so bad – God really knew what God is doing. But I wouldn’t have the life or the wife I have now, if it hadn’t been for all those extra years.
Linda’s story as seen in our Impact Update: Linda Boyce: Leaping in Faith
Linda Boyce, Dave’s wife, made the decision to unite in Holy Matrimony while Dave was still in prison. Their love story is one of faith, patience and endurance.
Linda, as someone who has been there, what would you share with those who have a loved one incarcerated? “
Keep a positive attitude. That’s not an easy thing to do and I know that… but keeping a positive attitude helps you get through the situation and helps your loved one, too, because they have so much going on in there. But, there must be a balance. Don’t be afraid to share what is going on with you on the outside—or something with the family. If someone goes to the hospital, you need to tell them—and not try to protect them because they need to know. I know a lot of people need support groups or a church family to go to. At a certain point, I found a church, a very small church, but the church family took me right in. When I gave them my story, they acted normal. They accepted me. God took me to the right place, and that support group helps. I also had a lot of support from other families who are visiting. I also went to Kairos Outside with other ladies who visited in prison. We founded a little group and we were close. We visited on the outside, too. We continue to keep in touch.“
How did you and Dave meet?
“He wrote to me. Somebody walked up to him on the boulevard at Keen Mountain (neither of us know who) and told him that I might be able to help him. I had worked with Angel Tree and people had my name. Dave wanted me to help him set up a website to raise money for DNA testing. Once the DNA testing was done, he asked if I would come visit. So I started visiting in January of 2005.“
I imagine you would have had some serious concerns marrying someone in prison with no clear release date. What made you decide to marry him?
“We got married in 2006. I’d been visiting a year and a half. I think the deciding factor was I really believed he was innocent and, from everything that happened, that God placed me there. It wasn’t a difficult decision. The difficult part was dealing with my family. My parents and I just didn’t speak about it. They lived in Pennsylvania so it wasn’t in their face. My kids came to the wedding. My older boy actually believed he was innocent. My younger one went along because it would make me happy. It was really my faith and my belief that he was innocent. It will be ten years soon!“
Why do you think your relationship has managed the many challenges you’ve faced, together?
That’s what we had… communication. So we developed a style of communication that worked.
What do you wish people understood?
The general public doesn’t think about those families left behind. The families are victims also – but people don’t realize it. I had an occasion to talk to a woman at work this week. This woman came out of her office crying and [surprised] that her sorority sister is a murderer. She said, “I never would have thought it – she was a such a quiet person.”
In sum, Linda shares:
You know what, I spent a lot of time getting to know people in prisons and visiting rooms. They are just people… just people… and their families…