An Innocent Man & A Crooked Cop

“I promised myself that if I ever saw that cop again, I was going to kill him. I intended to keep that promise. How is it possible to forgive a man responsible for taking away three years of your life?”
J. McGee, 2006
Wrongfully Accused Prisoner

Authors Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins at Tiscornia Park in St. Joseph, Michigan.
(photo by Jennifer Mayo Studios)

Jameel McGee (pronounced Ja-mel) was in the process of opening his own business when he was arrested by Andrew Collins for drug possession – a crime that he did not commit. He was sentenced to ten years and served three years in federal prison until his conviction was overturned when Collins admitted to falsifying evidence. These two men—one white and one black—still living in the racial powder keg of Benton Harbor crossed paths once again. First, they found themselves face-to-face at a church event in Broadway Park. McGee had to decide at this moment: Would he take violent revenge or would he peacefully walk away?

For the next three years, not a day went by that I didn’t think about my son who I had never seen and the cop who had kept me from him. And for most of those three years, I promised myself that if I ever saw this cop again, I was going to kill him. I intended to keep that promise.”
J. McGee, 2009

While McGee was serving his unlawful sentence, Collins’ own life started to spiral out of control. As a fifth year officer with the Benton Harbor Police Department, he was forced to resigned due to an investigation for misconduct. After admitting to charges of falsifying evidence and drug possession, he was sentenced to serve 37 months in prison. In only a week following Collins’ guilty plea, McGee’s wrongful conviction was overturned – after serving three years. McGee was free at last.

“I nearly danced out of the prison and down the sidewalk toward the street. I wasn’t just free. My conviction had been overturned. I was an innocent man. I didn’t have a parole officer to report to or probation to keep. I had just been handed my life back. Hallelujah!”
J. McGee, 2009


These two men crossed paths once again, finding themselves face-to-face at a outdoor community event. Collins braced himself for the angry man headed in his direction; his muscles tensed, fearing a potential conflict. McGee was also fighting his own emotions— he had to decide at that moment— Would he take violent revenge or would he peacefully walk away?

As this battle was going on in my head and in my heart, I squeezed harder and harder on Collins’s hand. I mean, I was really squeezing it hard. I had to because I was in pain. This was a battle, and it was all inside of me.”
J. McGee, 2011


After being released, McGee’s life continued on a rocky path with bouts of unemployment and homelessness. Coincidently the two men found themselves together again in a community rehabilitation program called Jobs for Life.  McGee was assigned to work with Collins as a coach but both men were nervous about the working arrangement. Collins boldly confronted McGee:

“There’s a lot of history between us. Do you really think we can move beyond it all and move forward?” McGee replied, “Yeah, we gotta be able to do that. And if we can move forward, then maybe we can teach other people how to do the same.”
J. McGee & A. Collins, 2015


McGee and Collin have collaborated with a book that tells their story call Convicted. They have done numerous presentations internationally to various audiences and have appeared on national networks and radio stations. Both men, now transformed by their new passions, confronted their mutual pasts head-on. The outcome was not only forgiveness, but true reconciliation.


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