At 17-years old, Juan Rayford Jr. was wrongfully accused of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now 32-yeas old, Juan, has spent 15 years of his life behind bars.
Juan’s life was changed forever on a night in 2004. While at a house party playing video games with friends, an altercation began between one of Juan’s friends and another person.
Juan Rayford Sr., Juan’s father, explained the incident, “The friend and the other guy had a long-standing beef and it spilled over to a fight and Juan and everybody came running. Shots were fired, and when the police came, they took names and wanted to know who did what. My son did nothing wrong, he had no gun and there were some shots fired but nobody was hit, nobody was hurt.”
The police questioned everyone at the scene but the investigation focused on Juan and another teen, Dupree Glass. Several witnesses in the area gave statements to the police saying the teens weren’t involved and did not have a gun.
Even though no one was shot or even injured during the incident, Juan and Dupree were still charged with 11 counts of attempted murder each. During the trail, witnesses of the incident changed their statement while the two teens were not allowed to call witnesses on their behalf. The two young men were offered a plea deal of 15 years in prison but they maintained their innocence throughout.
In October of 2004, Juan Rayford Jr. and Dupree Glass were sentenced to 220 years without any chance of parole, plus — 11 life terms. A sentence that many say violates the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment that prohibits extreme sentences that are “grossly disproportionate” to the crime.
Fifteen years later Rayford Jr. remains in a San Diego-area prison. His father is still fighting for his freedom. The California Supreme Court granted the petition by Innocence Rights of Orange County in December 2016 and they are now waiting for the court hearing.
“Juan isn’t bitter, he isn’t angry,” Rayford Sr. told the Charleston Chronicles. “He prays every day and he does what he’s supposed to do and we are hopeful that the Court will soon hear the case and grant his freedom.”