Arrested Development

Arthur Carmonas 10-year sentence was overturned a year ago. Now hes got life

He hasn't had any other jobs, though he's done little things on the side and taken a counseling class. Ronnie says Arthur's a natural counselor. She'd like to start a kind of Mothers for Wrongly Accused Victims for kids like Arthur—she's been in contact with the families of Josh Moore and George Lopez, two other young men put in prison on questionable convictions. But she wants to do more. She's spoken with people, including a Hollywood producer, about making it happen.

"Maybe we can call it the Arthur Carmona Foundation for Justice Reform and Education," she said. "A lot of mothers have approached me about it. We need something like this. I can use Arthur; he's a true asset. You hook him up as a counselor—he has so much to teach kids and adults.

"You know, getting him out now seems like the easy part. There were all these things you had to do, all these deadlines and whatever. You knew what you had to do. Once they get out, that's the hard part; there's no checklist for that. If we were able to create something to help people like this, that would be my way of finding peace with what happened."

But Arthur doesn't seem interested in becoming a poster child or a DBA (doing business as), though he has filed lawsuits against the cities of Costa Mesa and Irvine, which handled his robbery case, and against his first defense attorney, Kenneth Reed, for putting up "virtually no defense."

He still receives letters, gifts and cards from well-wishers. A video of The Hurricane—the Denzel Washington movie about a man unjustly imprisoned—has gone unwatched. "I lived it," he said. "That was my life. I already know what it's about."

When people hear his name, they wish him well and apologize, which just makes him feel uncomfortable.

"To be honest, I'd like to forget it, to move on," he said. "I appreciate it, but I think they should use all that energy for someone else in prison who needs it."

Arthur starts college this week. The stories about him while in prison usually mentioned that he dreamed of becoming a chef. But Arthur says he's interested in studying criminal justice now. Arthur Carmona wants to be a cop.

"I know people are surprised when I say that, but I figure maybe I can avoid someone else going through what I did," he said, as if what happened wasn't happening still.

Arthur Carmona has a new family now. Whether it will be a better or worse family, only time will tell. Ronnie thinks therapy would help, but she doesn't have a job and therefore the health insurance to pay for it. So they'll just have to do it themselves for the time being. Better or worse, it will never be the same. Arthur Carmona went to prison. Nothing can change that, and that has changed everything.

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