Forever Scared

Herman Atkins is still trying to pick up the pieces 10 years after he was freed from imprisonment on phoney rape charges

He is always planning for the future. He wants to go to Australia, England and Africa. His dreams seem endless, but he is also practical—frugal, despite his wealth, because he knows that to realize his goals, his money needs to last. On a recent outing to run errands, he stopped at Burlington Coat Factory, where he picked out a $40 pair of shoes. He also introduced himself by name to the clerk at the counter. He stowed the receipt.

With time, Atkins has buried his dark side deeper within him. But those who know him recognize it. They know why he positions himself facing the exit at every restaurant, why he is always looking around and sizing people up, why he stockpiles receipts.

This February, Atkins and Machara were in Las Vegas on the 10th anniversary of his exoneration, the fourth anniversary of their wedding. They went to see a cover band who played songs from the ’70s and ’80s. And as they made their way through hotels and casinos, Atkins found comfort in the countless surveillance cameras hanging from the ceilings.

Brian Stauffer
Michael Villegas

This article appeared in print as "Forever Scared: Ten years after his imprisonment on phony rape charges, Herman Atkins can’t shake what happened. His life is a never-ending search for an alibi."

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