THE U.S. IS THE ONLY COUNTRY THAT ROUTINELY SENTENCES CHILDREN TO LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE
It was a late summer morning when Robert “Fat Daddy” Taylor woke up, smoked two blunts, and decided to turn himself in. He’d been on the run for four days, and it seemed that everywhere he went in and around the 7 Mile neighborhood on the east side of Detroit, there were photos of him in stores, and people quick to call the police, to claim the $1,000 reward for finding him.
“The streets talk,” Taylor told me recently. “Everybody was telling me, ‘Yo, Fats, man, those boys trying to get you.’ I couldn’t go nowhere. [The police] was everywhere.”
Taylor was not afraid — after all, he was only a person of interest, not a suspect, in a murder that had taken place 15 days earlier, and he knew he had not committed the crime. Still, he was only 16, so he decided to seek the counsel of John McCoy, a 40-something-year-old neighborhood friend. McCoy assured Taylor that the police could not charge him, so Taylor continued walking along East Jefferson Avenue and made his way to the Beaubien police station. He was too young to conceive that this would essentially be his last day of freedom, that this simple act would lead to an arrest, then a life without parole sentence for a crime he insists he did not commit.