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Welcome to the #PirateBroadcast, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Where you can expand your connections, your community, #kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let’s get this party started.
Russ Johns 0:19
It's a great day for the #piratebroadcast. I want to welcome you to join us every day, five days a week live streaming on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Periscope, where you have an opportunity to just kind of get a little bit of a slice of #interestingpeople doing #interesting things. I just really appreciate you and the fact that you're here, supporting the pirate community. I would love the opportunity to have you like and subscribe to some of these channels. Go listen to the podcast, if you can't watch live, and understand that we're nearly everywhere. So wherever you'd like to hang out, I'll be there. Today is no different. We're hanging out with Jason and Jason has been through an amazing, challenging past. I want to talk about mindset and some of the things that we have to deal with as we're going through challenges right now. Jason was wrongly convicted and he's got a story to tell. I wanted to interview Jason and understand what it takes to survive and thrive in this environment, and get to the next level. Because sometimes when you're handed something challenging, you have to overcome it. So Jason, welcome to the #piratebroadcast. Thank you for being here. You're now a pirate. Tell us, Jason. I know there's there's parts of the story that we don't necessarily need to cover today, but I wanted to focus in on the mindset and the the ability and the opportunity for you to know that you're in prison, know that you're wrongly convicted, and how you mentally process this and decided to make a choice to get out of it, and kind of walk us through with what you had to do in order to accomplish that goal.
Jason Strong 2:28
All right. Yeah. I mean, obviously, my case is very long and complicated, so we wouldn't be able to discuss everything, like you said. I mean, obviously, when it initially happens, you're almost frazzled and crazy, you don't understand why it's happening. You're confused. I mean, it just throws everything out of whack. You feel like you're in a nightmare and I'd never heard of wrongful convictions before it happened to me. It wasn't something that was common knowledge to people. So I thought, well, this was only happening to me. And when you're innocent, and it first happens, your first thoughts are, the justice system will correct itself. It will work out. You didn't do it. It'll do what it's supposed to do. You'll go home and everything will be okay, but it didn't happen that way.
Russ Johns 3:19
Yeah, the paperwork will catch up with you, right?
Jason Strong 3:23
Yeah, you go through the trial thinking, well, not my trial, my trial was terrible, but the whole time you're thinking you'll get there and everything will work itself out. But it doesn't work that way. It takes many, many years, I lost 15 and a half years. In the beginning, most of it was learning how to navigate jail and survive in there. I was trying to figure out what I had to do and what my attorneys could do, to prove my case. Then I had to develop a way to to keep my sanity. At first, I was just angry. I was very upset. I was mad that the cops and the prosecutors were doing this to me and that the state was doing this. I wanted to scream and just tear things apart because it was unjust. I hadn't done anything wrong. But that's not enough to carry you through the battle that I had to go through. So along the way, I started to learn about other cases. I started to realize that this wasn't just me, this happens a lot more and that gave me a sense of strength. Because I understood that there were other people that have gone through what I've gone through, and there was a bigger picture. Then the other thing that I did was I started to adopt a military mindset. I adopted the words of Patrick Henry, give me liberty or give me death. I looked at everything through the lens of a war. I was fighting for my life and this was and the state was my opponent. I had to build an army and I had to learn how to fight a war. So I started reading books, like the Art of War by Sun Tzu and books like Caesar's commentaries and other various...Winston Churchill, you know, various military people that had a lot of knowledge that I could learn from. I took that information as a way to understand how I could fight my case, especially the Art of War, a lot of good tips in there about how to navigate certain things, business and other things as well. So that's the mindset that I took. I used it for survival inside, as well, in prison in jail because I looked at everything, as I got to be aware of my surroundings, I always wanted to sit in a place where I could see everybody else, I always wanted to take a top bunk because you always should have the high ground. If I went to the showers I always made sure I was in an area where I wasn't trapped, I could maneuver if I had to maneuver. If you go to the yard, you're mindful of everybody else around you, you know? So I did a lot of different things like that to survive and help carry me through the fight. Then I had an extraordinary family that really fought with me, and they were my special forces.
Russ Johns 6:11
Yeah, I have to imagine that when you're going through that, psychologically, you have to have resilience and discipline. Discipline is going to bring you through because it's not necessarily going to be an overnight adventure, it's gonna take its toll at some point. So where did you dig deep and go for strength when those moments came across? Because like, hey, I gotta hang on, I gotta get past this moment here. How did you define that resilience and search for it when it was not very evident?
Jason Strong 6:56
Well, there's two things I could think of. One, I never realized I could handle what happened to me before I got locked up, I was not a saint, I lived very much a rock and roll lifestyle. I partied a lot. I drank, I used drugs, you know, things I shouldn't have done. But I did. So I never really had that fighting spirit, that drive, but when I got locked up, it was a sink or swim kind of moment in life. You're smacked in the face with some serious reality and it's like, you can just give up or you can fight, you can survive. I think that that primal instinct to survive, woke something up in me. I had a wonderful source of strength for my family, we helped each other, we fed off of each other's strength. If I was having a tough time, I would call my mom or my grandmother or somebody and they would encourage me. I would get strength from them. Then if they were having a hard time, they would get strength from me and we used that to build each other up to keep fighting. So that was a big source of it. I'm not dogmatic in any way, but I do have a spiritual side that I developed as well and that helped me.
Russ Johns 8:19
It's amazing. There have been times in my life where it was really challenging. When I fell, it shattered my arm and both legs and both arms were in traction, or casts or bandaged up in some way, and you feel completely helpless. You're like, I need help, you're vulnerable. It's not necessarily something that you're able to do on your own. You have to build a community around that. You have to have other sources of strength. I think that friends and family, and people that care about you, and people that care about your situation are the ones that need to show up at that point in time, in any circumstance. I mean, especially in COVID. I talked a lot on the show about this idea of reaching out to other people, because you don't know where people are, you don't know how fragile their circumstance or their mindset is. So having that strength, and the reason I talked about it, and the reason I wanted to ask you about it is because, I mean, you had nowhere to go. You had dangerous situations around you and you still had to survive and you still had to work day to day to read and educate yourself on what was necessary and work with your team to be able to find out what could be done next. I'm sure that it was a long battle that was draining at times.
Jason Strong 9:56
It was mostly my family that were there because most of my friends basically abandoned me. They didn't want nothing to do with any of this. It scares people. They don't know what's real or what's not. The cops tell them, hey, your friend was a murderer, or they think, oh, the cop said that he must be a murderer. So I lost a lot of my case. I told myself, I'm not just gonna fight to prove my innocence, I'm also going to work on fighting to strengthen myself, physically, mentally, and emotionally and become a better version of myself as I went through this journey. Part of what I had to do, as well, is make friends in prison. That was my home, I had to learn how to make friends there and survive there, man. And, you know, there's not a lot...I mean, there's some good people there, but there's some bad people there, too, and you have to learn how to navigate that world. Fortunately, I met a lot of really good guys. There's some stand up guys. Yeah, they did some bad things, but there were good people that just made some mistakes in their lives. Then I've met a couple other people that were innocent, like myself, so that helped as well because we had commonality on things we could talk about. met a wonderful friend, Jimmy Soto, who's still fighting after 30 plus years. He's one of the guys that helped me understand the law. I mean, that was critical for me fighting my own case when I didn't have lawyers anymore. For many years, I was my own attorney because we couldn't afford any attorneys at the time. That's what you've got to do if you want to keep fighting.
Russ Johns 11:49
Well, you have to keep the case active, I would imagine. Jason, you have a couple of fans here it looks like. Angie says, good morning, everyone. She's here. Russ and Jason. Two awesome men today. Lorraine says, love Jason. Angie says Jason definitely has resilience. So there you go. The scales of injustice says, good morning, everyone. Hi, Jason. Hiatt from Houston is here, got in late unable to stay. Good day, fellow pirates. So it's awesome to see Hyatt. The Art of War is a fabulous book?
Jason Strong 12:34
Russ Johns 12:35
Absolutely. Sometimes we don't realize how much we can handle until we have to go through something hard. That is absolutely positively true. When you have no choice, you can really understand what it takes to get to the next level.
Jason Strong 12:50
It's true. Some people don't...I took it as I had to fight for my life, and others do too. But there are some people that just lay down and give up. So you have to have something there in the first place. I just never realized I had that inner strength to do that. Until this happened to me.
Russ Johns 13:11
Would you describe it as hope? Or would you describe it as conviction or destiny? or How would you describe that?
Jason Strong 13:21
I would say a lot of it was hope. But also just conviction, the principle of it. How dare you destroy my life for something I didn't do? I could not stand by that. I wouldn't allow that to stand. I was gonna fight. The only way they could keep me in there is if they killed me. That's why I said give me liberty or give me death. I was going to fight until I was free one way or another. But I also had hope. Hope had to come in because you can't fight on just anger. You can't fight on just conviction, you've got to have hope that things will turn out, especially when you lose a battle. You lose an appeal and it's deflating, you're like, oh my god, I lost another appeal. Anyway, you're not going to lose just one, believe me, you're going to lose many. So you've got to have something that keeps you going through that and also the strength of my family having that hope that we will succeed one day, that gets you through as well. I wish I would have thought about it. I would have dug out one of my poems I wrote when I was first in that was all about how I will prevail. Like my battle cry. My friend, every time he read it, he would say that he pictures me on a steed with half my face painted blue and half white saying, freedom!!
Russ Johns 14:43
No kidding, no kidding. Well, that's the mindset you have to have, too. It's just like, I'm gonna get past this. I'm gonna get through it. So Jason, Lorraine said, Jason helped me get Julius Jones' address in prison. I sent him a card and got one back, too. I've started writing letters to people in prison who are wrongfully convicted, he is my inspiration. So awesome. That's fantastic.
Jason Strong 15:08
I try to do what I can. I want to help people, I want to do good things. Part of one of my struggles is I get a lot of DM's, from people on social media looking for help and I can't respond to everybody. And I'm not an attorney, so there's only so much I can do, but I try to do what I can. I try to help where I can, but it does get overwhelming at times, because you want to help everyone and you can't.
Russ Johns 15:35
I know there are organizations out there that are working towards wrongful convictions and people that care, and people that believe that it's injustice, inaction. People on both sides. There's this idea that the justice system is always right and it's not necessarily the case. People make mistakes on both sides of the equation. I know that there's a lot of things there, poor judgment, bad decisions, all of those things happen. I can understand how it can happen, it just seems so far fetched that it's like, how is this even possible, and, you know, being in the wrong place at the wrong time? You just have to wonder, how does this happen? How can this possibly happen?
Jason Strong 16:38
Well, there's also, there's mistakes that are made, and then there's tunnel vision and stuff like that. But there's also deliberate actions to railroad people that takes place, as well and that's the saddest part.
Russ Johns 16:51
Close a case.
Jason Strong 16:52
Yeah, it's sad when you have people that we have placed in authority, that we trust to uphold the laws, break those laws and harm innocent people. You expect more from police and prosecutors and judges, but they're people too, and so sometimes you get some bad ones in there. They can do some really bad things to other people. Especially...my case was in Illinois. There's a lot of stories that come out of Illinois about some really, really bad police officers that have done things up there, especially in Chicago, man. They actually had stories about a group of police officers that had a black site, where they would take suspects there and physically torture them, they would electrocute them and beat them and stick guns in their mouths to get them to confess to crimes. I think society kind of gets softened to some of this stuff, because we watch law and order and all these shows, and they get this mindset that, oh, as long as it's a bad guy, we don't care how they treat them. Well, what if it's not a bad guy? Then they shouldn't be treated that way bad or not. But what if it's not that bad guy? What if it's an innocent person that that's happening to? We don't see that enough in the media, I'm saying as far as television shows, and movies, so people don't think about that as much in that aspect. But now, thankfully, we're seeing a little bit more...DNA has really opened up things where people are starting to understand that this happens, but it's still an uphill battle. For us, there's a lot of people that don't know about it, don't think about it, it doesn't impact them immediately, so we're still having to inform people and wake people up.
Russ Johns 18:46
Yeah. Well, I have I have noticed in the last few years, more and more cases being released as a direct result of DNA. That is a tool that can be used to overturn awrongful conviction. I have to believe that that's a tool that more people need to be aware of, and utilize.
Jason Strong 19:08
The thing with DNA is, it's great, because it does give you that definitive answer. It's helped open up the eyes of a lot of people because of all the stories that are coming out. But the other thing is that people need to realize most cases don't have DNA. So you have to find other ways to prove those cases and that is really hard. My case didn't have DNA. The way I proved my case was it came down to forensic pathologists that had reevaluated the original evidence, three different forensic pathologists, and they all came to the same conclusion and it wasn't possible. The original medical examiner was wrong in his findings, and all these different groups found the same thing, peer reviewed everything. It just wasn't possible. So that makes you wonder, well, how did that happen? How did this guy get it all wrong. After I was out, we had some depositions for another case filing and my attorneys basically told me that this guy was a fraud. He had never gone to medical school, he'd never practiced here legally. He went to some fly by night institution in the Dominican Republic that was closed down for fraudulent practices. He'd been practicing here all this time and he still practices here, he moved to another state. So, it's things like that. You get rogue doctors, or you get people that don't know what they're doing. They come in and they sit on these cases as experts and they skew everything to fit whatever they need to fit.
Russ Johns 20:51
That's a dangerous thing. Nick says, pirates. Hey, brothers, we all make bad decisions at some point in our lives. Yeah, sometimes you do. I know I have. I mean, I've made some bad decisions.
Jason Strong 21:08
You know, I've met a lot of guys inside that were some really stand up people. Just good, down to earth people. I've met some people better in prison than some of the people I know out in the world. I've met some people that are free that are just terrible people.
Russ Johns 21:26
Yeah. Like Angie says, there are some bad people on the outside as well.
Jason Strong 21:31
Russ Johns 21:32
Yeah. Hiett says, personal and spiritual strength. Absolutely. Absolutely, Hiett. You know, Jason, this is a fascinating story. I would have to believe...before we jumped on you were talking about a book and a podcast and a possible TV series. I know Wendy's on the panel here. She's like, welcome to the pirate posse, Jason! I'm involved with Wdndy right now on a project. Wendy also says, I found, while I was in serving time in a maximum security prison that there are so many good hearts and loyal hands to help me succeed. Congratulations. Also, innocent people walk differently. I learned to spot my people right away. So there are some good people that like you said, made bad decisions. There are people who have been wrongfully convicted because other people made bad decisions. So, a podcast, a book, a movie...what direction are you gonna put your energy into next?
Jason Strong 22:49
Well, I'm working on all of those, but I really want to get into...I'd like to start owning businesses, not actually operating. I'd like to get into learning how to own different companies and just have them under an umbrella that they own and other people run it. But I really want to get more into film and TV. I've always been a big movie buff. I love the creative aspects of it. I've done a little bit of stuff. I've created a short documentary. I've done a local cable access music show, I was a consultant on the Fox television show Proven Innocent. I'm currently working on a TV show I do with a friend out in Jersey, might do some acting with my friend David Elliot, who wrote Four Brothers and was also the creator of Proven Innocent. So I'm trying to work my way into those areas of Hollywood and TV and all that stuff.
Russ Johns 23:52
Very cool. Very cool. I love that. It's like, hope is the thing they try to take away.
Jason Strong 24:04
Absolutely. Yeah. Hope is a good thing. Andy Dufresne (The Shawshank Redemption) said, hope is a good thing. Perhaps the best of things, right?
Russ Johns 24:10
Yes. Lorraine says, be strong. #BeJasonStrong. Angie says the justice system is terribly broken.
Jason Strong 24:21
Absolutely. A lot of lives destroyed.
Russ Johns 24:26
You have some fans here. Lorraine says, Angie Schuman, do you mean the injustice system?
Jason Strong 24:31
Well, that's what I called my short documentary that I made.
Russ Johns 24:35
Oh, was it really?
Jason Strong 24:36
Russ Johns 24:37
Oh, wow. Lorraine says Wisconsin is really bad too.
Jason Strong 24:43
Well, ironically, when I got locked up my my case was for a Jane Doe. They didn't know who the victim was. There was another case in Wisconsin, Racine, Wisconsin where they had a Jane Doe up there, too. They thought the two were connected. So when I first got arrested for this one, the Racine people came down and interrogated me too. For many, many years, I was their number one suspect up there. They just didn't pursue anything, because I was already locked up in Illinois. But once my case started to fall apart in Illinois, they realized, okay, this isn't our guy. They eventually solved their case, so that was really good, but, unfortunately, my the case for me is the family and the victim will never get real justice. They're not going to pursue the people that we believe are actually responsible.
Russ Johns 25:42
Jason Strong 25:43
Yeah, it's unfortunate. But sometimes that actually is the case. A case gets so old that it's hard to then prove what really happened. Evidence disappears, people die. Things like that happen, and it makes it harder. Of the people that we suspect committed the crime, we believe it was three people, two of those people, one of them's dead, and the other one is in a mental institution. So there's only one left and that person could easily say it was the other people that did it and nobody's gonna pursue it anyway. So it's kind of a dead issue. Unfortunately.
Russ Johns 26:20
That's too bad. Yeah, that's too bad that families can't get justice. Angie says, you know music, as well.
Jason Strong 26:30
I love music. I'm a big music guy. I like everything from Beethoven to Slipknot. If I can get into it, I like it.
Russ Johns 26:40
Wherever you find your groove, right?
Jason Strong 26:42
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think music is beautiful. And in various forms. I love all kinds of music.
Russ Johns 26:50
I feel the same way. It's absolutely, absolutely there. Vivek says, can you share the link of your video?
Jason Strong 27:02
Yeah, well, right now if you go to...so it's on my friend's YouTube station called Worst Media.
Russ Johns 27:12
Jason Strong 27:13
Yeah. If you go on there, all the soundcheck episodes and the injustice system, those are online.
Russ Johns 27:21
Maybe somebody can type that in, it would be wonderful if somebody if somebody could do that.
Jason Strong 27:27
Oh, I don't know how to do that.
Russ Johns 27:28
No, somebody in the chat. Wendy says, Justice is not "subjective"...to fit someone's agenda. Lorraine says that evidence in Wisconsin either disappears or is fabricated.
Jason Strong 27:47
Yeah, they're good at that. There was a piece of evidence...there was a tape that I was wanting to get when I was fighting my case, that when they finally, after many years of them saying they didn't have it, they finally turned it over. It was really bad quality, you couldn't understand anything. Then years later, when they wanted to try to use it for their own spin, they had a perfect quality tape. I'm like, whoa, how did that work?
Russ Johns 28:17
Tracie says she'll add the video to the video notes. So Tracie, thank you so much. I love you. Tracie, the producer will put it in the show notes. It'll be up on the post. So you can go there Vivek and check it out and achieve results there. Jason, this is an amazing story. I'd love to follow you and make sure that if you get a podcast up, we can help promote it. If you get a book or a program of any kin we can support you. So anything we're doing, stay in touch. Now that you're a pirate, you're our brother.
Jason Strong 29:00
Yeah, well, I'm on Instagram, Twitter, and I just got back onto LinkedIn.
Russ Johns 29:07
Very good, very good. Well, we will follow you and we will track you down and make sure that you're supported. We can actually help you and assist you in creating your future wherever it happens to lead you.
Jason Strong 29:21
Alright. Thank you very much. It was great being on the show.
Russ Johns 29:24
Yeah, thank you so much. And everyone, there are times and there are challenges we have in our life and everything that we need to do is in front of us most of the time. Sometimes we just need to make a decision. We need to make a choice and find hope. Find the diligence and the discipline to make it happen and sometimes it's a difficult road. However, the best views are after you travel the hardest roads, so don't give up. Keep going in and take on those challenges and make sure that you're doing what you can to get where you need to be in life. So, yeah, thank you, Jason. Really appreciate you. As you know, everyone, #kindnessiscool, #smilesarefree, so you #enjoytheday. Take care of Jason.
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