A man who spent more than two decades in jail for the wrong reasons might see his story brought to the big screen.
Darryl Burton, of Missouri, might have been wrongfully imprisoned for 24 years, but he shows no bitterness or ill-will at all, KSHB reports. Formerly an innocent inmate, now Burton is an associate pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, preaching forgiveness at every opportunity he is given.
"I started praying for the people who I hated and the people who had done me wrong," Burton said in a sermon. "The forgiveness wasn't for them, it was for me. It set me free."
According to Centurion Ministries, Burton was wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn't commit. On June 4, 1984, a man named Donald Ball was murdered at a St. Louis, MO Amoco gas station. Witnesses said a gunman approached and shot him. He attempted to flee, but was killed after the gunman shot him in the back.
Two days after the incident, two people identified Burton as the killer and less than a month after Ball was murdered, Burton was arrested. Although police couldn't establish a motive, Burton, 22-years-old at the time, was convicted.
"I was so full of anger and hate and bitterness, I was physically in prison, but I was also spiritually in prison," Burton said of his imprisonment in a sermon.
While in prison, Burton sent over 600 letters to various people, asking them to plead his case, The Open Table KC noted. It wasn't until he allowed Christ into his life, however, that he experienced the freedom he really needed.
While in prison, Burton discovered that anger and hate also serve as another kind of prison, and that Jesus said we must love, pray for, and forgive our enemies.
"Until I read that truth in Luke 23:34, I didn't think that was possible," he told The Open Table. Ten years before being exonerated, Burton felt the emotional and spiritual freedom that he needed.
Burton worked with Centurion Ministries in overturning his conviction, after hearing of a witness' confession that said he was innocent. He was exonerated in 2008.
Hope for the Future
Burton has had a painful experience that spanned nearly a quarter century. He told KSHB that he left a seven-month-old daughter to serve a sentence he didn't deserve. He also said that although he has forgiven, he has never forgotten that the state continually rejected his appeals to regain his freedom. And he has never received any compensation for the wrongful imprisonment.
Burton said, however, that his story might turn into a book or a movie.
"Just in the past couple of weeks, people from like the Oprah Winfrey camp, people from Steve Harvey," he said.
Although he is still deciding on which agent to sign on for a book or movie and does not know when it will happen, he is hoping that his case will help free others who are wrongly convicted – just like he was.
"I don't know how, I don't know when I just believe it's going to become something that will impact the world," said Burton.