Opinion Forum

He waited 6 years for murder case to go to trial. Now he’s free, but family is ‘shattered’

Six years and two days. That long ago, the State of Georgia took my children from my legal custody and prohibited any kind of contact or visitation. On June 8, 2012, I was taken in for questioning and shackled at the waist, wrists and ankles.

I was not advised of my Miranda rights or afforded legal counsel before detectives attempted to pressure me into confessing to a crime I did not commit.

At the same time, my children were interviewed by detectives without the knowledge of their legal guardian, or consent, and outside the presence of a children’s advocate.

In a series of interviews, investigators progressively tried to convince the children that a visit they initially described as happy and full of laughter could have been filled with screaming, and worse.

In July 2012, with insufficient investigation, I was arrested. I was jailed for 15 months of those years, and prohibited any contact with my children. From there, my case was shuffled around the system for six years. This was not because the case couldn’t be brought to trial for a legitimate reason, but because no one chose to try.

This story is not meant as an attack against all state representatives of the law; I even think their initial suspicions were justified. Afterward, however, the investigation and prosecution were conducted through tunnel vision.

The evidence and common human decency were ignored in pursuit of a hastily accepted conclusion.

Sometime in the first week of June 2012, someone killed Ciara Ingram, my ex-wife. My children lost their mother, but on June 8, 2012, they also lost their father as the State took him away.

Ciara was beautiful, intelligent and strong, but she also had complex mental and emotional difficulties. We argued and had disagreements but were never physically abusive toward each other. And I certainly didn’t kill her.

I was finally able to prove that in a court of law.

At 10:15 a.m. on May 29, I was acquitted by a jury of my peers. Some of the jurors even approached me afterward to wish my family well, and said they’d be praying for us.

It’s important for people to understand that this wasn’t an acquittal by technicality or lack of evidence.

To the contrary, the evidence shows that it was completely implausible that I could have committed this crime.

The accusation against me has utterly shattered my family. My children were left afraid, confused and never knew why their Daddy left them.

The 6th and 8th Amendments of the Constitution are supposed to guarantee citizens a speedy public trial, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment. There is nothing speedy about having to wait nearly six years for a trial. There is nothing more cruel than taking children away from a parent.

I don’t think it’s fair to lay blame on any one government agency. Columbus detectives should have explored other possibilities when the evidence they collected wasn’t lining up with their initial theories. The state crime lab didn’t return results until 2014. The district attorney’s office didn’t try for an indictment until 2017. Finally, we couldn’t get into a courtroom until this May.

My family’s ordeal is not over. I somehow have to rebuild a relationship with my children. I have to go through juvenile court and fight for custody. I have to try to get the arrest expunged from my record, repair my credit, and petition Fort Benning, where I was once employed, to reconsider allowing me access to the post.

Over the past six years, I stayed in this community. Trusting in God, I faced down every obstacle. Through Him, I managed to eventually find work and even remarry. My wonderful wife was behind me through every minute of the trial. I have friends and family from the places I’ve attended church, worked or served praying for me and supporting me. For this I’m immensely grateful.

One thing is certain: changes need to be made. We have to find a way to address the court backlog, because my situation is not unique. The civil liberties of victims, their families and accused citizens are being ignored. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Jarod Ingram submitted this op-ed piece to the Ledger-Enquirer days after his acquittal in a Columbus courtroom.