Good Kids Bad City
Kyle Swenson
Contributed by Greta Venegas

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Chapter 7
Summary

In this chapter, Swenson describes Ronnie’s efforts to prove his innocence, as well as the innocence of his brother and friend. Ronnie was paroled and released in January 2003 for good behavior during his imprisonment. Before his release, Ronnie had converted to Islam and changed his name to Kwame Ajamu. After his release, Kwame was able to find a job at a recycling center, and later at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. To help push his case back into popular culture, he sought the services of a renowned Cleveland attorney, Terry Gilbert. According to Swenson, Gilbert was the attorney who had represented America’s most renowned wrongly-convicted man, Sam Shepherd, a doctor who had been wrongfully accused of murdering his wife. However, upon reviewing Kwame’s case, Gilbert opted not to pursue it arguing that the case did not have “new evidence, new witness, nor new information” (Swenson, 2019, p. 126). He nonetheless suggested to Kwame that he could meet a journalist by the name Kyle Swenson, who would help do some digging and try to create public interest in the case. On the same day, Kwame rang Swenson and they both agreed to meet at a coffee shop.

Analysis

Ronnie’s efforts to prove his innocence, even after he had served his sentence and was paroled, implies that he was truly innocent. Ronnie is described as a considerate and sympathetic man who does not forget his friends back in prison, even after gaining his own freedom. He embarks on the strenuous task to help set his wrongfully-convicted friends free, displaying intelligence and proactivity as he approaches the right people to help get his case moving, and approaching Terry Gilbert, a lawyer with a good track record of helping exonerate innocent convicts. Kwame/Ronnie also emerges as a persistent man who does not give up easily. Even after Gilbert casts doubt on the worthiness of pursuing his case by arguing that it lacks new evidence, Kwame does not give up and agrees to meet with a journalist on Gilbert’s advice.  

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