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Forgiveness and Hope: Robert George’s 31-year journey to freedom

Several individuals helped fight for Robert George’s release.

Robert George, bottom right, with family, friends and supporters after his release from prison. Contributed
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After 31 years in prison, on Tuesday, Robert George, 85, was released to become a free man again surrounded by family and a team of individuals who helped secure his release. George said his faith in God helped him keep hope that day would come.

“Hope, I can tell everybody, that man up there,” George said. “So the man above the only one, you got to depend on him.”

George was convicted of manslaughter in 1993 for the fatal shooting of 11-year-old Mary Dale. The shooting was a tragic accident as George was an alcoholic at the time and misfired the weapon while intoxicated. Mary would end up dying a few days later from her injuries.

Typically, a manslaughter charge would only result in a maximum sentence of 20 years. However, because George had prior violations stemming from non-violent theft of property from an unoccupied dwelling his manslaughter charge was enhanced under Alabama’s Felony Habitual Offender law. George was sentenced to serve life in prison. 

But one day while at Fountain Correctional Facility George would end up making an impact on Swift Justice, an incarcerated activist. Swift said that George came over and put his arm around him and said that he could use George’s washing machine and dryer because he knew Swift was a good person. Swift said that simple encounter inspired him to begin working to get George out of prison and along the way Swift said he, “adopted [George] as a father figure.”

But the path to getting George out of prison was not easy as Swift and attorney Lauren Faraino, whom Swift brought onto George’s case in 2022, both attested to. However, both continued to keep faith that George would not see his last days inside the prison walls.

Along with Faraino and Swift several other individuals helped fight for George’s release including former Gov. Don Siegelman, former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, and Swift’s wife Dr. Elizabeth Hancock through his organization Unheard Voices of the Concrete Jungle.  

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In 2023, after learning of George’s remorse and how he changed as a person Mary’s mother, Joyce Dale, began to support George’s release from prison as well. George has remained sober since the tragic accident over 30 years ago.

Initially, Joyce signed an affidavit in support of George receiving a new sentence but the Monroe County District Attorney denied that filing request in February despite her support. But the team working to free George saw medical parole as the next avenue to him getting out as his health was deteriorating. On April 10, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole voted 2-1 to grant parole for George following two hours of questions primarily from Chair Leigh Gwathney.

As part of the parole hearing Joyce sent a recorded video message voicing her support for George to receive parole according to

“I know I said the last time that I want him to stay in prison. But God has brought me through…I forgive him because I’m a child of God and I would like to just let him out of prison just to let him see some daylight,” Joyce said. ”I’m asking you all please, please release the man. In Jesus’ name, thank y’all.”

George also had support from correctional staff who attested to George’s character and behavior while imprisoned. On Tuesday, George was released to family while several correctional guards also surrounded George to wish him farewell. 

Photos from Robert George’s release.

After leaving the facility George returned to a Hampton Inn where he was able to enjoy a porkchop, did a small dance, talked about sports and fishing and could not wait to see all of his grandchildren. George thanked Faraino, Siegelman, Hancock and others for all they did to help him.

George’s step-daughter Yvonne Mccray, stated how ecstatic she was to see her step-father once again.

“I’m so happy to see him I don’t know what to do,” Mccray said.

Faraino added that what was so amazing to her was the advocacy of an incarcerated person that led to George getting parole.

Robert George at a Hampton Inn after his release.

“And what’s incredible about this story to me is that Mr. George would not be out of prison if it weren’t for someone who is still in prison, advocating for him,” Faraino said. “Swift Justice brought this case to us. And he helped build a legal team who helped direct the strategy. And because of the selflessness of someone else who’s in prison Mr. George is now a free man going to live with his family.”

That selflessness that Swift demonstrated also emanated from his father figure. George told the media that he hopes others still incarcerated were able to receive help and called upon those who helped him to do the same for others.

“So, I hope all of y’all, because if it wasn’t for y’all I wouldn’t have made it here, but I hope y’all could help some of the rest of them,” George said.

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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