A California man who went to prison for crimes he didn’t commit gets a tryout with the Seahawks Thursday. It’s been ten years since Brian Banks was wrongly accused of rape. Now, it’s his second chance at a professional football career.
It is the type of do-over most people exonerated of serious crimes won’t ever get.
“It was very awesomely overwhelming, let’s put it that way,” says Allen Northrup.
Northrup was 28-years-old when he was accused and convicted of raping a girl near his hometown of Woodland, Washington. He spent 17 years behind bars before he was finally exonerated through DNA.
During that time he developed a hardened personality that served him well. But outside of prison, his inability to keep his cool has made it tough for him to maintain a relationship.
Northrup says he also finds a lot of everyday conversations hard to take.
“Especially when they talk about kid things. […] There’s been times when they ask, what about your kids? I don’t know. I didn’t get to watch them grow up,” says Northrup.
His three children were toddlers when he was incarcerated. They were all in their 20’s when he was released two years ago.
Luckily, Northrup had no trouble finding work with an old friend in his hometown, but there are some opportunities he says he will never get back. He had been working in the logging industry with hopes of making more money as a heavy equipment operator.
“I was blessed with going to prison instead,” Northrup says.
He is now renting a room and living paycheck to paycheck. While Brian Banks is hoping to get some compensation from the state of California for his wrongful imprisonment, Northrup has never received a penny.
Jackie McMurtrie, the founder of the Innocence Project Northwest at the University of Washington, says while people who are on probation receive some minimal services, people who are exonerated get nothing.
The Innocence Project was instrumental in getting Northrup the DNA test that proved his innocence.
The University of Washington Law School has now started a policy program through the Innocence Project. They are hoping to pass a law similar to those in California and 26 other states where people are repaid for the time they lost due to a wrongful conviction.
In the meantime, Northrup is getting a second chance in one way – with his 3-year-old granddaughter.
“She’s like a spitting image of my daughter, back when my daughter was that age. It’s kind of a do over,” Northrup says.