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A wrongful conviction finally righted, a FIU student helping Ukraine, Little Haiti Book Festival

Guervens Jeune, left, Ralph Polynice, center, and Wedner Petit-Deu, stand and wait behind the Haitian flag outside the Little Haiti Cultural Complex on Jan. 12, 2016.
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
May is Haitian Heritage Month. In this file photo, children wait behind the Haitian flag outside the Little Haiti Cultural Complex on Jan. 12, 2016.

We hear the story of a man who spent 32 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Plus, an FIU student is trying to help her family and others stuck in the war back home in Ukraine. And during Haitian Heritage Month, we're speaking with an award-winning author about the significance of this celebration.

On this Monday, May 2, edition of Sundial:

A wrongful conviction finally righted 

For the last 32 years Thomas Raynard James has served a life sentence for a murder he did not commit.

The crime happened during a botched armed robbery in 1990, where a man was killed in Coconut Grove.

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Last July, Journalist Tristram Korten wrote a piece for GQ called “The Tragic Case of the Wrong Thomas James.”

At that time, Korten joined Sundial to talk about the case. Find that conversation here.

There's been an update to that story. James’ conviction and sentence were vacated last month after prosecutors discovered that he had never committed the crime.

“It was over. James's long journey to prove his innocence, which would have broken lesser men, had ended. He was a free man. He stood up to start another journey into a world very different from the one he left,” wrote Korten in a recently published follow-up piece for GQ titled "The Tragic Case of the Wrong Thomas James Is Finally Righted."

Now, Korten joins Sundial to discuss how the case was righted and what’s next for James’ life.

A wrongful conviction finally righted
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle looks at Thomas "Jay" Raynard James after announcing a motion to vacate his 1991 murder conviction, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Miami. A judge vacated the life sentence of James who prosecutors said was wrongfully convicted because of mistaken identity.

FIU students helping Ukraine

Anastasiia Osadchuk was born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine. She's a pre-med student studying at Florida International University.

In her calls home to her mother and grandparents, she can hear the bombs go off in the background.

She's in the process of starting a nonprofit to help not only her family, but also the people living in the midst of war there.

Find more information on how you can help get aid to Ukraine here.

FIU students helping Ukraine
Supporters of Ukraine at the rally.

Little Haiti Book Festival

It’s Haitian Heritage Month. That means griot, pikliz, konpa music, lots of dancing and the Little Haiti Book Festival. It was back in person over the weekend and has a couple of upcoming online events this month celebrating Haitian music and literature.

“For me, Haiti is everything, really. And having the occasion to celebrate my origins, to celebrate my roots is ... affirming. I feel that during the whole month, I am reminded of who I am, where I've been and who I've become. So it's a great time for introspection. But it's above all, a great time for community,” said M.J. Fievre, an author and the festival's program coordinator.

Fievre was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and moved to the United States in 2002. She has published multiple books in English, French, and Haitian Creole and is also the author of the Badass Black Girl series, which addresses issues and topics faced by Black girls and young women.

“I realized that I didn't have access growing up to many books that spoke directly to me as a Black girl,” said Fievre, adding that she decided to write the books she wish she had growing up. “I wanted the reader to be inspired by real life people who have shown that being Black is beautiful. And even when the world is against you, you need to know how fantastic, how unique it is to be Black and to learn to enjoy your Blackness and to live in power.”

Little Haiti Book Festival

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.