In 2004, Rayford Jr. was at a house party when a fight broke out. Though he was not involved in the fight, Rayford Jr. was slapped with 11 lifetime sentences.
At just 17-years-old, Juan Rayford Jr. was thrown into jail after being wrongfully accused of attempted murder. The then-teenager was slapped with a life sentence even though he was not involved in the crime. Rayford Jr. has now spent 15 unnecessary years behind bars. The now 32-year-old had dreams of playing college football and then eventually head on to play for the NFL. But now, he dreams of freedom.
At 17, Juan Rayford Jr. was like many other teens with big dreams – he wanted to escape his hardscrabble neighborhood and play college football and perhaps make it to the NFL.— Charleston Chronicle (@ChronicleChasSC) May 11, 2019
But a fateful 2004 night quickly turned those dreams into a lifelong nightmare https://t.co/2IpASlgEqi
In 2004, Rayford Jr. was at a house party playing video games with a few friends when an altercation broke between one of his friends and another person. "The friend and the other guy had a long-standing beef and it spilled over to a fight and Juan and everybody came running," Juan Rayford Sr., Rayford Jr.’s father said. "Shots were fired, and when the police came, they took names and wanted to know who did what. My son did nothing wrong, he had no gun and there were some shots fired but nobody was hit, nobody was hurt," he added.
Justice for Juan Rayford Jr.— Juan Rayford (@JuanRayford) June 17, 2014
The authorities questioned everyone that was present at the scene of the crime, but as the investigation progressed, the officers turned their focus solely on Rayford Jr. as well as another teenager, Dupree Glass. While many key witnesses and the homeowner made it clear in their statements that the teens were not involved in the shooting, adding the fact that no one was shot or injured, the investigation shifted its sole focus on Glass and Rayford Jr.
@KimKardashian please look into this The case of Juan Rayford Jr. sentenced to 11 life sentences when he was 17. He was a promising African American athlete and great student in California when someone lied and said they saw him shoot into a house with 11 people in it.— Charisse Godley (@charissegodley) December 20, 2018
That same year in October, Rayford Jr. and Glass were charged with 11 counts of attempted murder each. As the trial progressed, witnesses of the incident changed their statement while the two teens were not allowed to call witnesses on their behalf. Despite taking a plea deal that would see a much earlier release, Rayford Jr. and Glass were still sentenced to 220 years, that is 11 life sentences, in prison.
No prior record. Himself and witnesses said he didn’t do it. No one was hurt. He was tried as an adult. His bail was set at 11 million dollars. He is now 31 serving the 11 life sentences. NO ONE is listening to his story. It's the craziest miscarriage of justice I have ever heard— Charisse Godley (@charissegodley) December 20, 2018
Rayford Sr. remembers the plea deal, and has continuously fought for his son's release ever since his incarceration. The ex-military man has sought the help of every organization and authority that can help break his son's chains.
Both father and son remain positive about Rayford Jr.'s eventual release. A petition sent to the California Supreme Court by Innocence Rights of Orange County in December 2016 has been granted and they are now waiting for the court hearing.
"Juan isn't bitter, he isn't angry," Rayford Sr. told the Charleston Chronicles. "He prays every day and he does what he’s supposed to do and we are hopeful that the Court will soon hear the case and grant his freedom."