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Dusty Today – In His Own Words

March 7, 2018

On June 28, 2017, I was transferred to Greensville Correctional Center. This facility is in Jarratt, VA, just outside of Emporia, which is about an hour from Richmond straight south on I-95. I was approved to come here so that I could become part of the dog training program, however, just prior to my arrival the program shut down. I often find myself missing my little furry friends.

In August last year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen for enrollment in a very unique horticulture class that is offered here. Although, while growing up my family maintained a garden, which was large enough to provide much of our sustenance, I'm now realizing how much I did not know. I have already learned a tremendous amount concerning everything from soil composition and composting to proper pruning and plant pathogens. I feel blessed to be able to spend a couple hours most afternoons in a greenhouse and in a small garden plot. I try to score 100% on each exam and out of gratitude I go beyond the duty of a student and offer to help the teacher where ever I can. My small garden plot is ready for the spring planting.

In December it was revealed that the parole board had yet to complete the required investigation for my pardon petition. The writing was on the wall. With Governor McAuliffe stating that he absolutely would not make a decision until this investigation was complete, it became obvious that another Virginia Governor was going to leave office without deciding on my petition. I really believed that McAuliffe was a just leader who would look into my wrongful conviction and use his executive powers to bring a long awaited justice.

On January 13th, Governor Ralph Northam was sworn into office. We are told that the parole board should finally complete their investigation by late spring and that the Governor could made a decision sometime thereafter. I recently turned 43 years old and have been in prison since I was 20. I absolutely did not commit the crimes for which I was convicted and many people know this. Why do I, along with those who care about me, continue to suffer this injustice? Taking responsibility should be an element of justice. But those in positions of power and those who are supposed to be representatives of our justice system, must own up to and take responsibility for injustices as well.

Meanwhile, I continue to work diligently to further develop the restorative justice based, victim oriented, offender rehabilitation program, Mending Fences. I work on this virtually every day. My co-developer and I are fortunate to have some of the activities and curriculum that we developed piloted in a correctional environment, with the aim to refine them and to ensure the program's effectiveness. Programs often require evidence based data before implementation and Mending Fences is slowly going through this stage.

I have been encouraged to continue writing short articles, which are being shared on social media. Until it is no longer possible or my voice is silenced, I suppose I shall keep it up. Look for my next essay and I welcome any critique or comments.

Among the books I have read recently are: Just Babies, by Yale Psychology Professor Paul Bloom; Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence, by Hardy and Laszloffy; The Science of Virtue: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church, by Mark McMinn; The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery; and Voices From American Prisons: Faith, Education, and Healing, by Kaia Stern.

Your support is greatly appreciated and it literally gives me hope and motivation to continue through the daily hardships. Thank you!


Past updates

I have been in prison since 1995 and am currently incarcerated at Green Rock Correctional Center in Chatham, Virginia.  In 2012, I was unexpectedly transferred around the state where I was incarcerated at four different prisons during a six month period of time, which may be some kind of record. This created a whole host of hardships upon me, my loved ones, friends and supporters. Nevertheless, I strive on.

I periodically reevaluate myself and those few aspects of my life over which I still have a measure of control. I constantly and consciously strive to improve myself intellectually, physically and spiritually. 

I am currently taking a Computer Aided Design/Drafting class in which I have learned quite a bit. In 2012, I wrote a proposal for implementing a recycling and sustainability program here at Green Rock. Since then, some of my suggestions have been implemented. My new job title is “Recycle Man” and I am working closely with the Unit Manager, Mr. Collins, to make the recycling program more efficient. I have created more than a dozen different recycling promotional poster designs on the AutoCAD system. Several of these have been produced and posted in the prison. Incidentally, I earn 35 cents an hour separating recyclable items from trash.

Also, with the help of another prisoner, I created a proposal to implement a dog training program here at Green Rock. So far, we have gained the support of the security staff and others who wish to sponsor the program. It is designed to bring in abandoned dogs for training and is now awaiting final approval by Warden Manis.

I was recently given the opportunity to live in the Honor Pod because of my good behavior. Members of the Honor Pod have fewer restrictions imposed upon them and are given special privileges. For example, we are allowed to move more freely inside the Honor Pod and we are given access to a more private area to meet with our families and friends who come to visit us.

Before I left Pocahontas Correctional Center in early 2012, I volunteered to serve as a referee for the prison volleyball league. Currently, I am a member of the Honor Pod basketball team.

I also provide assistance to a faith-based non-profit institute for rehabilitation. I helped them to establish their organization and I currently serve as an advisor.

Among the books I have read recently are: Citizens of London, Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Incarceration Nations, The Spiritual Roots of Restorative Justice, The Restorative Practices Handbook, Les Miserables, Essentialism, Changing Lenses (by Howard Zehr), and currently, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Meanwhile, I continue to study restorative justice practices and principles. In 2014, I co-created RJBehindtheWire in hopes of fielding support and resources to bring restorative programming into the prison system. We created Mending Fences, a victim-oriented offender rehabilitation program specifically designed for the correctional environment, and I continue to develop the curriculum.

Among other ways that I deal with the daily hardships and frustrations of prison life are listening to classical music and working out 5 days a week. Because of the limited value that I place on it, I watch no TV.

I also meet with the Prison Chaplain, Mr. Harris, at least once a month. We have a very good rapport and we often talk about spiritually, religion, history and other topics. Last year I presented him with a report that I wrote entitled “Religious Diversity in the Virginia Department of Corrections” which generated an engaging discussion between us.

I recently wrote an account of how I learned about Billy Brown’s confession and I’d like to share it with you.

A couple of months after having been unjustly convicted and sentenced for the abduction and murder of Jennifer Evans, I was sent from the Virginia Beach Jail to Southampton Receiving Center to be processed into the Department of Corrections and to trade my name for a state number. Two months later, on May 21, 1997, I was transferred to Buckingham Correctional Center, a maximum security prison, where I was to spend the next 3 years. During this time, I was told that Billy Brown was in Keen Mountain Correctional Center and possibly being held in the protective custody building.

On May 7, 2000, I was transferred to the Southampton Correctional Center (or “Gladiator School” as it was known amongst the inmate population). I managed to stay out of trouble and make it to the seniority/honor building, where I received a few extra privileges relative to the general population. However, shortly thereafter a guard told me to pack all of my personal property and that I would be transferred the following morning.

On May 7, 2002, I was shackled, handcuffed, chained and bussed across the state to Augusta Correctional Center, once again, thrown into a cell and a building full of strangers. Within a few days of arriving, I was walking on the recreation yard when an inmate approached me and asked if my name was Dustin Turner. I was not entirely surprised that someone recognized me, both because my case attracted much media attention but also because news travels very quickly in prison. This inmate, whom I would later learn his name to be David Head, began saying such things as, "Oh, the Lord has great things in store for you, Dustin", and "God is going to change your future, praise the Lord!" He was generally proselytizing to me.

I honestly thought that this guy might be mentally deranged. His animated behavior and his fanatically religious words only added to his peculiarity. Feeling a little uncomfortable, I began to walk away as I told him respectfully that I appreciated his thoughts. “No!” he said, “you don’t understand. My cell partner helped Billy Brown become ‘born again’ at Keen Mountain. He is a changed man, devoted to the Lord and he has confessed. This is an awesome testament to the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ!”

This, of course, stopped me in my tracks. I had been behind bars for seven years at that point, which had seemed like an eternity. My family had gone through immeasurable hardships. I had survived and learned to live in an environment that I never knew existed in America. When David Head surprised me with this revelation, I went through a range of thoughts and emotions. To this day, nearly a dozen years later, I can still recall the gravel under my shoes, the gray clouds and cool breeze as we stood six feet from a chain link fence and razor wire at Augusta prison. I was not very surprised that Billy Brown had confessed to his lawyer, his family and his new-found Christian brothers. The weight of his malicious deeds was enough to break a man stronger than he. Christianity allowed him to completely remove that burden from his shoulders. His spirit is now free. He believes he is heaven-bound and he shall live the remainder of his days on earth with a smile on his face. I live with the fact that my hatred for him has not lessened since his confession. If anything, it has intensified.

When David Head revealed Brown’s confession to me, I wasn’t sure what it would or could mean. I began asking him many questions, but he didn’t have any answers. However, he said he would introduce me to his cell partner Neal Chance, Brown’s religious mentor. Meanwhile, I called my mother to relay to her what I had just heard. With each 20 minute phone call costing around $15.00, we had become very efficient in our conversations. Yet I recall having to call her back a couple of times to discuss what to do. She immediately contacted the Virginia Chamber of Commerce to find a lawyer who was in the vicinity of Keen Mountain Correctional Center. She found a man named Shea Cook who was familiar with the case, and he agreed to go to the prison to interview Billy Brown. I was emphatic that he bring a video camera, but the warden, Jack Lee, wouldn’t allow it. However, he did permit an audio recorder. Billy Brown told the truth, to the best of his memory, to Shea Cook that day. If I had not been transferred to Augusta in 2002, who knows when we might have found out about Brown’s Christian conversion and confession. I later discovered that certain people close to him, including some of his so-called Christian brothers, tried to convince him not to come forward with the truth. To this day, I don’t believe he cares about my fate, as he expressed at the evidentiary hearing in 2008. Earthly justice means nothing to him. For he believes he is right with God, heaven-bound, and nothing else matters to him.

It was obvious to everyone present at that evidentiary hearing that Billy Brown believes himself to be a man of God and that he is fully responsible for Jennifer’s death. After hearing his testimony, in addition to that of David Head and myself, and after reviewing the entire case for a month, Judge Frederick B. Lowe was also convinced that Brown’s confession was and is truthful. From the very same court where I was convicted, Judge Lowe declared that Billy Brown is credible in his assertion that he acted alone in killing Jennifer Evans and that I had “no role in the murder or any restraint of the victim”. Still, I languish in prison; my hope now is that the truth will prevail, that there will be justice, and that Governor McDonnell will grant me a pardon before he leaves office.

Update on Dusty Today - In his own words - May 2014
I was not extremely surprised that outgoing Virginia Governor McDonnell refused to make a decision on my clemency petition in early January 2014, but I was greatly disappointed.  A range of factors led to his announcement concerning my petition on his last full day of office, not the least of which were the felony charges that he and his wife are facing.
For me, each negative decision, or in this case, non-decision, is like being convicted and sentenced all over again.  I am forced back into the mundane life of survival in the VADOC, not knowing if I will ever see my grandmother again, have children of my own, walk amongst the trees, float in a body of water, or a million other things that I dream about. 
With this said, after spending nearly half of my life in Virginia’s prison system for a crime which I did not commit, I refuse to give up.  In many ways, prison life has grown more difficult and frustratingly stressful over the years. However, I have vowed never to allow my environment to get the best of me.  I struggle daily and hope there is truth the saying that struggle perfects the soul. 
On August 30, 2013, some of my family and friends were allowed to attend my graduation from the Computer Aided Drafting/Design (CAD) course here at Green Rock Correctional Center.  I excelled in the class, even animating my own 3-D designs before my time was up.  Having completed this course, the VADOC now offers me no additional educational or vocational courses.  Therefore, I have spent the past few months in the same way that I have spent most of my 19 years in prison: studying on my own, creatively developing projects to work on, and striving to better myself physically, intellectually and spiritually. 
The abandoned-dog training program that a friend and I formally proposed to bring to GROC has been a great success.  Warden Manis loved the idea and took the necessary steps to implement the program.  Since we had a hand in bringing the program here and in helping with its implementation, we were given the opportunity to become dog-handlers/trainers.  We work closely with the Bandit Adoption and Rescue of K-9’s (BARK) program in Asheville, VA.   They bring us six dogs at a time and we keep them for 12 weeks, training them in basic obedience and canine "good citizenship" skills.
I currently have Pumpkin, a 4 ½ year old American Bulldog/Lab mix.  She is a wonderful dog with a humble temperament who was probably abused by her previous owner.  She has come a long way in the past 9 weeks with a lot of attention, love and training.  I’m proud to have helped her character blossom and become more adoptable.  I will definitely be saddened when she leaves in a few weeks, but I'll likely receive a new dog on the same day. 
I have continued to provide assistance to a faith-based educational and rehabilitative non-profit institute.  I’m currently attempting to construct a leadership training series (correspondence-type courses) chiefly for VADOC inmates.  It is a long-term project that I only recently conceived of and just began work on for the institute.
The same associate/friend, with whom I worked on the dog proposal, and I have teamed up once again on a project that could have a tremendous impact on many lives.  Since late 2013, we have thoroughly researched the concept and practice of Restorative Justice.  It is our sincerest belief that implementing various RJ programs within the VADOC would finally allow offenders the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, understand the human impact of crime, give back to the community, and empathize with and restore their victims.   The potential benefits to all involved (providing victims an opportunity for further healing, lowering recidivism, etc.) drive us to fulfill this mission.  Please see more on our Facebook page and website, “RJ Behind the Wire.”
Finally, in late February 2014, my mother received a letter addressed to me from Billy Joe Brown.  In it he reiterated his perspective on how he took Jennifer’s life and why he felt it necessary to blame me for the crime. He stated, “I figured the state would want to accuse two instead of one and I figured if I was going down, I would take you with me.”  Mostly, however, the letter was a plea for my forgiveness. “Not for my sake, but for yours,” he wrote.  “I know that I don’t deserve forgiveness, but deserve has nothing to do with it.” 
I spoke with Chaplain Harris about this letter and the idea of forgiveness. I have even researched what this word actually means.  However, because of the effects and continuing impact of his deeds on so many innocent people, especially upon my family, I don’t know when or if I shall ever forgive him.  

Well, that’s all for now. I appreciate your taking the time to get to know me and learn about my interests and recent activities at Green Rock. This page is updated periodically, so please check back in the near future to see what I’ve been doing.

Thank you.





Hon. Frederick B. Lowe, judge
Virginia Beach, Virginia
June 25, 2008

One of the things that we have to do in making this determination is to consider the testimony of those on the witness stand in light of all of the other evidence in the case. And I've done that here both in reviewing the transcript of our earlier hearing and also in reviewing in great detail the evidence that was presented in the prior trials of Mr. Brown and Mr. Turner. This court has come to the conclusion that aside from the testimony of Mr. Brown and Mr. Turner, that the evidence in both of those previous trials was largely, if not completely, circumstantial. Other than their testimony there were no other witnesses to the actual incident. There was no scientific or forensic evidence of any type that would or could have been of assistance to the trier of fact in either of those trials.

Having considered all of that and having considered the questions posed to this court by the Court of Appeals, this court makes the following determination. This court determines that Mr. Brown's recanted testimony is credible in his assertion that he testified falsely at his own trial. This court determines that Mr. Brown testified falsely at his own trial as to a material fact in the case. This court further finds that Mr. Brown's recantation of his earlier testimony was unknown and was unavailable to the petitioner in this proceeding, Mr. Turner, at the time of his conviction and at the time his conviction became final. And this court finally finds that Mr. Brown is credible in his assertion that he acted independently in murdering the victim and that Mr. Turner had no role in the murder or in the restraining of the victim.