Alphonso James
30 Years Behind
Bars as an Innocent Man 

About Alphonso James                             

Alphonso James was born September 27, 1967, the oldest child of Julia James.  He grew up in Milwaukee, WI.  By the time he became a teenager, by his own admission, he sought after a survival identity while needing to guard his territory.  Although a mild mannered young man who cared for his mother, sisters and brother, he found himself getting into scuffles and other trouble from time to time. 

Alphonso’s young life would change forever on July 26, 1985.  James was picked up by authorities and questioned for a stabbing that James admitted he was involved in a few weeks prior.  As this was taking place another set of detectives entered the room and exchanged some private words with the officers interviewing James.  The new detectives sat down and without explanation abruptly shifted the line of questioning from a stabbing to a murder! 

It seems that the night before a murder had occurred many blocks away from Alphonso’s neighborhood, and now he mysteriously and without cause had become target of this investigation. After many hours with no lawyer, parent or video/audio tape rolling the authorities coerced a false confession from the frightened young teen.

James would then receive questionable defense from a court-appointed public defender during a three-day trial from February 24-26, 1986.  The all-white jury (James is African-American) pronounced him guilty.  He was subsequently sentenced to life for 1st degree murder.  From day one of his arrest, Alphonso has vehemently professed his innocence of the crime; the fact of the matter is there has never been a shred of physical evidence that has indicated anything to the contrary.  High-profile individuals Friends of Alphonso have unified their efforts to support his innocence, as well as to shine a light on the other injustices in the case. (see Case Overview)    

In the early days of his incarceration, because of anger management issues, James did get into a lot of trouble and did serve many days “in the hole” (solitary confinement).  After a few years Alphonso knew if he remained bitter it would certainly kill him spiritually, emotionally and quite possibly even physically.  Subsequent to this awareness he wrote letters of forgiveness to everyone involved in his conviction including the judge, who many experts agree did a very poor job of presiding over the case. 

A crucial span of life-changing time came for Alphonso in the early 90s when Green Bay Correctional Chaplain Paul Emmel began to minister to James, who would visit him in segregation.  With knees on the floor he would crouch down looking through the little opening in the heavy metal door telling Alphonso over and over, “God loves you!”  At times James was so angry he yelled and cursed at the chaplain, but the man he would call “Rev. Emmel” kept coming back and finally won the angry, young inmate.

“Rev. Emmel just wore me down and I gave my heart to the Lord and I became a Christian,” James recalled.  “This one man had loved the hate right out of me.”  The retired minister was equally impressed with Alphonso and his future.  “I could tell through his eyes and his smile that there was a very special young man inside of him, and that God had a special plan for him.  I am so glad to have gotten to know Alphonso James,” Emmel would say. 

Rev. Emmel gave Alphonso a Bible.  This forced Alphonso to admit something else that he could no longer deny.  It was the fact that he could not read.  Taking a dictionary from the library cart, AJ taught himself how to read.  It is also worth noting that he would later spend countless hours studying and achieving a diploma in the culinary arts.  He has since spent many years selflessly preparing meals and being a leader in the kitchen.  He has also taken other classes.  Prison records confirm that over the last 13-years AJ’s conduct has been exemplary and he is much sought after by other inmates for his inspiration, wisdom and counsel. 

For the past 30 years Alphonso has served time in many different State of Wisconsin correctional facilities including Green Bay, Waupun, Oshkosh, Fox Lake, Stanley, New Lisbon and John C Burke Correctional Center in Waupun where he is currently.  His family has had difficulty coming to see him for economic and other reasons.  For the past 10-years Steve Rose and Dale Rose, both on the Justice4James team, have been his primary visitors. 

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