Cover image for Stand tall : fighting for my life, inside and outside the ring
Title:
Stand tall : fighting for my life, inside and outside the ring
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2016]

©2016
ISBN:
9780062208156
Physical Description:
viii, 238 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
Abstract:
The motivational speaker and recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award presents an inspirational account of the twenty-six years he spent behind bars at Sing Sing for a murder he did not commit.

The inspiring story of one man's fight against his wrongful incarceration and his eventual triumph--both inside and outside the boxing ring. In the late 1970s, Dewey Bozella [age 24] was wrongfully convicted of murdering Emma Crapser, a ninety-two-year-old resident of Poughkeepsie, New York. Sentenced to twenty years to life in prison, Bozella fiercely maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, and even refused the prosecutor's offer of freedom in exchange for an admission of guilt. But in 2009, more than a quarter century later, Dewey Bozella would reclaim his identity and his humanity when his conviction was vacated. In this raw and uplifting memoir, Bozella takes us through the trials, tribulations, and joys of his life inside prison and, eventually, as a free man. While at Sing Sing, he took up boxing to channel his anger, and eventually became the prison's light-heavyweight champion. Bozella also met and married the love of his life from behind bars, lost countless parole hearings, and spent agonizing time on a cell block with both his brother's murderer and, it turned out, the true criminal in whose place Bozella served so much time. But Bozella never gave up. After he was refused parole and had his sentence extended, the Innocence Project caught word of his case. Thanks to his undying faith, stalwart persistence, and the aid of a young pro bono attorney at the Innocence Project who doggedly worked toward Bozella's release when all hope seemed lost, he was released from prison in 2009. Shortly thereafter, he won his professional boxing debut against Larry Hopkins, started an afterschool athletics program for at-risk youth, and was awarded the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. An incredibly uplifting underdog story, Stand Tall recounts one man's perseverance in the face of injustice and his difficult road to freedom.--Dust jacket.
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Book 365.6092 BOZELLA 1
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Book 365.6092 BOZELLA 1 .SOURCE. BT 12-1-16
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Summary

Summary

In this inspiring memoir, Dewey Bozella recounts his life and the twenty-six years he spent behind bars for a murder he did not commit--a stirring tale of courage, strength, faith, and perseverance.

In the late 1970s, Dewey Bozella was wrongfully accused of murdering Emma Crapser, a ninety-two-year-old resident of Poughkeepsie, New York. Sentenced to twenty years to life in prison, Bozella fiercely maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal at Sing Sing, and even refused the prosecutor's offer of instant freedom in exchange for admission of guilt. But in 2009, more than a quarter century later, Dewey Bozella would reclaim his identity and his humanity when his conviction was vacated.

In this powerful memoir, Bozella tells his harrowing and amazing story--interweaving his time in prison with stories of a childhood marked by violence and pain. He shares the joys of marrying the love of his life from behind bars, becoming a champion boxer, and earning his education; the agony of being denied parole four times, and living in a cellblock with his brother's murderer and, eventually, the killer whose thumbprint was found in Emma Crapser's apartment. Yet the fighter in Bozella never gave up. He would become a free man thanks to his undying faith, stalwart persistence, the aid of the Innocence Project, and Wilmer Hale, the Park Avenue law firm whose young pro bono attorney doggedly worked toward his release when all hope seemed lost.

Today, Bozella considers himself blessed. Stand Tall is a testament to optimism and love. It is the compelling story of a man who fought against inequity and hardship and, against all odds, came out on top.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this beautifully told memoir, former amateur boxer Bozella writes about growing up in foster care and his survival on the streets of New York City. Just as he is starting to make a respectable life for himself in the late 1970s, he is convicted of murdering a 92 year-old woman. There's no evidence he committed the crime, yet he is put away on the testimony of a couple of acquaintances who got immunity deals in return for implicating him. He spends the next 20 years in jail; refusing an early release deal that would have required him to admit guilt. This strong internal compass guiding his decisions makes Bozella a compelling narrator. He decides early on in prison to better himself, and has the strength of mind to follow through. He becomes the boxing champion of Sing Sing, and begins working toward a college degree. He eventually marries while still in prison. When a white-shoe law firm gets word of his story, its lawyers work pro bono, spending over a million dollars to get his conviction vacated. His writing is concise, never self-congratulatory or self-pitying, and always graceful. (Dec.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

One mans struggle to stay positive when he was incarcerated for a crime he didnt commit.Bozella suffered an extremely different childhood within the foster care system and turned to petty theft, but the murder for which he was convicted in 1983 forced him to spend 26 years behind bars. In this candid memoir, the author tells his painful side of the story: how he was accused and found guilty on scant proof and how he spent the next half of his life as a prisoner in Sing Sing and other jails. Convicted murderer. Theres no way ever to take the sharp edge off those words or grow accustomed to their pain, he writes. Especially when theyre a lie, when youre paying for another mans crime, your whole life hijacked by people who turned their backs on the truth. That they did it so casually made it all the worse.I was a convenient scapegoat for an ambitious prosecutor and a bumbling police department. Throughout, Bozella shares specific details that only someone who has spent time in jail would knowe.g., the code of conduct inmates must follow if they want to avoid being attacked by a fellow prisoner; the underground commerce in drugs, food, clothes, and sex and how a pack of cigarettes often takes the place of cash; and the endless hours that need to be filled, which Bozella used to learn foreign languages, certificates in a variety of subjects, and his masters degree. Throughout his ordeal, the author stayed surprisingly positive and used his instincts as a boxer to help him make the necessary changes in his attitude toward life. When he was finally exonerated, he was able to forgive those who had sent him to prison. Telling people my story, he writes, is the best way Ive found to turn bitterness into hope. A harrowing and inspiring account of fighting a nearly lifelong battle against injustice. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


New York Review of Books Review

TO ESPN FANS and New Yorkers the story of Dewey Bozella will be familiar. An amateur boxer imprisoned for two and a half decades for a murder he didn't commit, Bozella, freed in 2009, was the network's 2011 Arthur Ashe Courage Award winner. He was also the subject of a subsequent documentary that chronicled his dream of being allowed into the ring for a professional bout as a free man. "Stand Tall" revisits this journey and more, taking readers deep inside an engrossing narrative that is equal parts inspiration and heartbreak. "I've been a case number for most of my life," Bozella begins. "Foster care, atrisk programs, welfare checks." His father, Harry (whom Bozella secretly called Dirty Harry), was a violent, sporadic presence. A "white man who wore glasses" and never once sat down to dinner with his son, Dirty Harry was usually "thundering around the house like a charging bull," once cracking 8-year-old Dewey's head open with a baseball bat. At 9, he watched his father pummel his mother for the last time, her death marking the end of childhood for him and his five siblings. Shuffled through group homes and foster care, Bozella dropped out of high school (no surprise there) and embarked on a life of stealing, smoking marijuana, drinking and gambling. His first sentence was 16 months in juvenile detention for stealing a stereo by sticking his finger in a potato chip bag and pretending it was a gun. But his discovery of boxing lights a path forward, as he rides his bike to an old barn that has been converted into a center for at-risk youth on the heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson's chicken farm in New Paltz, The makeshift gym becomes everything to Bozella, who for a blissful time trains with the heart of a champion. Until that too falls apart: In 1983, Bozella is arrested and convicted for the murder of 92-year-old Emma Crapser and sentenced to 20 years to life at Sing Sing prison. "Stand Tall" is as much a celebration of one man's tenacious spirit as it is an indictment of the criminal justice and foster care systems. In prison Bozella hungrily completes degrees and certificates, from food services to peer counseling to theology. He becomes a certified paralegal and files motions on his case "all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court." He writes to Congress and to the NAACP. He copies out motivational books and makes five-, 10- and 20-year plans. He even studies Japanese and Arabic. By the time the Innocence Project arrives on the scene - after Bozella has written to them every week for four years - he's been wrongfully convicted by an all-white jury, received a retrial and then, unbelievably, convicted again. In fact, his first attorney was so disillusioned by the decision that he gave up criminal law entirely. As jaw-dropping and nonsensical as his legal fiasco is, it's Bozella's family pain that at times cuts even more sharply. If I could ask for anything more from this riveting book it would be to know something of what became of Harry, released from prison by the time Bozella was a teenager, and of his surviving brothers, who had once blown through Brooklyn together on "bikes, homemade go-carts, hijacked shopping carts" in happier days. Instead they simply disappear from the story. One yearns for some shred of connection, or at the very least, explanation, for Bozella's sake, to mitigate the decades of loneliness spent waiting for "things that never materialized. A visit, a letter, a package." At 52, Bozella wins his only professional bout, thanks to the patronage of Oscar De La Hoya, and to Bozella's wife, Trena, whom he married 13 years into his sentence. And he receives a $7.5 million settlement (half of which will go to taxes) from Dutchess County, although even today, prosecutors refuse to admit wrongdoing. Yet, despite these victories, there's a sense of incompletion in the book's final pages; a sinking feeling that Bozella is once again being left to drift. "Design clothes line, live to 90s, good food, own a boxing gym," he writes, listing his goals in the book's epilogue. He tries to put a positive spin on things, but the dream of coaching at-risk youths in a gym of his own has unraveled and never quite comes together again. Bozella does his best to forgive, and to move forward with his life, but he's already recognized a hard truth early on - one that becomes increasingly clear in the book's final, meandering pages. "No one can ever repay you for a stolen life." KRISTAL BRENT ZOOK, a journalism professor at Hofstra University, is the author of "Black Women's Lives: Stories of Power and Pain." She is currently working on a book about multiracial experience.