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How I became a hero in the black neighbourhood

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Standing up for my attacker in court
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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So there was a trial in a couple of days, I went down and I was okay, my wallet was missing but... So I was really angry about all of this and I was ready to tell the judge that I couldn't identify them and the police had no reason to believe this was the right guy and they'd just arrested this man. So I showed up to the courtroom and they brought the guy in in handcuffs. His name was Terry Ride. They brought him in and they came forward and the public defender was obviously drunk. He could barely get his words out.

And the judge says, 'I think I understand that you're asking to delay this for a jury trial.' Motion granted. It was just a way of delaying it because the guy was clearly not capable of defending this guy. And I didn't get a chance to say anything. But a jury trial takes a long time to set up. So it's like three months this guy was in jail. So the guy was sitting there for three months, finally the jury trial comes up. They bring him in in handcuffs again. And this time I wasn't going to let... I mean, I hadn't gotten a chance to say anything before.

So this time, as soon as they brought him in, I stood up and I said, 'Judge, I'm the victim here, and I don't even know if they've got the right guy, but in any case he's just spent three months in jail, why don't you let him go?' And it was before anybody had had a chance to say anything. The DA hadn't said anything, the public defender hadn't said anything. And the judge says, 'Well, that sounds good to me, does anybody have any objection to that?'

And they looked at each other and they're like, 'No, your honour.' He says, 'Case dismissed.' So then they take, right then and there, they take the handcuffs off of him and they let him go. And so his family comes up to me and they were in the courtroom, I didn't know this, and they thanked me, they're so grateful, I'd gotten him off. And he's so grateful and he's so appreciative. And they invite me back to their house to celebrate. So I go back to their house and the guy says, 'I'm so sorry I mugged you.' Turns out he was the guy. But he says, 'But I'm going to make sure you're known on Green Mount Avenue, this will never happen again.' And sure enough, it didn't. He like introduced me to a bunch of people and I was known in the area then.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: trial, anger, court, jury, attacker, case dismissal

Duration: 3 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017