A Tribute to Dylan, written by Julie Price and Dennis Eady.
Dylan O’Brien is not a name that is instantly recognised in the miscarriages of justice arena, but his story will undoubtedly touch us all. Dylan was at the core of the life of someone who is well-known, much loved and respected in this arena.
Someone who served eleven years in prison for a murder he did not commit, and where the real killer has still not been brought to justice.
Someone who, like many others, suffered in prison, shouting his innocence from the rooftops, frustrations falling on deaf ears.
Someone whose baby daughter died when he was in prison.
Someone who agitated for change, and who, when eventually freed, worked tirelessly on behalf of others to raise awareness of miscarriages of justice, travelling the length and breadth of the country giving his time to those who wanted to promote change, and giving a hard time to those who would not listen.
Someone who found it extremely difficult, as do all survivors of wrongful conviction, to adjust to ‘life after innocence’.
That ‘someone’ is Mike O’Brien of the infamous Cardiff Newsagent Three case, who is a great friend and supporter of university innocence projects.
Unlike many others, Mike was lucky to find a soulmate in Claire many years after his release from prison, and they married in 2009. Baby Dylan O’Brien was born in early 2010. Dylan’s face and personality presented to the world as an uncannily equal combination of his proud parents’ features and characteristics. Mike had renewed hope of a meaningful future, with Claire and his family (new and old) at his side. This new family, constantly fighting the demons that infiltrate miscarriage survivors, were given a new lease of life with Dylan’s arrival. Dylan (followed by his baby brother Dainton in late 2011) gave them a welcome release, which can only ever be partial, from the inevitable chains of trauma that for ever more shackle an innocent person wrongly convicted.
Cruelly, Dylan’s brief but adored life was tragically and unexpectedly cut short on Friday 15th June 2012, just a few months after his second birthday. Dylan died in his sleep.
Mike and Claire – this miscarriage of justice world is occupied by a diverse crowd, some of us choosing to be in it to varying degrees, but others without that choice. We don’t all always see eye-to-eye. But, at times like this, the word “community” is a meaningful one, and we think we can speak on behalf of that community when we say: We are thinking of you and your family at this most awful of times. We do not have any words that will offer you any comfort. We just want you to know that this community has you in its heart.
If there is a God, may he bless you, Dylan O’Brien.
Dennis and Julie (Cardiff Law School Innocence Project)
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award