It has been almost 17 years since her son was sent to prison for a crime that the key witness in the case has since testified he didn't commit. But Helen Boatner remains cheerful and optimistic as she awaits the latest court date that could trigger his release.
Yarmo Green was an outstanding football player at Mather High School. A running back, he had the size, speed, talent and potential to earn a scholarship to a major college. He was an All-Chicago Public League selection as a junior in 1994. He led his team to an 11-3 record and second place in the city playoff. He dreamed of playing at Notre Dame and the NFL.
In 1995, he was convicted of attempted first-degree murder of one person and aggravated battery of another. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
On June 19, a judge will rule on Green's latest appeal based on recent testimony by a key witness in the case, a married woman with five children who currently is in jail for retail theft, who recanted her original testimony and now insists that Green wasn't present when the beatings took place and that a Chicago policeman had paid her 2,200 to lie about the matter.
The judge could order Green's immediate release. His scheduled release day is 2014. This is his 10th appeal. He currently is imprisoned in Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois, after serving previously in Pontiac, Danville and Pinckneyville. He still signs his letters as No. 42, his football uniform number. But he answers to B71883.
"He is doing fine. We hope and pray that his last court day is June 19," his mother said. "They put (the key witness) on the stand a few weeks ago and she told everything. She was reluctant. But she said a policeman had paid her to tell lies about Yarmo. I have a feeling that the judge will let him go."
Green, now 35, calls his mother every week. He earned his General Equivalency Degree (GED), was taking a culinary arts class to learn to become a cook and was involved in a ceramics class. However, because of budget cutbacks over the last five years, he hasn't been able to sign up for any more classes. At Logan, he does participate in basketball tournaments.
"I don't know what he wants to do when he comes back," his mother said. "I told him I would like for him to get involved with neighborhood kids and teach them football. Kids in the city don't have anywhere to go. They have no money. Yarmo could be a mentor to them."
Mrs. Boatner remains busy. She will be 65 in August. For seven hours every day, she babysits for two one-year-old boys. One is a neighbor's grandson. The other is her granddaughter's cousin. "They were born 12 days apart. They are in their terrible ones," she said.
While she no longer can make the long trips Downstate to visit her son, she attends every one of his court dates in Chicago. She is so appreciative and grateful for the work of attorney Liz Wang, who has spearheaded a group called the Exoneration Project that is working on Green's release.
"It is such shame, a waste," said Ed Miller, Green's coach at Mather. "I believe he is a good kid. We did everything we could to help him. But you can't be with a kid for 24 hours a day. He just couldn't get away from the gangs."
Green wasn't an angel. He was a member of the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang. Police perceived him as a neighborhood bully. He admits he once hit a kid who was spray-painting a wall.
But he always has insisted that he didn't hit the victim, whom he claimed was laying on the ground after being attacked by others. Forty-eight hours later, after the key witness told police that Green was the attacker, he was arrested at his home.
The key witness originally recanted in a signed affidavit on May 14, 2008, but the appeal was turned down. She said she did what the police told her to do because she was a runaway from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), a ward of the state. She said she didn't want to be locked up and lose her children.
In her recent testimony, she said she could no longer live with her original accusation that sent Green to jail. "I basically wanted everyone to know it was a lie, that he didn't do it," she said.
Now, in the wake of her recantation in court, Yarmo Green hopes to become a free man on June 19. His mother is counting the hours.