Sunday night, March 16, CNN highlighted the story of how Joyce Ride spent 10 years and $100,000 of her own money to prove the innocence of Gloria Killian. Killian had been found guilty of murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in 1985. Ride got to know the inmate while visiting prisoners as part of a “friends of prisoners” program and believed Killian’s insistence that she was innocent of the crime.
Gloria Killian first heard about the murder of Ed Davies and shooting of his wife Grace during a home robbery on the evening news. An anonymous tip named Stephen DeSantis and his cousin Gary Masse as the men who committed the robbery. When police officers talked with Masse’s wife Joanne, she told them that a woman named Gloria had coordinated the crime. The shooting was not pre-planned.
Somehow police felt the named Gloria was Gloria Killian, then 35, who worked at a coin shop where Mr. Davies had been a customer. According to Killian’s book, “Full Circle,” which talks about the case, police questioned her and held her for four months without bail. She was eventually released for lack of evidence.
However Masse was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole. On the day he began his sentence he asked to see the district attorney. During that meeting he told the prosecutor that he would testify against Killian for a reduced sentence.
Once again Killian, a law student, insisted she had nothing to do with either crime. In fact the other robber, DeSantis, had testified at trial that Gloria was not involved with the robbery and murder. Each time Killian appealed she lost. She finally accepted reality and began to use her legal education to helping other inmates at the California Institution for Women prison at Chino.
In the early 1990s she met Joyce Ride who listened to Gloria as she told how she ended up behind bars. On hearing the story Mrs. Ride said she felt profoundly that Killian was innocent and annoyed by the injustice.
Ride financed the private investigation and legal battle that eventually exposed the use of false testimony and hidden evidence in the trial that found Killian guilty. Investigators found a letter which exposed that Masse cut a deal with the prosecutor, a letter never shared with the defense. Then another letter was found where Masse admitted “he lied [his] ass off on the stand.”
Without Masse’s testimony the case against Killian crumbled and the conviction was overturned. Gloria Killian has spent from 1985 to 2002 in prison, 17 years, as an innocent person.
All together Joyce Ride spent $100,000 of her own money. The elderly widow even sold some of her stock to pay lawyers despite protests from Gloria. On the day Killian was released Mrs. Ride, who was then in her 70’s, waited at the gate to pick her up.
Ms Ride told CNN, “Seeing her walk out was a really great joy. It was like a load was lifted off my shoulders.”
The two women noticed a crowd of inmates and visitors had gathered to watch Gloria leaving prison as a free woman. Suddenly the inmates started waving goodbye. Killian settled into Ride's passenger seat and Ride steered toward the exit. "We did a lap around the parking lot to wave back at them," said Ride.
Ride invited her to live with her since all of Gloria’s relatives had passed away while she had been in prison. A decade later the women still share a home in Claremont, California along with a third woman that Ms Killian made friends with in prison.
Since her release, Ms Killian has written a book about her story and founded a program called Action Committee for Women in Prison.
As for Sally Ride’s mother, 90-year-old Joyce Ride still makes trips to visit female prisoners.