It is a Sunday morning in late July and Carter and Fields are at church in Los Angeles. Fields is seated on the aisle in the back row. He has a mobile phone now and glances at it during slow moments in the service.
Ronnie at church
On his home screen is a photo of him and a number of children, some of them his great grandchildren. While he was in prison he didn’t see any family after his mother died in 1994, but now that he is out they are back in his life. He is even dating Mae again, the mother of his oldest son. When he leaves The Martin Home in another few months he plans to move near Mae and two of his sons. The third son lives in another state. He was a baby when Fields was locked up and calls Fields by his first name “Ronnie” instead of “Dad”. Fields is upset that this son didn’t acknowledge him on his birthday or Father’s Day. So he has cut him off. There it is again, the impatience, the anger.
Taylor notices it after the service when she is driving Fields in her boxy Toyota Scion with its Obama sticker on the windshield and rainbow flag on the dashboard. Fields talks about cars and how much he needs one right away so he can stop spending so much of his time on the bus. Taylor counsels patience, sounding a lot like an older sister. Fields asks after her dad. Then he answers his mobile phone. he says to the person on the other line:
It is a place Taylor has never been. After her brother was killed she used to pass the freeway exit that Bo had taken and think, “That’s where it happened.” Coming here with Fields feels like coming full circle.
It is the first time Fields has been back. A lot has changed in the more than three decades he has been away from this city of about 100,000 in Los Angeles County. There is a new freeway, different shops.
Source: Los Angeles Times
The violent Compton of the 1980s – when the number of murders doubled between 1984 and 1989, reaching 84 homicides in 1989, according to the Los Angeles Times – seems long gone. In 2011 the LA County Sherriff’s Department recorded only 17 homicides in Compton. But they climbed again in 2013 and again in 2016, when they reached 33, according to Los Angeles Times statistics.
Not long after pointing out the liquor store where he met Bo, Fields notes a street blocked off by several police cars: “Ain’t nothing changed out here.”
In Compton, says Fields, a lot of people don’t forgive. Some of his friends think he is a fool for getting in a car with Taylor and going to the site where it all happened, a spot that happens to be in rival gang territory – that is how Fields thought of this area back then and it is still how he thinks of it today. Even though the apartment block the shooting happened outside of has been replaced by a local government building and he no longer belongs to a gang. He checks his phone. His girlfriend, Mae, sent him a text:
They park and walk to the street corner where it happened. Taylor brings photos of Bo. Over the years the memories have faded, but being here brings them back, makes her brother feel real for her, as if he is alive again. She tears up and turns away from Fields, who remains stiff and guarded. He watches the cars driving by, always on the lookout. He doesn’t feel safe here. He remembers how often people he knew used to get shot. It was normal in his world. To some extent, it still is. He mentions family members from the younger generation who are in trouble with the law, who carry weapons. His two brothers are on drugs: meth and crack.
Taylor always knew their lives were different, but before standing on that street corner she hadn’t realised quite how different they were.They leave the site and get lunch, waffles with fried chicken. Taylor pays. As she drives Fields home it is clear to both of them Fields can’t be the replacement brother he once promised to be, mowing her lawn and helping around her house. As her car approaches The Martin Home, Taylor’s phone announces: “Arrived at Ronnie Fields’s home.” They both laugh. Taylor isn’t sure if they will stay in touch. She notices every time Fields recounts the story of the murder he adds a few embellishments, taking a little less responsibility. She says:
Then she turns away from the two-storey home with barred windows on Crenshaw Boulevard and drives out of south-west Los Angeles.
A prison van drops Fields off at the Salinas train station. It is 16 April 2017 and he is out of prison after 32 years, six months and 11 days.
He smiles. It is something he couldn’t do in prison. Inside he had always to maintain his “mean face”. He smiles again thinking about the first meal he wants to eat: a double cheeseburger, large fries and vanilla milkshake from the fast food chain, Carl’s Jr.
He has been warned that his body may not be ready for real meat after decades of processed meat.
He worries slightly about the long bus ride to Los Angeles – and the risk of getting sick or dizzy – because it has been so long since he has been on a trip. He has heard Los Angeles has been “rebuilt” and isn’t as gang-riddled as he remembers.
He was 24 when he got locked up. Now he takes medication for high blood pressure. All he has in the world is a debit card with $978.33 on it and a plastic tub filled with personal items. The money comes from three decades spent making furniture in the prison for 30 and later 80 cents an hour.
The tub contains a portable CD player and CDs: The Intruders, BWB and David Ruffin. There is also a chess set, photo albums, a very small television and a leather-bound Bible. The Bible is from Jim Taylor. It is the Taylors that Fields credits with his freedom.
He isn’t sure if he could have done the same if the roles were reversed. When Denise Taylor first came to visit, he says his supervisors warned him not to meet her. They told him it would just upset him. He knew that, he knew she might try to hit him or yell at him. He decided he wouldn’t fight back if she did. He felt he owed her at least that much. But she was pleasant and after that first visit she kept coming back. In time it became clear she and her father weren’t visiting him because they hated him but because they cared about him.
Over the years Denise had forgotten Fields’s name. But in a strange twist, she had ended up working with men just like him. As a young doctor, she had to work places senior staff didn’t want to go. One of those places was the county jail. Denise didn’t mind. Her new patients were often some of the same people she had treated at the county hospital. In 1997 she took a job at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo County, a medium-security men’s prison located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Unlike the men at the jail, those she now treated were there for the long haul. She began to get to know them. Once she knew them a bit, she asked what they were in for. Many of them said murder. They would tell her their stories. She realised they had been in prison for about the same length of time Fields had. Fields, she thought, might, in fact, be like these guys, probably was like them, and she liked these guys. They were “nice people who made mistakes”. She didn’t believe they were evil, at least not the select group of men she worked with at the prison hospice she helped found.
She wanted to know if really, Fields was like them. She had forgiven him, but she wanted to hear him say he was sorry. She didn’t want to make him feel bad, but she wanted her pain acknowledged. She wanted him to understand what he had taken from her and her family. She asked the men she worked with at the hospice, lifers, what they thought of her plan to contact Fields. The lifers told her they would give anything to be able to say sorry to their victims’ families. They told her how hard it was to attend parole hearings, see the families suffering and know they were the cause of that suffering. In 2005 Denise wrote to Fields and asked if she could visit him.
It has been 21 years since Fields murdered her brother. She is told Fields will enter through a door at the opposite end from which she entered. She keeps an eye on the door. She doesn’t even know what Fields looks like. She watches every black inmate who enters, her eyes following them until they inevitably head to a table that is not hers. Then a tall man with a slight Afro haircut walks toward her. Taylor stands up.
“Hi, I’m Denise,” she says, extending her hand.
His grip is firm, but not crushing. “I’m Ronnie.”
They sit down. He is the first to speak:
She has to lean in close to hear him. The room is a concrete box off which all the various conversations around them bounce. Every once in a while a guard calls out: “OK, that hug’s long enough,” or “Hands above the table.” Fields doesn’t meet her eyes. He was 24 when he killed Bo. He came from a good family, but he followed his older brothers into a gang. He had gang tattoos, but was never convicted of a gang-related crime.
He dropped out of school in 11th grade when his girlfriend got pregnant. He worked at a car wash, at a used car dealership.
His record was relatively clean, aside from a juvenile charge of taking another kid’s bag. Then he shot Bo. He describes the shooting the same way Taylor has heard it told many times before. He says:
Taylor takes out the pictures she brought to show him: photos of her husband and sons. She tells Fields about how her children will never know their uncle, how her husband will never know his brother-in-law. Fields, in turn, tells her about his family: his dead parents, his two brothers behind bars. She is the first visitor he has had in a decade. After two hours Taylor thanks him for letting her visit and gives him a short hug. He doesn’t resist. He walks her to the gate. She tells him she will come again. And she does.The next time she visits she brings her father. It is the first of almost half a dozen parole hearings they attend.
Some family members feel they have to rally against the murderer, demand his or her death in order to honour their lost loved one, says Denise. Society encourages this. Denise does not. Still, she does wonder whether she is betraying her brother. People ask her what Bo would think. She tells them she honestly doesn’t know.
When she told her parents about her first visit to Fields, her mother was OK with it, but expressed no desire to meet him. Her father was another story. Denise feared he would be angry, but he surprised her by being curious. He wanted to know what had happened, why this terrible event had occurred. Jim wrote to Fields about his Christian faith and his religious belief in redemption. Still, the first time he saw Fields, the emotion that flooded him was anger. But it wasn’t anger at Fields. It was anger at the parole board. For Fields, Jim felt compassion. He also felt nostalgia for what he had lost. Now that he knew Fields, he was convinced that Fields had not intended to kill his son. It was just a terrible tragedy. Jim says:
Denise Taylor had just graduated from college when her brother Bo was murdered. For years she struggled to come to terms with the loss. Then she spent more than a decade trying to get her brother’s killer out of prison.
Denise Taylor had just graduated
from college when her brother
Bo was murdered.
For years she struggled to come to
terms with the loss.
Then she spent more than a decade
trying to get her brother’s killer
out of prison.
There are already three women in the room when the Taylors arrive. Jim Taylor heads to the opposite corner from where the trio is seated. His grown-up daughter, Denise, follows him. The two groups eye each other uncomfortably. This is the room that you wait in before attending a parole board hearing where they decide whether a prisoner should be released.
Neither the women nor the Taylors are used to seeing other people here, at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. They are unsure if they are there in opposition to each other. They don’t talk, but they listen. After a few minutes they realise that they are all victims of a crime, and that they are attending different parole hearings. One of the women turns to the Taylors, a look of relief on her face. “You’re not the enemy,” she says. “I’m not the enemy to anybody, not even the defendant,” Jim replies.
The women look at each other. They weren’t expecting that. In their world, defendants are always the enemy and victims attend parole hearings for one reason – to make sure the enemy doesn’t get out. They try again. This time a different woman asks Jim how long he has been coming here. “Twelve years,” he says.
He keeps talking. One day, he says, he hopes to visit the defendant outside prison. That is not what the women want for the defendant whose parole hearing they are there to attend. When a prosecutor informs them that their inmate’s parole will hopefully be denied, they nod in agreement. “Hopefully,” they say. Jim looks at his daughter, Denise. “Situation’s different,” he says.
She is the reason they are there, Denise and her brother, Bo. But Bo is dead. Ronnie Fields, the man whose parole they are there to support, murdered him.
He doesn’t look at them. He is dressed in what look like blue hospital scrubs. He has a beard and black glasses: Ronald Fields, inmate D00742. The Taylors call him Ronnie. Rules dictate that Fields should not look at the Taylors unless given permission to do so.
The Taylors have left the waiting room and are now across the hall in Conference Room Two. The prosecuting attorney doesn’t talk to the Taylors and he doesn’t make room for them next to him at the table.
They find seats against the wall with the victim’s advocate, a large woman with an abundance of purple hair. Fields sits at the table, next to his state-appointed attorney, DeJon Ramone Lewis, the same lawyer who represented Charles Manson at Manson’s parole hearing in 2012.
It is just after 08:30 in the morning on 6 December 2016 when commissioner Jack Garner begins introductions. He warns the Taylors that the documents he will be reading from may be graphic and difficult for them to hear. They know. They have heard the story before. It starts on a September afternoon in 1984 with Bo and a friend trying to buy marijuana in Compton, a city in Los Angeles County synonymous with gang violence. It ends with Bo being shot.
There are more details in the court documents: the location of the liquor store where Bo and his friend found Fields’s friend smoking a joint, the different places Fields took them to purchase pot, the type of car Fields was driving, the name of the street Bo was killed on.
The only detail that really matters though is that after deciding to take Bo’s money without handing over the drugs, Fields took a home-made gun from his car. He told Bo and Bo’s friend to run.
Bo, confused, asked: “What?”
There was a single shot. It struck Bo in the heart. Fields was sentenced to a minimum of 27 years.
Thirty-two years later Bo’s father makes his way to one of the room’s many microphones. He is here to voice his support for Field’s release, something only about 1% of victims’ families do, according to commissioner Garner. Jim shuffles the way old men do, stumbling slightly. He is 78 now, with white hair and a bit of a belly. He has a tendency to ramble. It doesn’t take long for him to deviate from the statement his daughter helped him prepare. He mentions Fields’s father and then how much Fields has changed over the years.
“I don’t know how he could show any more remorse than he has,” Jim says, his voice cracking. “Certainly, I’m satisfied.”
Denise hands her father a tissue. Then she replaces him at the table and reads her own statement. She is 54 and has lived most of her life without her brother, her only full biological sibling.
Her father removes his glasses and wipes his eyes. Denise stops for a minute, unable to continue. Then starts again:
“I realise that Mr Fields’s crime is considered to be against the state, but we are the ones who live the day-to-day reality of the loss of my brother, Bo. And also the continued imprisonment of the man responsible for his death, a sentence that we no longer support.”
Denise makes her way back to her seat. Jim puts his arm around his daughter’s shoulders. He pats her back. She says:
A 13-year-old girl who died from a brain aneurysm has helped a record eight different people, including five children, through organ donation.
Jemima Layzell, from Somerset, who died in 2012, donated her heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, small bowel and liver.
Jemima’s parents said she was clever, compassionate and creative – and would have been “very proud of her legacy”.
NHS Blood and Transplant said no other donor had helped as many people.
Jemima collapsed during preparations for her mum’s 38th birthday party and died four days later at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
Her heart, small bowel, and pancreas were transplanted into three different people while two people received her kidneys.
Her liver was split and transplanted into a further two people, and both of her lungs were transplanted into one patient.
Normally, a donation results in 2.6 transplants – eight is very unusual.
‘Special and unique’
Jemima’s mum Sophy Layzell, 43, a drama tutor, and dad Harvey Layzell, 49, managing director of a building firm, said they knew Jemima was willing to be a donor because they had spoken about it a couple of weeks before her death, after someone they knew died in a crash.
Sophy said: “They were on the register but their organs couldn’t be donated because of the circumstances of their death.
“Jemima had never heard of organ donation before and found it a little bit unsettling but totally understood the importance of it.”
She said they still found the decision to donate their daughter’s organs hard, but felt it was right.
“Everyone wants their child to be special and unique and this among other things makes us very proud.
“Shortly after Jemima died, we watched a programme about children awaiting heart transplants and being fitted with Berlin Hearts in Great Ormond Street Hospital.
“It affirmed for us that saying ‘no’ would have been denying eight other people the chance for life, especially over Jemima’s heart, which Harvey had felt uncomfortable about donating at the time.”
What is a brain aneurysm?
An aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall.
It can develop anywhere in the body, but most commonly in the brain and around the heart.
In the brain, if the ballooning blood vessel bursts, extensive bleeding causes severe brain damage – and usually results in death or serious disability.
There are usually no signs of the problem before the aneurysm ruptures.
Aneurysms in children are rare and it is still not clear why blood vessels weaken to make them form.
Jemima’s parents said it was very important for families to talk about organ donation.
“Every parent’s instinct is to say no, as we are programmed to protect our child. It’s only with prior knowledge of Jemima’s agreement that we were able to say yes.
“Jemima was lovely – clever, funny, compassionate and creative – and we feel sure she would be very proud of her legacy,” Sophy said.
‘Too many say no’
Sophy, Harvey, and Jemima’s sister Amelia, aged 17, now run The Jemima Layzell Trust, which helps young people with brain injuries and also promotes organ donation.
NHS Blood and Transplant said hundreds of people were still dying unnecessarily while waiting for a transplant because too many families said no to organ donation.
Last year, 457 people died waiting for a transplant, including 14 children.
There are currently 6,414 people on the transplant waiting list, including 176 children.
The science of female orgasm has long eluded mankind despite scores of studies and a staggering amount of research.
Not experiencing an orgasm every time they have sex is a common woe among women, a study by the Kinsey Institute— an organization that works to promote a greater understanding of human sexuality has found. The study found that among 2,850 singles (1,497 men, 1,353 women), who had experienced sexual activity in the 12 months before the survey, 85 percent of men had an orgasm during their last sexual experience while only 64 percent of women reported having one.
Numerous studies were conducted on the same topic with the percentage in the results vary, but the gap between the sexes remaining the same. This begs the question—what is it that the partner can do to elicit an orgasm from the woman just as frequently.
A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy may offer an answer. When researchers involved in the study asked 1,055 cisgender women aged 18 to 94 about their sex lives and sexual touching preferences, many reported that penetration alone was not enough to achieve an orgasm.
According to women, the key was clitoral and other stimulation techniques. When researchers asked the participants to check off stimulation techniques they liked best off an admirable list of options that were organized by location of the touch, amount of pressure, shape/style of the motion, and pattern the responses were very telling.
Only about 18 percent of women said they achieved a climax during sex from vaginal penetration alone. Meanwhile, 36 percent said they also needed clitoral stimulation to get an orgasm and another 36 percent claimed the stimulation enhanced the intensity of the orgasm and the overall sexual experience.
Among the participants, most women preferred a light-to-medium touch while only one in ten women said they liked firm pressure. Preferred shape/style methods that were the most popular were side-to-side, up-and-down and circular motions on or in the vicinity of the vagina. Other styles like tapping and even being “pushed together like a sandwich” were ticked on the list.
Women also disagreed with the notion that longer duration of sex gave way to a better orgasm. Debby Herbenick, the director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University, a research fellow and a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute who is behind the survey told CNN that the most common contributors to bringing a woman to a climax included spending time to build arousal, emotional intimacy, having a partner who knows what they liked and clitoral stimulation.
Another study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in February revealed that straight women had fewer orgasms at the hands of their partners than any other group surveyed. The study surveyed 52,588 adults who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual men and women in the U.S.
Results showed that while 86 percent lesbian women said they usually or always had orgasms with partners, straight and bisexual women only reported this standard 65 percent and 66 percent of the time respectively. Again, the results revealed a lack of understanding between not just sexes but also among individuals with different sexual orientations of what the female body preferred during sex and what drove them to an orgasm.
Author of the new book ” Becoming Cliterate,” Laurie Mintz says there is difference between sex and intercourse: “When we equate intercourse and sex and call everything that comes before intercourse ‘foreplay,’ we are buying into the cultural script that sex should proceed as follows: foreplay (just enough to get her ready for intercourse), intercourse (during which both women and men orgasm), and game over.”
According to Mintz, sex does not just involve penetration but also other forms of stimulation like kissing, touching, erotic massage, and sex toys that help in achieving an orgasm.
While many websites are trying to get the conversation started on women’s sexual pleasure, the website OMGYes offers an in-depth insight. The website takes the aid of videos to demonstrate the various techniques that women use to make themselves come, either solo or with a partner. Some of the techniques named include “edging,” “layering,” and “orbiting”.
Herbenick also insists that partners talk to women to understand what techniques they prefer as it is not possible that two women have the same preferences. “Couples should be having conversations about what they like, what they don’t like, what feels good and leads to orgasm, as well as what feels good but doesn’t necessarily lead to orgasm,” says Herbenick.