The Mom Who Married a Prison Inmate Serving Life for Double Murder | The Oprah Winfrey Show | OWN


Four days ago, Tracy
married her husband, Joseph, inside a maximum
security prison. Joseph was sentenced
to life behind bars for an execution-style
double murder that he committed in 1997. Most of us can’t comprehend
committing your life to a man who’s spending
the rest of his life in prison, much less
a double murderer. Our cameras were with Tracy the
night before and on her prison wedding day. Let’s take a look at that. It’s the night
before my wedding, and this is what I’m
going to be wearing. I think he’s going to like it. [LAUGHING] Yeah, I think so. OPRAH (VOICEOVER): The
prison has strict rules for wedding ceremonies. TRACY: His ring has
to be under $100. So I actually have to provide
the prison with a receipt for the ring because, you know,
if it’s too valuable somebody might want to steal it. [PHONE RINGING] Hello? OPRAH (VOICEOVER): Joseph
can call Tracy from prison up to two times a day. She never knows when
the call may come. Hi. It was great. You’re a little tired? We’re going to be
married tomorrow. Yeah. Gosh, it’s only
hours away, babe. I love you, babe. OK. I’ll see you in the morning. [GENTLE MUSIC] Good morning. Welcome to wedding day. It’s the big day. Never been to a wedding,
second time going to prison. I’m feeling kind of excited
and maybe a little nervous. No, I didn’t picture
this would be the way I would get ready for my wedding. NICOLE: Oh! What do you think? You look beautiful. Let’s go. I want to make sure I can get
in with my pretty purple top that’s pretty tight. They have very
strict clothing rules about things being too tight. I’m about to marry
Joseph Jackson. Who would have thought? Walking into a barbed wire
prison, maximum security, electric fence for my wedding
day was never in my vision. [LAUGHING] Here we go. Thank you. See you on the outside. [GENTLE MUSIC] I’m a married woman. Yay. And I’ve got beautiful
pictures, beautiful pictures. We were both so emotional
and we were just looking into each other’s
eyes, and, you know, tears were like coming down
from both of our faces. And we told each other
we loved each other. OPRAH: Your son was
saying that this is the second time he’s been in
prison, only the second time. So he’d been before? He went to visit
Joseph before. OPRAH: And how did your son– how did you present
this to your son and how did he feel about it? My son is perfectly
fine with it. He supports my decisions
in life as I support his. OPRAH: And what do
your parents say? My mother is not
happy about this at all. She wanted me to change my
mind and not get married. And why couldn’t you just– or was it not satisfactory
to befriend him, you know, love him, care for him,
respect him as a human being? All those things that
you’re saying that you do. Why was marriage necessary? The marriage to me represented
more of our spiritual path that we share together. And you know, he feels like
he’s working on the inside to carry that love
placed within him. And I feel like I’m
working on the outside. And we are working
towards the same goal. And our commitment was not only
to each other in that marriage, but to this path also. OPRAH: You know, I’ve talked to
lots of people over the years on this show who’ve experienced
the worst day of their lives. They’ve done terrible things. They make mistakes on the
worst day of their lives. However, he did, on the
worst day of his life, one of the worst days of his
life, kill execution-style two other people. Have you talked to him about
that and what that means? Yes. We’ve talked about that. And he, you know, he almost
doesn’t relate to that person just like I don’t
relate to that person. You know, he’s not that
person anymore at all. OPRAH: OK. So Joseph is on the phone
from California State Prison. So Joseph, hello? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Hey, Oprah. OPRAH: So is Tracy
the first woman you’ve had a relationship with
since you’ve been in prison? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Yes. OPRAH: And she was
just explaining to us how this happened and how
you, on that first night, put your hand above
hers and said, I’m giving you your heart. What was it that
you felt for her when she first came to prison? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): I
felt so connected to her. I couldn’t help myself. I just knew she was the one. OPRAH: But you have a life
sentence without parole. So when you think
in terms of the one, were you thinking that you
were going to be with her for the rest of your life? Or have her be with you
for the rest of your life outside of the prison walls? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): That
didn’t even come into my mind. That didn’t, me being in
prison wasn’t even on my mind. I just knew that I
wanted to be with her. OPRAH: You wanted
to be with her. And so then how long,
Tracy, before you actually connected after that? TRACY: Well, I took a whole
year to be able to come to terms with giving it a
possibility of seeing what was going to happen. OPRAH: Were you
in communication? Like, were you calling
him or he calling you? No, no, no. No, no. Not for a year. And then after a year, I went
in for another performance. And we connected again
and we started talking. And I said I was ready to
start writing him letters and see what kind
of a relationship. I was going to treat it like
any other relationship, but– OPRAH: That sounds like the
weirdest-ass thing to me, That really does sound like– I have to just say,
that sounds so weird. The guy is in prison. Joseph, we’re talking
about you like you’re not here because you’re not. But Joseph is in prison for
committing double murder, life without parole. And you say, I’m going
to treat it like all of my other relationships. What does that mean? [LAUGHING] It meant that I
was going to get to know him as a
person who he was right now in this time and this day. I knew it was a maximum
security prison. I knew that he had committed a
crime when he was a teenager. The person that I saw
that I met that day at the dance, that was the
person that I connected with. OPRAH: So you’re saying,
I’m going to meet you where you are right now.
TRACY: Exactly. As a human being.
TRACY: Exactly. Joseph, you say
you’re a changed man now because of Tracy. What do you mean by that? JOSEPH (ON PHONE):
Well, the faith that she gives
me, she just gives me the faith to just be me. I can be silly, I can be crazy. She loves me. I really didn’t
know what love was. It scared the hell out
of me because of the love and just, her heart is so open. I just, she gives me the
strength to just grow. OPRAH: Is this the first time
you think you felt love before? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Yeah. I’d never felt before. Yeah. I know all hearts
respond to love in a way that it makes you want
to open your heart– Right. JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Yeah –and love other people. So you were convicted of double
murder, that’s two lives. People want to know why do you
deserve to be happy, actually? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): For
one, I’m still breathing. I believe that I still have
a mission on this earth. If I wasn’t supposed
to be here, believe me, I would not be alive right now. By the things that
I’ve done in my life, I don’t say that I
deserve anything, but I believe that God or
spirit or wherever you want to call it is very forgiving. I know people don’t
understand that. But I deserve it because
I went through the process of changing myself. I went through the whole
process of looking at everything that I’ve done in my life and
the things that happened to me, and I decided that
I want to be happy and I’m going to be happy. I don’t care how
much time I got. I don’t care what
I’ve done in the past. I’ve forgiven myself. Did you own up to what you
had done or who you had been and the choices
that you had made that put you where you are? JOSEPH (ON PHONE):
Of course I did. The first thing was that
after all the pain that I’ve seen in here, it’s still so– it’s still so strong. I was just tired of hurting
myself and going through that. So I began to read a lot of
books and pray and meditate. Went through all the
different religious things. Then I got into a
different place but– ROBOTIC VOICE:
This recorded call is from an inmate
at a California correctional facility. JOSEPH (ON PHONE):
Just the things that I’m going
through on the inside, getting to the heart
of the matter of it. It was crazy, just unbelievable. So you’re saying
that you had been doing some work on
yourself, because all work comes from the inside. JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Of course. OPRAH: And– yeah. How do you feel now today about
the crimes that you committed and the lives that were
lost because of you? JOSEPH (ON PHONE):
I mean, I’ve taken responsibility for everything
that I’ve done in my life. I’m sorry I’m not
in a guilt place. I’m not in a bad place. But I do have remorse. I do have remorse for the
things that I’ve done in life, you know? But I can’t, I
cannot live in guilt. I can’t live in that place
because I was 19 years old. I wasn’t even living. I was just walking
around like a zombie. So it’s kind of, I didn’t
feel like I was living. Yeah. So do you expect Tracy to
remain faithful to you? JOSEPH (ON PHONE): I do. I expect Tracy to do what she
tells me she’s going to do. OPRAH: OK. You did not answer
the question, sir. [LAUGHING] JOSEPH (ON PHONE): OK. I’m going to keep
it real, Oprah. I’m going to put my foot
down and say, yes, I expect her to be faithful to me.
Yes, ma’am. OPRAH: OK. Thank you, sir. So will you all ever
get conjugal visits? Will you ever have
a conjugal visit? JOSEPH (ON PHONE):
Well, I’m not sure. I’m hoping so.
They talking about changing. But as of right now, we cannot
not have a family visit. Well, I said the word
“conjugal” on purpose, as in conjugal visit, yeah. They call them
family visits now. OPRAH: They call them
family visits now? Yes. OPRAH: OK. Family visits where
you conjugate. TRACY: Yes. JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Yeah,
we have to do that. So you’re saying you
all will never have sex. Well, we expect
the system to change. And you know– OPRAH: Oh, what a night
that’s going to be, if that– JOSEPH (ON PHONE): Indeed. Can you imagine? [LAUGHING] Let’s flash forward,
though, five years from now. You said traditional vows
that you were going to love, honor, and cherish this man. That’s five years of a marriage
based on phone conversations and prison visits. How will you be able to
sustain that, really? I’ll be able to sustain it
because that’s what I was doing before I met Joseph, anyway. And I have been in
a situation where I haven’t had sex for a year,
three years, five years. You know, so it’s
not anything that’s dramatically life altering to
not have sex for that long. Well, I thank you. Thank you, Tracy and Joseph. Wish you the best. Thank you. OPRAH: The very best.

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