Last week, in honor of Mother’s Day, we featured the story of Belynda Goff, an Innocence Project client and mother of three who is still fighting for justice after being wrongfully convicted in 1996 of killing her husband. In response, Belynda’s son Mark penned a letter describing how he and his family have persevered despite his mother’s wrongful conviction.
My name is Mark Goff. I am the proud first-born son of Belynda F. Goff, an innocent woman incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections for going on two decades.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I would love to let everyone know that my mother not only did an amazing job at raising her children, but she is also one of the few human beings out there that I truly look up to as a person.
In 1994 my family lost Stephen Goff, my father, in a brutal attack. This loss shook us to our very cores. As anyone can imagine, when violence from an unknown person steals the life of someone so dear to you, the circumstance leaves one feeling completely vulnerable and unsafe along with the immense pain that naturally occurs when a parent is taken from you. I was seven years old at the time the loss took place. My father was my hero.
My mother was grieving the loss of her husband and doing whatever she knew how to do to comfort her children and keep the family whole. She did this with her faith, strength, and her amazing character.
Two years after my father’s horrible passing, my mother was accused and taken to trial for his murder. I remember how positive the family was that she would return home and be cleared of the awful charges. We all had faith in the judicial process and knew in our hearts that there is no way she could be convicted of such a crime.
We know now that is not the case.
The last 20 years has robbed our family of my mother’s ability to be a part of every precious moment that a mother should be able to be a part of. She and our family lost the ability to properly heal from the loss of my father, as we have spent all of our time and energy hoping, praying, networking, and doing every possible thing we can to free our mother from one of the most heinous injustices I have ever witnessed.
However, I will be the first to tell you that Belynda F. Goff didn’t let her children down. Through phone calls and visits, my mother did more for her children than many free mothers do. She was able to stay strong in her faith and was never shaken enough to allow her children to not succeed. Her actions matched her words as she pushed forward, never accepting less than what she knew was possible. She never let her character be questioned and never allowed the system to rob her of her mental, emotional, and spiritual freedom. She is a light to those around her and those that have met her have been blessed by her presence.
Today, I am 30 years old. I’m a husband to a beautiful wife. I am blessed to be a father to my son Lincoln who turned three in February of this year. I am able to provide for my family in abundance. I’m proud to be a United States Marine Corps veteran, and without a doubt, my mother is a huge inspiration to all of it. I try to not only be who she raised me to be, but to always remember that I am a direct representation of who she is. I know that I’m not a perfect representation, but one day I hope to be like her. She is a warrior, but maintains grace, humility, and love. She is a friend but knows when to stand her ground.
For those that find themselves in a similar situation. Just know that no one can take what you don’t let them have. My family hasn’t lost our ability to be the people we know we are supposed to be. We continue to march forward as strong and as blessed as we have ever been. I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to let the system rob me of my joy and my ability to have a full life.
One day, Belynda F. Goff will be physically freed from prison and be united with her family again. We will keep persisting and keep believing as long as we live because that is what family does. I love her beyond what words can express and I know that through her story, others’ lives will be changed for the better.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of those mothers that are doing the best they can for their children.