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I felt that school wasted my time

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Arrested and wrongfully jailed
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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But actually they were like at that point worried about a riot starting because their cars were getting shaken and people were gathering and it's hot summer and they're kind of surrounded by this pretty upset crowd. But as soon as like they arrest me the crowd kind of goes silent. They're completely confused, like, 'They arrested the white guy?' I mean, nobody knows what to do with that. So everybody's shocked and confused and they take me and they quickly get me into the cars and they sort of beep and the crowd kind of clears and everybody's totally confused that they arrested the white guy.

And so they get me out of there and they get out of there and they throw me in jail. And of course I'm fuming like, 'This is false arrest, this is ridiculous, I'm obviously not the person whose named in the warrant.' You know, I'm not... It says a black male, I'm obviously... You know? So I'm spouting and they just leave me in jail and they go away and I say, 'Hey, you know, I get a phone call, I know my rights, you haven't Miranda...' They just walk away. Then after about an hour of my ranting, nobody's listening, you know, some supervisor comes in, he says, you know, 'Hey, what happened?'

He starts talking to me, he's like, 'Well, you have to understand, you know, their buddy just got killed. You know, it was a police officer got murdered. Somebody had identified this guy in a mug shot.' And then they kept me there and they sent in sort of more and more people to kind of calm me down. And then eventually what happens is he hears that they're looking for him, he wisely turns himself in to a different police station. And it turned... They establish that he has a perfect alibi, he was actually at work and there's witnesses. And so they realise it's a case of misidentification.

So then once they realise that they've sort of got this problem of this upset hippy whose flashing his ACLU card and so eventually I insist on filing a police complaint and then by then it's midnight or something like that, and I'd call up my parents and have them come down to the police station to pick me up, which they do without complaint. And I tell them the story of what happens and they're very supportive of it. And then the next Monday, I guess this was over a weekend because the next Monday I call up to check about my police complaint and they say, 'Well, you know, it's funny, we've kind of lost all the records of... You know, we've lost the police complaint. But we've also lost the records of your being arrested, and maybe it's just as well for you because you really don't want an arrest for accessory to the murder of a police officer to come up every time you get pulled over. But if you want we can refile all the charges, you know? We can... You can refile your complaint and we can, you know, make another copy of the arrest.' And I think about it a little while and I think, maybe it's just as well they lost everything. So that was the end of that story.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: riot, arrest, confusion, jail, alibi, misidentification, complaint, police record

Duration: 3 minutes, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017