by Keith Morrison, Dateline NBC correspondent
Eric Volz is a nervous man. Understandably so, too, given the nightmare he has been living through. Has been - is still - living through.
So on the morning we meet for the second time, he is driven the short city block from New York's Today Show studio to Dateline's interview facility. He's accompanied by his mother, step-father, and a young woman who has been acting as a publicist for the family (together, these three generated and kept alive the international pressure that helped Eric win his freedom). All of them greet us warmly, and all, especially Eric, wear the look that says this isn't over.
I'll back up a minute. The first time I met Eric he was the best-known inmate of the Modelo Prison, a huge maximum security institution not far from Managua, Nicaragua.
He'd been sentenced to 30 years, convicted by a Nicaraguan court of murdering his one-time girlfriend, a striking beauty named Doris. The killing was particularly shocking for its extraordinary brutality, and Doris's mother, as well as many people in her town, and one of
Nicaragua's most popular newspapers, appeared determined to ensure Eric was held responsible.
In fact, after one of his court hearings, a local mob chased him through the streets of town, intent on - well, we don't know what. After Eric's parents hired security guards to protect him, rumors circulated in Nicaragua that Eric's people were trying to bribe their way to an acquittal. And, in spite of clear and convincing evidence that Eric was hours away when the crime occurred, he was convicted.
So, to say that Eric was living through a nightmare was, if anything, something of an understatement.
His imprisonment lasted 15 months, while promise after promise of an appeals court review came and went without result. Then, just in time for Christmas, Eric was finally freed, after the appeals court judges agreed he simply could not have committed the crime.
But it was not a man who wore a look of contented relief who joined me for our second visit, back in New York. For one thing he was, he said, tired... though gaining strength every day that he's free. He quibbled with the inclusion in our first report of a portion of his interview which made it seem, he felt, as if he'd behaved as a bit of a jerk toward Doris.
This time he went out of his way to repeat how sorry he was that the loss of Doris has not played a larger roll in his story. His demeanor seemed to me to be that of a man who has been on a campaign somehow extended beyond its expected end. He worried about the fate of the appeals judges. Reports in Nicaragua suggest that one of them, at least, has been threatened, and an official investigation has been launched to reconsider their decision.
Does that mean Eric will become a wanted man? Will he been tried again, this time in exile? Will he ever again be able to travel in Central America? The morning of our meeting, those questions were clearly eating at him.
So, when Eric told the story of his experience in that prison, he seemed to be hampered by an odd 'disconnect,' as if he is still unable to face those memories, at least until he knows the end of his story.
It was only when he read from his prison diary that his daily trials somehow came alive.
Will he write a book? Someone already has, he said, and without talking to Eric at all! Will there be a movie? He doesn't know. All questions to be addressed later, said Eric Volz and the family who surround him, after the long, strange, campaign for freedom is done.