Jimmie C. Gardner was born on July, 1st, 1966, in Dawson, GA, to Jimmie Lee Gardner, a home builder, and Gladys Gardner, who worked for Coats & Clark and later as a school bus driver. He was the 5th of 8 children. Gardner grew up in Tampa, FL, where he developed a great love for sports as a child. His admiration for baseball uniforms is what made that particular sport the one he would pursue passionately.
Jimmie continued to play baseball at Tampa Bay Vocational Technical High School, and maintained a 3.0 or higher grade point average, while performing as a stand out player on the baseball team. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs just after high school graduation and played with them in the minor leagues for 4 seasons. While playing in the minor leagues, he enrolled in college to study business management, and he worked part time at various locations around the Tampa Bay.
In 1989, while still working towards his business degree, Jimmie was arrested and charged with two separate counts of robbery and sexual assault; as well as burglary and assault-during-the-commission-of-a-felony. He did not commit the crimes and always maintained his innocence, however, he was put on trial in January 1990. Jimmie was found guilty a month later in February 1990, and was sentenced to 110 years in prison.
At Gardner's 1990 criminal trial, the West Virginia State Trooper and Chief Serologist for the Division of Public Safety was the expert witness, and he knowingly presented false testimony which resulted in Gardner's guilty verdict. Jimmie Gardner's case is one of over 140 cases from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s, in which the state of West Virginia relied on falsified forensic evidence testimony by the Chief Serologist in order to convict. The state of was aware of his lack of qualifications as a serologist and DNA expert as early as 1985, and yet he was allowed to testify in Jimmie’s 1990 trial.
It was not until April 1st, 2016, nearly 3 decades after the Chief Serologist was exposed—when Jimmie C. Gardner was finally released. Upon being released Gardner reunited with his family, including his then 31 year old daughter, with whom he had become estranged, due to their separation during his incarceration. He regarded his beloved Great Aunt, Alberta Lamar, as a second mother and Jimmie was extremely close with her, but sadly she passed away in January 2004 while he was imprisoned. His pain is only slightly lessened by his being blessed to have both of his parents still alive, yet suffering from various ailments and the emotional distress from having their son unjustly removed from their lives, for almost 3 decades.
Since his release, Jimmie C Gardner has become an advocate for other wrongfully imprisoned men and women who have felt the sting of this country's systemic and racial injustices throughout the criminal justice system. He also advocates for prison reform and inmate rights all over the country. He is an active motivational speaker, engaged by high schools, colleges and universities, including the Georgetown School of Law, churches, community, as well as civic organizations throughout the country. He has also spoken in prisons such as Lee County State Prison and Autry State Prison in Georgia, in his effort to expose ongoing injustices and bring about prison reform for inmates. Jimmie offers prisoners hope through specific insight and encouragement as only he can share given all that he has endured. Jimmie C. Gardner's constitutional fortitude is a living testimate to individuals striving to overcome in any walk of life, be they inmate or civilian. His story is triumphant, compelling and he is a living example of steadfastness, perseverance and strength. Since his release he has hit the ground running and he looks forward to completely embracing his new life and living in his calling.