"I cried so much my nose was bleeding." Yancy Escobar Balderas, 29, was in the courtroom—as she had been every day during the two-month trial—when her now-husband Juan Balderas was sentenced to death for a murder she says he didn't commit. This month—two years after she watched her man get hauled off to death row—Balderas earned her paralegal certificate at the University of Houston. Balderas tells Fusion she's becoming a lawyer to help Juan and others like him. “After sitting through this trial, seeing the injustices in Juan’s case, I want to do something where I can make a change in the system, in people’s lives."
Juan was arrested in 2005 and charged with the gang-related killing of a 16-year-old. His trial was delayed until 2014—during which time he remained behind bars—and his lawyer barely met with him or did any investigating into his case. His lawyer had been reprimanded in the past and had a load of death penalty cases that experts say he couldn't possibly have handled properly. Balderas wants to make sure that doesn't happen to anyone else. "There’s someone waiting to die," she says. "We could save their lives.” Balderas just got her first gig as a paralegal intern for a lawyer who works with death row inmates. “Her attention to detail is just incredible," her boss says. "She’s going to be very successful at this.” Balderas likely hopes he's right—she's currently planning an appeal for Juan, who she's stuck by through 11 years of separation. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)