Marcus Dixon led is whole life to avoid a place like the prison he is currently held in.
Just a year ago, he was at the top of his class. He wasn't just an "A" student, but, as CBS News Correspondent Mika Brzezinski reports, a star football player at his Rome, Georgia high school.
Number "73" was on his way to Vanderbilt University on a full scholarship, until, "I just lost everything I had," he says.
So how would he describe what happened?
"Consensual sex between me and another classmate, and now I'm serving ten years in prison," he says.
That classmate, who is white and was just shy of 16, accused Dixon, who was 18, of rape. Her story did not convince Kathy Tippett, Robert Williamson or the rest of a nearly all white jury.
"We knew it wasn't rape," says Williamson. "The pictures and her testimony, nothing added up to rape - forcible rape."
"Marcus needs to come home," says Tippett.
But the prosecution had added another charge: aggravated child molestation. Meant to address sexual predators, it applies when a child is injured during "an immoral or indecent act." The jury was told they could consider the girl's loss of virginity an injury.
"The boy, he's sinned," says Ken Jones, Dixon's adoptive father. "He knows he's committed a sin, but he hasn't committed a crime.
"Now, should the boy be punished for ten years for committing a sin?"
Jones and his wife Peri will never forget the night police ordered them to turn their son in.
"It was the hardest thing I ever had to do," says his father.
Ken Jones coached Dixon in little league, when the 9-year-old asked to come home with him.
"He wanted a mom and dad at home," says Peri.
And what did the Jones, who see Dixon as their son, tell Dixon about the decisions he made that day?
"When he told me what happened I was scared to death," said Ken Jones. "When he told me she was a white girl, you know, I just sat down and started crying because I knew what they were going to do to him."
District attorney Leigh Patterson refused to speak with us, but has insisted that race was not a factor. But the jury insists that Patterson mishandled the Dixon case.
"I think the law, this charge, was misapplied to Marcus," says Tippett. "I mean, it's not meant for an 18-year–old having consensual sex.
"It's just not right, and I think we made a wrong decision on that one."
They thought aggravated child molestation was just a misdemeanor, not a felony, and believed Dixon would be set free.
"I can honestly say, and talk for the other ten jurors, that we had no intention of sending him to prison for ten years," says Williamson. "We were sure he would go home that day."
"It's a mistake you have to live with every day."
When asked if he had any idea that he might possibly be breaking the law, Dixon says, " I had no idea at all. I was not thinking about breaking any laws."
Asked if he's a rapist or a child molester, Dixon replies, "No ma'am."
Dixon has spent almost a year in prison. His appeal this week before the Georgia Supreme Court is his last chance at freedom for a decade
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