30 Times Death Row Prisoners Were Found Innocent

By Ryan 1 year ago

1. Cameron Todd Willingham

Image source/ slateWillingham was found guilty of homicide by arson in Texas in 1992. He was suspected of deliberately starting the fire that murdered his three children. In 2004, he was executed. Sadly, the Texas Forensic Science Commission subsequently discovered that the evidence had been interpreted incorrectly, and they came to the unfortunate conclusion that none of the evidence used against Willingham was reliable. It turns out that the fire was actually accidental. 

Ruben Cantu

Image source/ chron
Cantu was 17 years old when the alleged crime he committed occurred. After being found guilty of homicide with the intent to kill, Cantu was put to death in 1993. Investigations conducted about 12 years after his demise suggest that Cantu most likely wasn't the murderer. The sole eyewitness changed his story, and Cantu's co-defendant subsequently acknowledged he had permitted his friend to be wrongly accused. Cantu, according to him, wasn't even present on the murderous night.

Larry Griffin

Image source/ marca
Griffin was executed in 1995 for the killing of Missouri narcotics dealer Quintin Moss in 1981. Griffin has consistently maintained his innocence, and the available proof seems to support this claim. Even though the officer testified in favour of the claims during the trial, the first police officer on the site now claims the eyewitness account was false. Griffin wasn't at the crime scene that night, according to another eyewitness who was hurt during the assault but was never contacted by the prosecution during the trial.

Carlos DeLuna 

Image source/ huffpost
DeLuna was put to death in 1989 for stabbing a Texas grocery store clerk. The Chicago Tribune discovered proof almost two decades later that suggests DeLuna was probably innocent. The proof established that Carlos Hernandez, a man who even repeatedly confessed to the murder, was actually responsible for the crime.

David Wayne Spence

Image source/ kwtx
For the Texas murder of three teens, Spence was executed in 1997. He allegedly killed the incorrect people by accident while being hired by a convenience store clerk to kill someone else. The supervising police lieutenant said “I do not think David Spence committed this crime.” The lead homicide detective agreed, saying “My opinion is that David Spence was innocent. Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”

Jesse Tafero 

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Tafero was found guilty of killing a state policeman in 1976. For the offence, both he and Sonia Jacobs received death sentences. The testimony of another person who was engaged in the crime, ex-convict Walter Rhodes, was the primary piece of evidence used to convict them. In return for avoiding a life sentence, Rhodes provided this testimony. Tafero was executed in 1990. Jacobs, his companion, was freed two years later due to a lack of evidence, the same evidence that led to Tafero's execution.

Thomas Griffin And Meeks Griffin

Image source/ marca
This list's oldest case goes back to 1915. Two black males, the Griffin brothers, were found guilty of killing a white man. They were found guilty because the brothers were implicated in the murder by Monk Stevenson, another black man accused of carrying it out. Later, he acknowledged that he had blamed them because he believed they would have the resources to fight the charges because of their riches. Despite being entirely innocent, the Griffin brothers were executed.

8. Joe Arridy

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American Joseph Arridy was unjustly convicted and executed for the 1936 rape and murder of 15-year-old Dorothy Drain in Pueblo, Colorado. Due to his mental impairments, the police and other authorities were able to manipulate him into giving a false confession.

9. Joseph O'Dell

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The conviction of O'Dell for murder and rape has been seriously questioned in light of recent DNA blood proof. Three Supreme Court Justices said they had concerns about O'Dell's guilt and whether he ought to have been permitted to defend himself when they reviewed his case in 1991. There isn't much proof connecting O'Dell to the crime without the blood evidence. The 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and reinstated his execution sentence in September 1996.

10.  Leo Jones

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In Jacksonville, Florida, Jones was found guilty of the murder of a police detective. After several hours of police questioning, Jones agreed to sign a confession, but he subsequently claimed the confession was coerced. The officer who detained Jones and the detective who obtained his statement were removed from duty for unethical behaviour in the middle of the 1980s. A subsequent officer recognised the policeman as a "enforcer" who had tortured people. A second suspect in the case was identified by numerous witnesses who stepped forward.

11. Gary Graham

Image source/ murderpedia.com
Gary Graham was killed in Texas on June 23, 2000, despite protests that he was innocent. Graham was 17 years old when he was accused of robbing a Houston grocery and shooting Bobby Lambert. The evidence of just one witness, Bernadine Skillern, who claimed to have seen the killer's face briefly through her car window from about 30 to 40 feet away, was the main factor leading to his conviction. Two additional witnesses who claimed to have seen the attacker clearly while working at the grocery store but who were not questioned by Ronald Mock, Graham's court-appointed attorney, or summoned to testify at the trial claimed Graham was not the murderer.

12. Claude Jones

Image source/chron
DNA tests cast significant doubt on Claude Jones' conviction and 2000 execution in Texas. The prosecution had initially claimed that a hair strand discovered at the scene of a shooting at a liquor store belonged to Jones, but the tests proved otherwise. The hair belonged to the sufferer instead. Jones was put to death for killing the proprietor of the shop. The strand of hair was the only tangible proof that connected Jones to the crime scene.

13. Sedley Alley

Image source/ thenewyorktimes
After Alley had failed in his appeals, new attorneys were chosen to defend him in the clemency process in 2003. The clemency attorneys uncovered numerous discrepancies in the state's evidence, found evidence that pointed to a different suspect who matched the murderer's eyewitness descriptions and had a car that matched those descriptions, and learned that Alley had been at home while being watched by police when Collins was raped and killed. They requested DNA testing of the murder instrument and clothing in light of these findings.

14. Troy Davis

Image source/ innocenceproject
When some prosecution witnesses altered their testimonies after testifying against Davis, including claims that another suspect was responsible for the murder of a police officer in Savannah, suspicions were cast on Davis' guilt. A former Davis trial juror who now claims she has too many questions about his culpability and would reverse her decision testified before the Board. Additionally, they heard Davis's family and a witness who had previously testified against Davis but has since recanted her statement.

15. Lester Bower

Image source/ thetexastribune
Following Bower's conviction, his attorneys discovered that the ammunition was not as uncommon as the prosecution claimed and that the prosecution had withheld information regarding a report to the police that the murders might have been related to drug trafficking. A woman later came forward and claimed that her boyfriend and his associates had committed the murders following a botched drug transaction. Her account was supported by the wife of one of the other guys.

16. Kirk Bloodsworth

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Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to eight years in prison in Maryland for a murder and rape he didn't commit including two years on death row. Although Bloodsworth was not recognized by two witnesses during a line up, they had seen him on television after the crime had been done. Bloodsworth was found guilty of rape and murder and given the death penalty despite the lack of any physical proof linking him to the crime. He was eventually exonerated in 1993.

17. Rolando Cruz

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
Before DNA testing established their innocence in 1995, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez spent more than ten years on Illinois' death row for a homicide they did not carry out. Cruz was promptly let go. Cruz received a complete amnesty on the grounds of innocence. A month after Cruz, Hernandez was released after his charges were dropped.

18. Robert Miller

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Robert Miller was released in 1998 after serving almost ten years on Oklahoma's death row for crimes he didn't conduct and having his innocence established through DNA testing. He had served 7 years on death row and almost 10 years wrongfully imprisoned for crimes he never committed.

19. Ron Williamson

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After spending ten years on Oklahoma's death row for a crime he didn't commit, DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project in 1999 established his innocence. Dennis Fritz, his co-defendant, received a life term and was imprisoned for 11 years before DNA proved his innocence as well.

20. Ronald Jones

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
Prior to DNA evidence proving his innocence and resulting in his release in 1999, Ronald Jones, a client of the Innocence Project, spent ten years on Illinois' death row for a murder and rape he didn't perform. The State Attorney's office filed a motion to overturn the verdict in July 1997 in light of the DNA findings. The Illinois Supreme Court subsequently mandated that Jones have a fresh trial. The State Attorney's office made the decision to dismiss the charges against Jones in May 1999.

21. Earl Washington

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
A mentally impaired man from Virginia who supposedly confessed to killing someone in 1982 was given the death penalty. He spent ten years on death row, and his execution was once postponed by nine days. Prior to being exonerated in 2000 by DNA evidence acquired by the Innocence Project, he would spend a total of 17 years in prison.

22. Frank Lee Smith

Image source/ Sun Sentinel
After serving 14 years for a murder and rape he didn't perform, Frank Lee Smith passed away from cancer while awaiting execution in Florida. 11 months after his passing, the Innocence Project was able to exonerate him through DNA testing. These findings not only exonerated Smith of the crime but also revealed Eddie Lee Mosley, a committed rapist and murderer, as the real offender.

23. Charles Irvin Fain

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Charles Irvin Fain was found guilty of the murder, rape, and kidnapping of a juvenile girl and given the death penalty. In 1982, the incident took place in Nampa, Idaho. Fain has consistently maintained his innocence, and DNA testing in 2001 proved him right that he was innocent.

24. Ray Krone

Image source/ University Of Arkansas
The victim, a 36-year-old woman, was discovered dead in the men's bathroom of the Phoenix, Arizona bar where she worked on the morning of December 29, 1991. She had been fatally stabbed, and there was not much tangible proof of the attack. The victim's blood type was matched in the crime scene blood, and the most prevalent blood type's spit was found on the victim. No semen was present, and no DNA testing was done.

25. Nicholas Yarris

Image source/ bbcnews
Prior to DNA testing proving his innocence, Nicholas Yarris spent more than 21 years on Pennsylvania's execution row. Florida commuted his punishment to 17 years (time served) on January 15, 2004, and released him. After spending more than 21 years in a Pennsylvania prison for a crime he did not commit, Nicholas Yarris was eventually released the following day.

26. Ryan Matthews

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
For a crime he didn't commit, Ryan Matthews served five years on Louisiana's execution row. Matthews, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, was given the death penalty for the Louisiana convenience store owner Tommy Vanhoose's shooting murder. The findings of the DNA tests both cleared Matthews and identified the real offender.

27. Curtis McCarty

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
Before DNA tests obtained by the Innocence Project led to his exoneration in 2007, Curtis McCarty spent 21 years in an Oklahoma prison, including nearly 18 years on death row, for a crime he did not commit. Due to forensic misconduct, he received three execution sentences and was twice found guilty.

28. Kennedy Brewer

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
Kennedy Brewer was detained in Mississippi in 1992 on suspicion of killing the three-year-old daughter of his partner. Brewer was sent to Mississippi's death row after spending three years in prison while awaiting his trial. He was found guilty of capital murder. His conviction was overturned in 2001 after DNA tests showed he did not conduct the crime.

29. Michael Blair

Image source/ The Texas Tribune
Michael Blair was released from Texas' death row in 2008 after serving 14 years for a murder he didn't perform, thanks to a succession of DNA tests that established his innocence. Blair was the 17th person in the US to have been sentenced to execution and later been found innocent thanks to DNA testing.

30. Damon Thibodeaux

Image source/ theinnocenceproject
Before being freed in 2012, Damon Thibodeaux served 15 years in Louisiana's death row. Despite any physical evidence linking Thibodeaux to the murder, he was convicted and sentenced to death row. The fear of the death sentence, according to a prosecution expert who assisted in the reinvestigation of his case, was a factor in his false confession to the killing of his cousin.

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