Wrongfully convicted

Man walks free after serving two decades on wrongful conviction – Daniel Taylor


CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – Jul 23, 2013

A man is beginning his redemption Monday after serving two decades behind bars on a wrongful conviction.

Daniel Taylor endured 20 years of time in a prison cell knowing he didn’t commit the crime that got him there. He was a teenager when he went into the big house, but now, he’s a free 37-year-old who will move to a place he can really call home.

“Well, it feels like I’m finally getting established and stepping out on my own and finally getting a chance to get re-acclimated with society,” Taylor says. “It’s very bittersweet, but I’ll accept this over my alternative, which is an 8 by 2 cuz those are not 8 by 9 cells.”

Taylor spent just over 20 years in that 8-by-2 cell at the Menard Correctional Center. He was 17 years old when he was arrested and charged with double murder at a North Side apartment complex.

Taylor had an alibi when the murders were committed: he was already in jail for disorderly conduct and being held at another police station. That took a backseat in the investigation when Taylor confessed to the crime.

“I have never heard anyone who had the alibi that I had,” Taylor explains. “You have people who was at a football game—with their girlfriend making love but how many people have said I was actually in your custody and they went and got certain documents from their own police station. I was beaten and tricked.”

Taylor contacted the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwest University, shared his story and six years later, he had another court date.

“He was in custody at the time when the murders were committed. I had to take that case. He had no parents or lawyer with him when he was dealing with the police. people don’t realize that you can admit to something that you didn’t do.”

Now, Daniel and his brother are trying to do what’s right.

David was 16 years old when Chicago police arrested him in the middle of the night. It’s a night his brother David says he’ll never forget. He missed his big brother so much that he committed crimes to get arrested with hopes of getting assigned to the same jail cell as Daniel.

“By him being by my side and letting me know everything was going to be alright…and then, when that was taken away from me, it was like woah,” David says.

Both brothers want to keep at-risk kids out of trouble and out of jail.

“You need to really sit down and talk to your parents because when it’s all said and done, your parents are going to be the only ones you have if you end up in prison,” Daniel says.

While in prison, Daniel Taylor earned his GED and says he read the dictionary from cover to cover. He has now been free for six months, living in the two-bedroom apartment. Many people are rooting for him and a number of people are trying to help him find a job.

Death penalty Focus


Today, in the United States, we celebrate freedom. At DPF, we are celebrating the freedom of exonerees like Obie Anthony, who spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.We also remember that there are thousands of other wrongfully convicted people, still sitting behind bars, trying to prove their innocence. We will keep fighting for their freedom, and for a criminal justice system that is more fair and just.

We hope you have a great Fourth of July, and thank you for joining us in the fight for justice!

First US man released by DNA evidence after being on death row celebrates 20th year


june 28, 2013

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A man who was on Maryland’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his release.

Kirk Bloodsworth is marking the anniversary on Friday, just months after Maryland banned the death penalty.

Bloodsworth, who recently moved from Maryland to Philadelphia to be director of advocacy for Witness to Innocence, was twice convicted of a girl’s 1984 murder. He spent two years on death row following his first trial. A second trial brought another conviction, although he received a life sentence instead of capital punishment.

Bloodsworth was cleared in 1993, becoming the first American freed because of DNA evidence after being convicted in a death penalty case.

Reflecting on his experience, Bloodsworth says: “If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.”

Death Row exoneree Randy Steidl
 to speak Nov. 27 at NKU


November 13, 2012 http://www.lanereport.com

 

As part of the Journey of Hope Tour sponsored by the Northern Kentucky University Chase American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, NKU will host a free public lecture by death row exoneree Randy Steidl on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at noon in room 302 of the James C. and Rachel M. Votruba Student Union.

Steidl and a co-defendant were convicted for the 1986 murder of newlywed couple Dyke and Karen Rhoads in the small town of Paris, Ill. The two maintained their innocence but it was not until Northwestern University journalism students got involved that Steidl’s case received a proper review.

The entire case against Steidl was based on unreliable eye-witness testimony. Even though their stories conflicted with one another, both witnesses claimed to be present on the night of the attack and both described a gruesome scene. Yet, in spite of the violent stabbing that occurred, there was no physical evidence tying Steidl to the crime.

It was only after the in-depth investigative journalism conducted by Northwestern students that new information was uncovered and old evidence invalidated. With the aid of a local police officer, students were able to present enough evidence of Steidl’s innocence to call for a new trial. Eventually, all charges were dropped and Steidl became the 18th person to be released from the Illinois death row because of a wrongful conviction.

Steidl described his ordeal in a CNN interview. “Torture,” he said. “Actually being innocent and knowing that the state of Illinois wants to kill me for something I did not do.”

His NKU visit comes just weeks after the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights called on state lawmakers to abolish the death penalty and less than one year after a team of Kentucky legal experts published a 400-page report alleging serious flaws within the state’s death penalty system.

Read and share when u can – Amanda Hodge and Shaun Hodge need our support


Amanda wrote this post on the blog, i  share with u : 

My name is Amanda Hodge My husband Shaun Hodge is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Inst. in Nashville Tennessee his lawyers have recently discovered new evidencane in his case..and have filed a writ of error coram novis petition in the case..my husband has been incarcerated 13 yrs. and is innocent and was wrongfully convicted anyone that would like to follow his case we’d love the support!Shaun Alexander Hodge

Louisiana death-row inmate Damon Thibodeaux exonerated with DNA evidence


 

september 28, 2012 http://www.washingtonpost.com

NEW ORLEANS — A Louisiana death-row inmate convicted of the rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin in 1996 on Friday became the 300th person exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence in the United States — and the 18th death-row inmate saved from execution by DNA.

Damon Thibodeaux, now 38, confessed to the brutal attack on his cousin after a nine-hour interrogation in 1996 by detectives from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. He recanted a few hours later and has maintained since that his confession was coerced. Despite his recantation, Thibodeaux was indicted four days after his arrest. In 1997, a jury found him guilty of murder and rape, largely on the basis of his confession. He was sentenced to death.

Thibodeaux walked out of the death-row unit of Louisiana’s Angola prison farm on a rainy Friday afternoon, free for the first time after 15 years, during which he was kept in solitary confinement 23 hours per day.

In an interview minutes after he left the prison, Thibodeaux said he struggled to control his emotions during the years he waited for exoneration.

“For the first couple of years, it takes a lot of getting used to. Sometimes, it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. You think, they’re going to kill you and just accept it,” he said. “But as things started to accumulate, you start, you know, gaining hope.”

He said the detectives who questioned him in 1996 took advantage of his exhaustion and fed him details of the crime to include in his confession.

“They look for vulnerable points where they can manipulate you, and if you’re sleep-deprived or panicked, or you’re on something or drunk, it makes it that much easier to accomplish what they want to accomplish,” Thibodeaux said. “At that point, I was tired. I was hungry. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I was willing to tell them anything they wanted me to tell them if it would get me out of that interrogation room.”

Thibodeaux said that he hoped his case could help lead police agencies to be more careful not to induce false confessions.

The detectives involved in Thibodeaux’s interrogation could not be reached Friday. Earlier, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the agency’s handling of the case and said the investigators would not be made available.

Thibodeaux’s exoneration came after an unusual five-year joint reinvestigation of the case by the office of Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick, which brought the charges, and a team of defense lawyers and investigators, including the New York-based Innocence Project.

During the reexamination of the case, during which Thibodeaux put his formal appeals on hold, investigators concluded that his confession was riddled with glaring errors, such as the manner and time of death and the identification of the murder weapon, and did not match the crime scene and other evidence. Most remarkable, the investigation found that the sexual assault to which Thibodeaux also confessed — making him eligible under Louisiana law for the death penalty — never occurred.

“The 300th exoneration is an extraordinary event, and it couldn’t be more fitting that it’s an innocent man on death row who gave a false confession,” said Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project and one of the lawyers who worked on the case. “People have a very hard time with the concept that an innocent person could confess to a crime that they didn’t commit. But it happens a lot. It’s the ultimate risk that an innocent man could be executed.”

New DNA testing conducted during the inquiry on the clothing worn by Thibodeaux on the night of the murder and virtually every other piece of evidence collected by police established no links to the crime — so the absence of DNA became a powerful element of evidence itself. A DNA profile was also obtained from a tiny sample of blood on a piece of the wire used to strangle the victim. It did not match Thibodeaux.

The reinvestigation totaled more than $500,000, a cost shared by the defense and prosecution, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The dismissal of Thibodeaux’s case comes amid a flurry of such exonerations across the country and at a time when doubts about the reliability of American courts in determining guilt and innocence appear to be growing.

Early this week, John Edward Smith was released from a Los Angeles jail nearly two decades after being wrongly imprisoned for a 1993 gang-related drive-by shooting. Prosecutors in Chicago moved to dismiss murder charges against Alprentiss Nash in August, 17 years after he was convicted of a murder that new DNA analysis indicates he did not commit. In Texas last month, David Lee Wiggins was released after DNA testing cleared him of a rape conviction for which he had served 24 years.

In July, a D.C. judge declared Kirk L. Odom innocent of a 1981 rape and robbery for which he had served more than 22 years in prison. The same week, the Justice Department and FBI announced they would reexamine thousands of cases after The Washington Post reported widespread problems in its forensic examination of hair fibers over several decades. That came on the heels of a conclusion by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that five people convicted in the 1995 murder of a taxi driver and imprisoned since are innocent.

 

Ex-Death Row Inmate Says How He Really Feels About The Death Penalty – DAMIEN ECHOLS


September 21, 2012 http://www.businessinsider.com/

One of the West Memphis Three — a trio of men convicted of murders they say they didn’t commit — is speaking out about his experience as an innocent man on death row.

Damien Echols took to Reddit Thursday to talk about getting out of prison after receiving the death penalty on the website’s popular Ask Me Anything threads. He tweeted verification from his personal Twitter account that it was actually him answering the questions.

He was of course asked how he feels about the death penalty, having narrowly escaped it.

“When I hear people talk about it, I always wonder if women who have had an abortion feel the same way whenever they hear people who have never had to go through it expressing their opinions on the matter,” Echols wrote. “It’s not as black and white or cut and dry as either side tries to portray it, but all in all I would have to say that I’m against it.”

But his most powerful answer came in response to a question about relationships between death row inmates.

There is “a sense of solidarity on death row that you don’t have anywhere else in the prison just because you have a common enemy,” Echols wrote on Reddit. “You don’t have time to fight amongst yourselves when you’re fighting against the people who are trying to put you to death.”

 

TROY DAVIS’ DEATH ANNIVERSARY 09/21/2012


Why It's Time to End the Death Penalty

All my prayers for his family . R.I.P Troy

Troy Davis’ Nephew : A year ago, on Sept. 21, the state of Georgia killed my uncle. BeforeTroy Davis‘ name buzzed all over the news and was known around the world, I called him “Uncle Troy.”

I was born in 1994, after he went on death row. I went regularly with my family to visit him in prison, before I could speak and before I could comprehend what prisons and executions meant. As I got older, I started asking my mother tough questions about her brother.

She wanted me to have a relationship with Troy; after all, he was my uncle. But she also wanted to protect me from the harsh reality of his situation. She explained why he was on death row and how the government wanted to put him to sleep, the way they do with dogs that can’t be adopted. I asked, “But Troy didn’t kill anybody, so why do they want to kill him?” She had a hard time explaining why, because she had the same question.

2011 was a very hard year for my family. I lost my grandmother just after Troy’s final appeal was lost and before his last execution date was set. The death penalty takes a toll on everyone within its reach.

My mother [Martina Correia] suffered a lot in her battle to save Troy’s life, but she didn’t let it show. She was battling for her own life, too. Around a decade ago, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and given six months to live. She asked God to let her live long enough to raise me and to clear my uncle’s name.

She made it another 10 years after that prayer. She did everything possible to proclaim the innocence of my uncle and stop his execution. And I was just about to finish high school when she passed.

People wonder why I didn’t crack after a year like that. There was nothing normal or easy about it, and my emotions have come at me at strange times like a ton of bricks. The best I can explain is that my mother raised me well, my family has stuck together and we have held firm in our faith in God.

My mother was always a fighter, and so was my uncle Troy. For many years my mother spoke out for Troy, to deaf ears. It was weird to see almost a thousand people in Atlanta stand with my family at the state Capitol, glued to her words, as we rallied to stop Troy’s execution. We were fortunate to have the help of organizations likeAmnesty International and theNAACP to pull together hundreds of thousands of people to support our cause, which was about Troy but was also about truth, justice and human rights.

People are asking me what my family wants these days. We still want to clear Troy’s name. He was innocent and his execution was wrong — this shouldn’t just fade away. We also want to help other families in similar situations. No one should ever go through what we did.

And we know that the only way to make sure the innocent aren’t executed is to replace the death penalty with better solutions. We don’t need to rely on the death penalty to ensure public safety. We know that it doesn’t deter violent crime. In fact, it costs a lot more even than life without parole. We are helping the campaign in California to encourage people to vote “yes” on Proposition 34, which would replace the death penalty with life without parole.

I hope that Californians will show my state, Georgia, what a better way looks like.

Killing Time: Resurrecting Death Row’s Exonerated – John Thompson


September 19, 2012 http://www.cbn.com

NEW ORLEANS – When a criminal leaves prison, there are often social programs to help him return to society. But that is not the case for the 140 death row inmates whose convictions have been overturned.

John Thompson is number 108. The Louisiana man spent 14 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

He is now using lessons he learned first-hand to help others who have been exonerated.

Death Row Tales

In an interview with CBN News, Thompson recounted the nights of executions at Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary.

“On the night of an execution, you can see all these people gathering outside the prison,” Thompson said. “Lighting candles, some doing the candle lighting. On the other side, people saying, ‘Kill, kill, kill.’”

Thompson’s personal death row tale began in 1984 after the robbery and murder of a New Orleans hotel executive.

Author Ronald Gauthier chronicles the case in his book Killing Time.

“New Orleans was a very high crime city. The murder rate was just sky-rocketing at that time,” Gauthier described the time period of the crime.

“Ray Liuzza was from a wealthy family, hotel executive. So it was a high profile case from the very beginning, so the pressure was on the district attorney’s office to get this case solved and solved quickly,” he explained.

New Orleans police quickly arrested a man who pointed the finger at Thompson. Five months later, the 22-year-old father of two sat in jail. A jury convicted of him of murder and an unrelated car-jacking.

“When the judge sentenced me to death, he tells you about how he is going to kill you,” Thompson said. “How much electric volts are going to run through your body.”

“I wasn’t ready for what was ahead of me,” he said.

Innocence Irrelevant

Thompson spent the first four years of his incarceration at the Orleans Parish Prison. But the true reality of his death sentence didn’t hit him until guards moved him to Angola.

He arrived at his cell to find the clothes of man who had just been executed, still inside.

“That really blew me away,” Thompson recalled. “I started throwing the stuff out in the hallway. They were laughing at me, saying, ‘You better get used to that little brother.’”

However, there was not much laughter during his 14 years of solitary confinement.

John Thompson, while he was on death row, had seven stays of execution,” said Gauthier, recounting some of his research for the book. “That means he had the death warrant brought to his cell. He was prepared for execution seven times.”

“It’s not about whether you did it or not anymore,” Thompson said. “It’s irrelevant. It is totally irrelevant whether you are innocent or not because they are here to kill you. So you have one common goal and that is to try to stay alive by any means necessary.”

That included finding high-powered Pennsylvania attorneys Michael Banks and Gordon Cooney to take his case. By 2003, they had exhausted every appeal.

Thompson recalled the final days before his scheduled execution.

“They were going to execute me May 20. My son was going to graduate May 21,” he said. “So the next day after I was executed, my son was going to graduate from right around the corner.”

Before Thompson could be executed, a death bed confession from an original prosecutor led investigators to uncovered evidence: blood test results, testimonies, and conflicting eyewitness accounts.

“He was actually re-tried and it took the jury less than 35 minutes to acquit him of the murder,” Gauthier said. “So John was freed.”

Helping the Exonerated

Thompson wouldn’t be alone. The cases of seven inmates he met on death row saw their convictions eventually overturned as well.

John was on death row for 10 years when a 16-year-old black boy from New Orleans was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death and placed in a cell directly next door to John Thompson,” Gauthier told CBN News. “And the first thing he said to John was, ‘I didn’t commit this murder.’”

That 16-year-old was Shareef Cousin. His story inspired Thompson to start RAE, Resurrection After Exoneration.

It’s a facility and a program to help exonerees with housing, job training, and medical help. He’s also pulled the community together to support their cause.

“I think we are supposed to have big dreams and big ambitions, but I believe we are supposed to have love and we are supposed to have compassion,” Thompson said. “I think that is what our life is supposed to filled with.”

RAE’s walls are lined with faces of those who’ve experienced that compassion. That includes exoneree number 91, Michael Ray Graham, Jr., who spent 14 years on death row.

Graham shared his story with CBN News in an interview at RAE’s headquarters.

“I believe what my father told me when I was young that the truth will set you free,” Graham said. “But in Louisiana it is a little different. You sweat here.”

A photograph of Derrick Jamison, number 119, is also on the walls. He lost 20 years of his freedom.

Jamison recalled the day he walked out of an Ohio jail.

“The day I came home from death row it felt like, you know how a kid feels that day before Christmas,” he said. “If I could bottle that feeling up and sell it, I’d be a billionaire.”

A Resurrected Life

The justice system dealt Thompson one blow since his 2003 release. A jury had awarded him $14 million in a civil suit against the New Orleans district attorney.

But a divided U.S. Supreme Court reversed that ruling in 2011, saying while prosecutors admittedly failed to carry out justice, the district attorney was not ultimately responsible.

Thompson is still not bitter.

“When I think about what God has allowed me to do so far with my freedom and the help that He has allowed me to provide for others, I can’t complain, you know,” he told CBN News.

He’s now happily married. And together, he and his wife have seven children and 12 grandchildren.

He often jokes the prosecution may rest, but he won’t. That is, until his work is no longer needed.