In 1992, a Michigan 10-year-old was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend then beat her with a cord until she agreed to accuse Quentin Carter of the rape. Carter was convicted based on her testimony. It wasn’t until the boyfriend was prosecuted for an unrelated murder that the investigators went back and re-interviewed the girl (who had gone back to the prosecution twice already to tell them Carter wasn’t the rapist), and her mother, both of whom confirmed that the boyfriend was the rapist. After almost 17 years, Mr. Carter was released LAST WEEK. Read the rest of his story here: http://bit.ly/1g8bzlg
In 1994, a robber tied up two men and shot and killed one of them. The surviving victim identified a suspect during a photo identification procedure. Several days later the surviving victim saw Echavarria in a barber shop, and became convinced that Echavarria was the perpetrator, not the person he initially identified. No other evidence linked Echavarria to the crime. Echavarria was convicted of murder, robbery and assault on teh basis of the eyewitness ID. After almost 20 years in prison, new DNA tests were done which didn’t implicate Echavarria and evidence was uncovered that the sole eyewitness was a heavy drug user at the time of the identification. Echavarria was exonerated a week and a half ago. Read the rest of his story here: http://bit.ly/1dgmozu
June 10, 2015
Mr. Brown was sentenced to death in 2005 for a robbery-murder in Houston where a police officer and store clerk were killed. He was exonerated YESTERDAY after telephone records corroborating his alibi were found in a detective’s garage, and a witness admitted that she only said Brown confessed to the crime because the prosecutor threatened to prosecute her for the murder and make sure that CPS took her children if she didn’t. Mr. Brown is the 115th person to be exonerated off of death row. Read the rest of his story here: http://bit.ly/1Iv8chc
Last exoneration October 25, 2013 (#143)
Number of cases in which DNA played a substantial factor in establishing innocence: 18
Average number of years between being sentenced to death and exoneration: 10.1 years
|1||David Keaton||FL||B||1971||1973||2||Charges Dismissed|
|2||Samuel A. Poole||NC||B||1973||1974||1||Charges Dismissed|
|5||James Creamer||GA||W||1973||1975||2||Charges Dismissed|
|7||Thomas Gladish||NM||W||1974||1976||2||Charges Dismissed|
|8||Richard Greer||NM||W||1974||1976||2||Charges Dismissed|
|9||Ronald Keine||NM||W||1974||1976||2||Charges Dismissed|
|10||Clarence Smith||NM||W||1974||1976||2||Charges Dismissed|
|11||Delbert Tibbs||FL||B||1974||1977||3||Charges Dismissed|
|12||Earl Charles||GA||B||1975||1978||3||Charges Dismissed|
|15||Jerry Banks||GA||B||1975||1980||5||Charges Dismissed|
|17||Charles Ray Giddens||OK||B||1978||1981||3||Charges Dismissed|
|19||Johnny Ross||LA||B||1975||1981||6||Charges Dismissed|
|20||Ernest (Shujaa) Graham||CA||B||1976||1981||5||Acquitted|
|21||Annibal Jaramillo||FL||L||1981||1982||1||Charges Dismissed|
|22||Lawyer Johnson||MA||B||1971||1982||11||Charges Dismissed|
|25||Neil Ferber||PA||W||1982||1986||4||Charges Dismissed|
|26||Clifford Henry Bowen||OK||W||1981||1986||5||Charges Dismissed|
|27||Joseph Green Brown||FL||B||1974||1987||13||Charges Dismissed|
|29||Darby (Jesse) Tillis||IL||B||1979||1987||8||Acquitted|
|30||Vernon McManus||TX||W||1977||1987||10||Charges Dismissed|
|31||Anthony Ray Peek||FL||B||1978||1987||9||Acquitted|
|34||Richard Neal Jones||OK||W||1983||1987||4||Acquitted|
|35||Willie Brown||FL||B||1983||1988||5||Charges Dismissed|
|36||Larry Troy||FL||B||1983||1988||5||Charges Dismissed|
|37||Randall Dale Adams||TX||W||1977||1989||12||Charges Dismissed|
|38||Robert Cox||FL||W||1988||1989||1||Charges Dismissed|
|39||James Richardson||FL||B||1968||1989||21||Charges Dismissed|
|40||Clarence Brandley||TX||B||1981||1990||9||Charges Dismissed|
|41||John C. Skelton||TX||W||1983||1990||7||Acquitted|
|42||Dale Johnston||OH||W||1984||1990||6||Charges Dismissed|
|43||Jimmy Lee Mathers||AZ||W||1987||1990||3||Acquitted|
|44||Gary Nelson||GA||B||1980||1991||11||Charges Dismissed|
|45||Bradley P. Scott||FL||W||1988||1991||3||Acquitted|
|47||Jay C. Smith||PA||W||1986||1992||6||Acquitted|
|48||Kirk Bloodsworth||MD||W||1984||1993||9||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|49||Federico M. Macias||TX||L||1984||1993||9||Charges Dismissed|
|50||Walter McMillian||AL||B||1988||1993||5||Charges Dismissed|
|51||Gregory R. Wilhoit||OK||W||1987||1993||6||Acquitted|
|54||Andrew Golden||FL||W||1991||1994||3||Charges Dismissed|
|56||Robert Charles Cruz||AZ||L||1981||1995||14||Acquitted|
|58||Alejandro Hernandez||IL||L||1985||1995||10||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|60||Joseph Burrows||IL||W||1989||1996||7||Charges Dismissed|
|61||Verneal Jimerson||IL||B||1985||1996||11||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|62||Dennis Williams||IL||B||1979||1996||17||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|63||Roberto Miranda||NV||L||1982||1996||14||Charges Dismissed|
|64||Gary Gauger||IL||W||1993||1996||3||Charges Dismissed|
|65||Troy Lee Jones||CA||B||1982||1996||14||Charges Dismissed|
|67||David Wayne Grannis||AZ||W||1991||1996||5||Charges Dismissed|
|68||Ricardo Aldape Guerra||TX||L||1982||1997||15||Charges Dismissed|
|69||Benjamin Harris||WA||B||1985||1997||12||Charges Dismissed|
|73||Robert Lee Miller, Jr.||OK||B||1988||1998||10||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|74||Curtis Kyles||LA||B||1984||1998||14||Charges Dismissed|
|75||Shareef Cousin||LA||B||1996||1999||3||Charges Dismissed|
|76||Anthony Porter||IL||B||1983||1999||16||Charges Dismissed|
|78||Ronald Williamson||OK||W||1988||1999||11||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|79||Ronald Jones||IL||B||1989||1999||10||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|80||Clarence Dexter, Jr.||MO||W||1991||1999||8||Charges Dismissed|
|81||Warren Douglas Manning||SC||B||1989||1999||10||Acquitted|
|82||Alfred Rivera||NC||L||1997||1999||2||Charges Dismissed|
|83||Steve Manning||IL||W||1993||2000||7||Charges Dismissed|
|85||Joseph Nahume Green||FL||B||1993||2000||7||Charges Dismissed|
||Frank Lee Smith – died prior to exoneration||FL||B||1986||2000 **||14||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
||Michael Graham||LA||W||1987||2000||13||Charges Dismissed|
|90||Albert Burrell||LA||W||1987||2000||13||Charges Dismissed|
|91||Oscar Lee Morris||CA||B||1983||2000||17||Charges Dismissed|
|92||Peter Limone||MA||W||1968||2001||33||Charges Dismissed|
|93||Gary Drinkard||AL||W||1995||2001||6||Charges Dismissed|
|94||Joaquin Jose Martinez||FL||L||1997||2001||4||Acquitted|
|95||Jeremy Sheets||NE||W||1997||2001||4||Charges Dismissed|
|96||Charles Fain||ID||W||1983||2001||18||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|97||Juan Roberto Melendez||FL||L||1984||2002||18||Charges Dismissed|
|98||Ray Krone||AZ||W||1992||2002||10||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|99||Thomas Kimbell, Jr.||PA||W||1998||2002||4||Acquitted|
|100||Larry Osborne||KY||W||1999||2002||3||Charges Dismissed|
|105||Rudolph Holton||FL||B||1986||2003||16||Charges Dismissed|
|106||Lemuel Prion||AZ||W||1999||2003||4||Charges Dismissed|
|109||Timothy Howard||OH||B||1976||2003||26||Charges Dismissed|
|110||Gary Lamar James||OH||B||1976||2003||26||Charges Dismissed|
|111||Joseph Amrine||MO||B||1986||2003||17||Charges Dismissed|
|112||Nicholas Yarris||PA||W||1982||2003||21||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|114||Gordon Steidl||IL||W||1987||2004||17||Charges Dismissed|
|115||Laurence Adams||MA||B||1974||2004||30||Charges Dismissed|
|116||Dan L. Bright||LA||B||1996||2004||8||Charges Dismissed|
|117||Ryan Matthews||LA||B||1999||2004||5||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|118||Ernest Ray Willis||TX||W||1987||2004||17||Charges Dismissed|
|119||Derrick Jamison||OH||B||1985||2005||20||Charges Dismissed|
|122||Curtis McCarty||OK||W||1986||2007||21||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|124||Jonathon Hoffman||NC||B||1995||2007||12||Charges Dismissed|
|125||Kennedy Brewer||MS||B||1995||2008||13||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|126||Glen Chapman||NC||B||1994||2008||14||Charges Dismissed|
|127||Levon Jones||NC||B||1993||2008||15||Charges Dismissed|
|128||Michael Blair||TX||O||1994||2008||14||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|130||Paul House||TN||W||1986||2009||23||Charges Dismissed|
|131||Daniel Wade Moore||AL||W||2002||2009||7||Acquitted|
|132||Ronald Kitchen||IL||B||1988||2009||21||Charges Dismissed|
|134||Michael Toney||TX||W||1999||2009||10||Charges Dismissed|
|135||Yancy Douglas||OK||B||1995||2009||14||Charges Dismissed|
|136||Paris Powell||OK||B||1997||2009||12||Charges Dismissed|
|137||Robert Springsteen||TX||W||2001||2009||8||Charges Dismissed|
|138||Anthony Graves||TX||B||1994||2010||16||Charges Dismissed|
|139||Gussie Vann||TN||W||1994||2011||17||Charges Dismissed|
|140||Joe D’Ambrosio||OH||W||1989||2012||23||Charges Dismissed|
|141||Damon Thibodeaux||LA||W||1997||2012||15||Charges Dismissed||Yes|
|143||Reginald Griffin||MO||B||1983||2013||30||Charges Dismissed|
february 20, 2014
Two men who were on death row before being found to be wrongly accused spoke Thursday night in Newark at the invitation of advocates who would like to abolish the death penalty.
Kirk Bloodsworth and Shujaa Graham, members of Witness to Innocent, shared their experiences at the University of Delaware as part of a series of events supported by a group of local religious leaders and the Delaware Repeal Project.
In the coming days 15 members of Witness to Innocent will attend events at Delaware churches and community hubs, including the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, in an effort to promote Senate Bill 19, which would end the death penalty in the state.
On Saturday, a group of local religious leaders plan to gather to call on state leaders to support the measure during an event at Limestone Presbyterian Church, 3201 Limestone Road, in Wilmington. The public is invited to gather at the church at noon Saturday to speak to members of Witness to Innocent, see a presentation and take part in a roundtable discussion.
Bloodsworth was the first person in the United States to be exonerated by DNA evidence, according to Witness to Innocent, where he serves as director of advocacy. In 1985 he was sentenced to death in Baltimore County, Md., for the murder and rape of a 9-year-old girl. A year later, DNA evidence revealed he was wrongly convicted, according to his profile on the Witness to Innocent website.
Graham was sentenced to death after the 1973 slaying of a prison gaurd in California, according to Witness to Innocent. His conviction was overturned in 1979 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Two years later he was found innocent and released, according to Witness to Innocent’s profile of Graham online.
February 4, 2014 (dallasnews)
ST. LOUIS — A nationwide push by prosecutors and police to re-examine possible wrongful convictions contributed to a record number of exonerations in 2013, according to a report released Tuesday.
The National Registry of Exonerations says 87 people falsely convicted of crimes were exonerated last year, four more than in 2009, the year with the next highest total. The joint effort by the Northwestern University and University of Michigan law schools has documented more than 1,300 such cases in the U.S. since 1989 while also identifying another 1,100 “group exonerations” involving widespread police misconduct, primarily related to planted drug and gun evidence.
The new report shows that nearly 40 percent of exonerations recorded in 2013 were either initiated by law enforcement or included police and prosecutors’ cooperation. One year earlier, nearly half of the exonerations involved such reviews.
“Police and prosecutors have become more attentive and concerned about the danger of false conviction,” said registry editor Samuel Gross, a Michigan law professor. “We are working harder to identify the mistakes we made years ago, and we are catching more of them.”
Texas topped the state-by-state breakdown with 13 exonerations in 2013, followed by Illinois, New York, Washington, California, Michigan and Missouri.
District attorneys in the counties containing Dallas, Chicago, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Santa Clara, Calif., are among those to recently create “conviction integrity” units. The International Association of Chiefs of Police also is pushing to reduce wrongful convictions, joined by the U.S. Justice Department and The Innocence Project, an advocacy group that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions. The association’s recommendations to local departments include new guidelines for conducting photo lineups and witness interviews to reduce false confessions.
Fifteen of the 87 documented cases in 2013 involved convictions obtained after a defendant pleaded guilty, typically to avoid a longer prison sentence. Forty of the cases involved murder convictions, with another 18 overturned convictions for rape or sexual assault.
The number of exonerations based on DNA testing continued to decline, accounting for about one-fifth of the year’s total.
“It’s extremely valuable to use,” Gross said. “But most crimes don’t involve DNA evidence. … DNA hastaught us a huge amount about the criminal justice system. Biological evidence has forced all of us to realize that we’ve made a lot of mistakes. But most exonerations involve shoe-leather, not DNA.”
In Illinois, Nicole Harris and Daniel Taylor each received certificates of innocence from a Cook County judge in January after their respective murder convictions were tossed out in 2013 — a designation that allows both to receive financial compensation from the state. Harris had been convicted in 2005 of strangling her 4-year-old son, who had an elastic band wrapped around his neck. Taylor was released after spending more than 20 years in prison for a fatal robbery that occurred while he was in police custody for an unrelated incident.
In Missouri, former death row inmate Reginald Griffin went free in October 2013 after a small-town prosecutor declined to refile murder charges in connection with a 1983 prison stabbing for which Griffin spent nearly three decades behind bars. Griffin denied his involvement but was convicted after two inmates claimed to have seen him stab the prisoner. One of those inmates later recanted, saying he had not seen the attack. An appellate attorney also discovered that prosecutors had withheld a report that guards had confiscated a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate as he was attempting to leave the area where the attack took place.
Ryan Ferguson, convicted in 2005 in the beating death of a Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune sports editor, was freed in November 2013 after a state appeals court panel ruled prosecutors had withheld evidence from his attorneys and that he didn’t get a fair trial. The state attorney general’s office decided not to retry Ferguson, who had received a 25-year prison sentence.
Like their counterparts across the country, Missouri prosecutors are reviewing not just questionable individual convictions but also the broader issues that lead to exonerations, from coerced confessions to contaminated crime labs.
“It’s the duty of police and prosecutors to protect everyone in the community, including victims and defendants,” said Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight. “We want the process to be as fair and transparent as possible.”
EXONERATIONS IN 2013 PDF REPORT
George Stinney may receive new trial 70 years after his execution in South Carolina
By Ja’Neal Johnson
70 years ago, a 14 year old black teenager named George Stinney, would become the youngest to be executed in the history of the United States and of that century for the murder of two young white girls, Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames in the small town Alcolu, South Carolina in 1944.
It would take the all-white jury only 10 minutes to decide whether the young quiet Stinney was guilty. His defense lawyer made no effort to prove if George Stinney was innocent. No witnesses were called for his defense or no cross examination. George Stinney’s family would have to flee their home before the trial.His lawyer at the time would not file an appeal on behalf of Stinney. George Stinney would be executed by electrocution just 84 days after the two white girls were found. Today is a different story. The family of George Stinny hired lawyers to ask for a new trial. The presiding Judge Carmen T. Mullen will make a decision based on both sides. One side that was never heard during the trial in 1944.
Dr. Amanda Salas, a forensic psychiatrist testified that George Stinny’s confession does not match the evidence. Dr. Salas stated, “It is my professional opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the confession given by George Stinney on March 24, 1944 is best characterized by a coerced compliant, false confession. It is not reliable.” Seven-member board of Parole and Pardons spokesman Peter O’Boyle said Stinney’s application is pending and its investigation should conclude next week. Depending on Mullen’s ruling, the board could hear the case within a few months.
Ernest “Chip” Finney, third circuit solicitor urged Judge Carmen T. Mullen to leave the case alone, despite its flaws. “This would not happen today,” Finney said. “While we along with others have questions about the 1944 trial and its outcome..the evidence here is too speculative and the record is too uncertain for the motion to succeed.”
One of the lawyers working on the case Clarendon County attorney Steve McKenzie, said, “I think we got George Stinney’s story out there,” he said. “I think we got some of the family’s story out there that back in 1944 no one was able to get out there.”
There are no official records of the original trial.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.