~A Note to the Reader~

The Reader of this Page should always remember that these 75 overturned convictions probably only represents the tip of the iceberg. Newer laws, such as the 1994 Anti-Terrorism & Effective Death Penalty act make it increasingly difficult for wrongful convictions, even of death penalty cases, to even be reviewed by Federal Courts. In addition, in the early 90's, the US Supreme Court ruled in "Texas v Herrera" that "Innocence is not grounds for an appeal." Instead, one is forced to look for technical court errors in trial, which may not always exist, even in false convictions. Because of inadequate defenses given the indigent, it is probable that for every guilty person who manages to buy "reasonable doubt" and get off, over 100 innocent persons are convicted. Tired of hearing inmates say they're all innocent? What if they really ARE all innocent? It's becoming increasingly obvious that a high percentage of them are!

National Conference on Wrongful Convictions and the Death Penalty

Victims of the State – Added April 4, 2008 – Listing of wrongly convicted innocents and other individuals abused by the Criminal Justice System.

Please go to More Wrongful Convictions overturned by the Courts
and more wrongful convictions presently seeking Relief from the Courts

The Wrongly Convicted

The following brief synopses are intended to provide a general flavor of the nature of each of the 75 cases since 1972 in which people have been exonerated after having once been sentenced to death. Each of these cases deserves book-length treatment, and we apologize in advance for any material omission or errors in the facts as set forth here.

Some notes of interest:
— of those on the list, James Richardson's case in Florida spanned the longest period of time - 21 years.
—Sabrina Butler and Sonia Jacobs are the only women on the list.
—At 19, Florida had the largest number of wrongfully convicted capital cases followed by Illinois with 9, and Texas with 8 cases.

For those wrongly convicted of a crime, it can ruin their professional as well as their personal lives. Their personal finances are also likely to be ruined while they sort out their legal problems. Low credit scores due to unpaid bills during incarceration leave few financial options except bankruptcy after release. Bad credit auto loans can often help to rebuild credit once released.


Randall Dale Adams, Texas
Convicted 1977; Released 1989

Mr. Adams was sentenced to death after having been convicted of murdering a police officer. The prosecution's key evidence against Mr. Adams was the testimony of a 16-year old named David Harris, who claimed to have been sitting in the passenger seat when Mr. Adams shot the officer from the driver's seat. In return for Harris's testimony, the prosecutors did not charge Harris at all. At sentencing, Dr. Henry Grigson (a psychiatrist known as "Dr. Death) compared Mr. Adams to Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson. While Mr. Adams was on death row, a film maker took an interest in his case and began an investigation that led to compelling evidence that Harris had committed the crime. This evidence included the fact that Harris had stolen the car that day, had stolen the gun from his father, and had bragged to several friends that he had "offed that pig in Dallas." The evidence showed that Harris had decided to frame Mr. Adams because he was upset at Mr. Harris for not having given a place to stay that evening. After the release of the film, "A Thin Blue Line," a new trial was ordered. Prosecutors ultimately dropped all charges against Mr. Adams.



Jerry Banks, Georgia
Convicted 1975; Released 1980

Mr. Banks was convicted of murdering two people in the woods and was sentenced to death. The prosecution's case rested on the fact that Mr. Banks was seen near the crime scene that day and owned a shotgun that was consistent with some shells found near the scene. A new trial was ordered when a witness came forward to confirm much of Mr. Banks' account of having happened upon the bodies. This witness had spoken to the police at the time of the crime, a fact that was kept hidden from the defense. At his second trial, Mr. Banks was represented by an attorney who would later be disbarred, and Mr. Banks was again convicted and sentenced to death. In the aftermath of this trial, a new team of lawyers and investigators took over the case and found several witnesses who had heard the shotgun blasts. These witnesses agreed that the shots came in rapid succession, a fact that ruled out the weapon Mr. Banks owned. Moreover, the witnesses had seen another man arguing with one of the victims shortly before the shooting. Based on this new evidence, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the conviction. Georgia officials then announced that all charges would be dropped against Mr. Banks.



Gary Beeman, Ohio
Convicted 1976; Released 1979

Mr. Beeman was sentenced to death after being convicted of murder in the course of a fight. The prosecution's case was built on the testimony of a convicted felon named Clair Liuzzo, who had escaped from prison at the time of the murder. Liuzzo claimed that he saw Mr. Beeman with the victim and later heard from Mr. Beeman confess to having had committed the murder. The trial court refused to allow the defense to put on witnesses who had head from Liuzzo that he had himself committed the murder and was framing Mr. Beeman. On appeal, the conviction was reversed because of the unfair restrictions on the defense at trial. Upon retrial, several witnesses testified about admissions they had heard from Liuzzo, and Mr. Beeman was acquitted of all charges.



Jerry Bigelow, Arizona
Convicted 1981; Release 1989

Mr. Bigelow was sentenced to death for the murder of a man with whom he another man had hitched a ride. The evidence against him came from the testimony of the man who admitted to having had actually committed the murder, but claimed that Mr. Bigelow was in on the plan. In return for this testimony, the admitted murderer was spared the death penalty. Complicating matters for Mr. Bigelow was the fact that he confessed to the crime as soon as he was told that he would receive a lesser punishment if he confessed. After Mr. Bigelow's conviction was reversed due to trial error, his new trial counsel presented to the second jury testimony from a large group of witnesses who had heard from the other man that he had killed the victim without Mr. Bigelow knowing anything about it, indeed while Mr. Bigelow was sleeping. The jury initially returned a not-guilty verdict but due to some confusion about the forms, a mistrial was declared. The California Court of Appeals later ruled that the not-guilty verdict was valid and cleared Mr. Bigelow of all charges.



Kirk Bloodsworth, Maryland
Convicted 1984; Released 1993

Mr. Bloodsworth was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a nine-year old girl. Police came to suspect Mr. Bloodsworth because he resembled a composite sketches that a police artist had made from some witness accounts. A ten-year old girl also identified a picture of Mr. Bloodsworth, although she said that his hair was too red. When police interrogated Mr. Bloodsworth, they placed the rock with which the victim was killed on the table. When Mr. Bloodsworth later referred to it as the "bloody rock," police took this as a sign that he had guilty knowledge. The Supreme Court of Maryland reversed the conviction because the prosecution had not turned over exculpatory evidence, and the parties geared up for a second trial. Just one week before that trial, prosecutors divulged that a psychologist had reported that another man, who resembled Mr. Bloodsworth, had come to a clinic on the day of the girl's murder and asked to speak about his relationship with a young girl. Nonetheless, the jury again convicted Mr. Bloodsworth. After this trial, the defense was able to show that the man who went to the clinic had fresh scratches on his face, but Mr. Bloodsworth still obtained no relief. Years later, at the behest of new counsel, the victim's underpants were sent for DNA analysis, which conclusively established that Mr. Bloodsworth was not the person who had raped the girl. The trial court granted Mr. Bloodsworth's motion for a new trial, whereupon the prosecution dismissed all charges against him.



Clarence Brandley, Texas
Convicted 1980; Released 1990

Mr. Brandley was sentenced to death after having been convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year old girl in the high school where Mr. Brandley was employed as a janitor. The prosecution's case was built on the premise that there were five janitors who had opportunity to commit the crime, and the other four (who, unlike Mr. Brandley, were all white) provided alibis for each other. The defense would only later learn that Caucasian hairs that did not match the victim were found upon her body--a fact that was extremely exculpatory of Mr. Brandley. The case against him, it turned out, was built on pure racism. One of the arresting officers had told him, "We need someone for this. Since you're the nigger, you're elected." After an evidentiary hearing at which a judge determined that two of the white janitors had most likely committed the crimes, Mr. Brandley's conviction was reversed and the prosecution dropped all charges against him.



Anthony Silah Brown, Florida
Convicted 1983; Released 1986

Mr. Brown was sentenced to death after having been convicted of murdering a deliveryman. The prosecution's key evidence was the claim of another man who had been arrested for the crime and implicated Mr. Brown as an accomplice. This man was given a deal in return for his testimony against Mr. Brown. After returning a guilty verdict, the jury recommended a life sentence for Mr. Brown, but the trial judge overrode this recommendation and imposed a sentence of death. On appeal, the court reversed Mr. Brown's conviction because his fundamental rights to a fair trial had been violated. During the ensuing retrial the prosecution's key witness admitted that he had lied during the first trial. The jury acquitted Mr. Brown of all charges.



Jesse Keith Brown, South Carolina
Convicted 1983; Released 1989

Mr. Brown was convicted of murder during the course of a robbery and was sentenced to death. The key evidence against him was the testimony of his brother, which was plagued with serious questions. Mr. Brown represented himself at his first trial, which was ultimately overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court. He was convicted again at a second trial, which was also reversed by the South Carolina Supreme Court. The third trial, by contrast, ended in Mr. Brown being acquitted of the murder charges.



Joseph Green Brown, Florida
Convicted 1974; Released 1987

Mr. Brown was sentenced to death after having been convicted or a murder, rape and robbery. The evidence against him was the testimony of one Ronald Floyd, a man who held a grudge against Mr. Brown because Mr. Brown had previously turned him into the police on an unrelated crime. At trial, Floyd emphatically denied that there was any deal for his testimony and the prosecution repeatedly emphasized to the jury that Floyd had no deal. Several months after trial, Floyd admitted that he had lied at trial, and that he had testified in return for not being prosecuted himself for the murder, and for a light sentence on another crime. Nonetheless, the state courts granted no relief to Mr. Brown, whose conviction was ultimately reversed on federal habeas corpus. The prosecution declined to retry Mr. Brown who was released, even though he had at one point come within 13 hours of his scheduled execution.



Willie Brown, Florida
Convicted 1983; Released 1988

Mr. Brown was sentenced to death, along with Larry Troy, after having been convicted of killing a fellow inmate. The prosecution's case was built upon the testimony of another inmate, Frank Wise, who testified that he saw Messrs. Brown and Troy leaving the scene of the murder. During the appeals of his conviction, Mr. Brown married a woman who would play a critical role in exonerating him and Mr. Troy. This woman, Esther Lichtenfels, ultimately took part in a sting operation in which she wore a legally authorized wire and met with Frank Wise, the prosecution's key witness. During these taped conversations, Wise admitted that he had lied about Messrs. Brown and Troy and offered to tell the truth in return for $2000. Wise was charged with bribery and perjury, and charges against Messrs. Brown and Troy were dropped.



Joseph Burrows, Illinois
Convicted 1989; Released 1994

Mr. Burrows was convicted of murder and armed robbery, and was sentenced to death. The prosecution's primary evidence was the testimony of two alleged accomplices who had also been charged with the murder. Indeed, proceeds of the robbery had been found in one of these person's homes, and the murder weapon was traced back to her as well. Although Mr. Burrow's initial trial had ended in a hung jury, the second trial ended in his conviction. Even though there was direct evidence implicating these other two defendants, and the only evidence against Mr. Burrows was these two defendants' claims, the two prosecution witnesses were sentenced to terms of 23 and 30 years, while Mr. Burrows was sentenced to death. After the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed Mr. Burrows's conviction and sentence, he commenced post-conviction proceedings during which it emerged that both of the prosecution witnesses had conspired to lie against him. The witnesses admitted that they had concocted their story about Mr. Burrows because they bore a grudge against him and believed that their only way to avoid the death penalty was to provide the authorities with information about some other person. One of the witnesses explained that she had told the truth to the lead prosecutor prior to trial, but he had threatened her and ordered her to stick with her story. In addition to these developments, new evidence confirming Mr. Burrows's alibi also emerged. The trial court reversed Mr. Burrows's conviction and ordered a new trial, and the Illinois Supreme Court agreed. The prosecution then dropped all charges against Mr. Burrows.



Sabrina Butler, Mississippi
Convicted 1990; Released 1995

Ms. Butler was sentenced to death for the murder of her nine-month-old child. At her trial, the prosecution sought top prove that Ms. Butler's account of the events leading to her son's death was false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. On appeal, the court remanded the case for a new trial based on a number of flaws in the trial proceedings. By the time of the retrial, one of the Ms. Butler's neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated Ms. Butler's account: that the injuries to the infant occurred during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. The jury acquitted Ms. Butler of all charges.



Earl Patrick Charles, Georgia
Convicted 1977; Released 1981

Mr. Charles was sentenced to death after having been convicted of killing two store owners during a robbery. The key evidence against him was the eyewitness testimony of a surviving witness who identified Mr. Charles, even though she had not picked his picture out of a photo lineup. The prosecution also presented an informant who claimed to have heard Mr. Charles confess to killing a "man and a little boy." (In fact the younger of the people shot was 42 years old.) After the trial, it emerged that there were several other remarkable problems with the identification: the witness claimed to see the perpetrators later that day at a time in which they had airtight alibis and she had also identified one man who was in prison at the time of the offense. Moreover, the defense learned that a detective had lied when he testified that Mr. Wade had no alibi--in fact he was at work hundreds of miles away. In addition, the informant who had testified against Mr. Charles admitted that he had made up the story in the hope of securing a deal for himself. After the conviction was reversed on appeal, the prosecution re-investigated the case and decided to drop all charges against Mr. Charles, who eventually received a $75,000 civil rights settlement in his action against one of the detectives. Nonetheless, Mr. Charles never recovered from the effects of his wrongful conviction and tragically took his own life ten years after his release.



Perry Cobb, Illinois
Convicted 1979; Released 1987

Mr. Cobb, together with Darby Tillis, was convicted of a double murder in the course of a robbery and was sentenced to death. The prosecution's key witness was a woman named Phyllis Santini, who claimed that she had driven the getaway car for the two men. The defense was that Santini and her boyfriend had committed the crimes, and that she was framing Mr. Cobb and Mr. Tillis. A first trial ended in a hung jury, as did a second trial. At the third trial, a witness who had earlier testified that he could not identify the defendants as the men he saw, suddenly changed his story and now claimed that he saw Mr. Cobb and Mr. Tillis enter the store. This third trial (presided over by a judge who has since been convicted of taking bribes to fix murder cases) ended in convictions and death sentences. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed the convictions based on limitations that were put on the defense's ability to argue that Santini and her boyfriend were the true culprits. While the parties were preparing for a fourth trial, Michael Falconer, a prosecutor from a nearby county, happened to read a newspaper article about the case. This prosecutor recognized Santini's name because he had worked with her in a factory before going to law school. At that time, Santini had confided in him that she and her boyfriend had committed a double homicide and that she was working with prosecutors in return for a deal that would keep her from being charged. Falconer testified about this conversation at the fourth trial, which again ended in a hung jury. Finally, at a fifth trial, both Mr. Cobb and Mr. Tillis were acquitted of all charges.



Robert Craig Cox, Florida
Convicted 1988; Released 1989

Mr. Cox was convicted of murdering a nineteen-year old woman and was sentenced to death. The evidence against him was entirely circumstantial and included the fact that Mr. Cox was staying at the same motel where the victim's body was found, that he had cut his tongue that night, and that some hair and blood samples found near the victim were generally compatible with those of Mr. Cox. (With respect to the blood, all the experts could say is that it was 0+, a trait shared by some 45% of the population.) The prosecution also presented testimony that a boot print at the crime scene was consistent with a military type boot which Mr. Cox could have been wearing giving his military job. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Florida unanimously reversed Mr. Cox's conviction, holding that the evidence could not possibly prove Mr. Cox's guilt. The Court ordered that Mr. Cox be released immediately.



James Creamer, Georgia
Convicted 1973; Released 1975

Mr. Creamer was sentenced to death after having been convicted of a double murder. The prosecution's case was built upon the testimony of Deborah Ann Kidd. Under a grant of complete immunity, Kidd testified that she was part of a group of eight people who robbed the victims' home and that Mr. Creamer had killed the victims. Because Kidd was very high on drugs at the time, she claimed to remember very few details until her memory was hypnotically refreshed. At trial, the court denied the defense access to the tapes of the hypnosis sessions, a decision which was upheld on appeal. By the time the case made its way into federal court, evidence had emerged showing that Kidd had provided the police with demonstrably false testimony. For example, she had named a certain woman as having been part of the group even though it turned out that the woman she named was out-of-state at the time of the incident. None of this information had been tendered to the defense. When the federal court demanded production of the hypnosis tapes, the prosecution told the court that most of the tapes had mysteriously disappeared from the file. The tapes that were available did show, however, that the hypnotist fed facts to Kidd to make her story conform to the evidence. The federal court granted habeas corpus relief to Mr. Creamer. While appeals from that decision were pending, another man who was in prison on other crimes admitted that he and two others had actually committed the murders for which Mr. Creamer had been sent to death row. Moreover, the prosecution's star witness, Kidd, made a formal admission that she had lied at trial. In light of these developments, the prosecution withdrew all charges.



Patrick Croy, California
Convicted 1979; Released 1990

Mr. Croy was sentenced to death after having been convicted of murdering a police officer. At his initial trial, the defense was barred from having the jury consider all of the factors that were relevant to his claim that he had shot the gun in self-defense because he reasonably believed that the police officer was chasing him in order to kill him. Part of this defense related to ongoing tensions between the Native American community and the white community. After the California Supreme Court reversed the conviction due to these inhibitions on the defense, Mr. Croy was retried and acquitted of all offenses relating to the death of the officer.



Robert Charles Cruz, Arizona
Convicted 1981; Released 1995

Mr. Cruz was sentenced to death after having been convicted of hiring three men to kill the owner of a business that Mr. Cruz allegedly wished to take over. The evidence against him came from a convicted felon who received immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony. On appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the trial court had demonstrated actual prejudice against Mr. Cruz, and that the convictions could not stand. Two subsequent retrials ended in hung juries, but a fourth trial ended again in a guilty verdict and deaths sentence. Once again, however, the Arizona Supreme Court found the conviction to be faulty and sent the case back for a fifth trial. At this new trial, shocking evidence emerged about the prosecutors' pressuring of witnesses and offering deals. Ultimately, the jury that heard the whole story acquitted Mr. Cruz of all charges and he was released.



Rolando Cruz, Illinois
Convicted 1985; Released 1998

Mr. Cruz was sentenced to death (together with Alejandro Hernandez) for the kidnaping, rape and murder a 10-year old girl. The case against him was built on the testimony of two detectives that Mr. Cruz had told them about a "vision" he had, and that he had accurately described facts of the crime. The detectives had never taken notes about this supposed incriminating statement, had not arrested Mr. Cruz based on the statement, and had never told anyone about it for more than 18 months. Nonetheless, based on this evidence and testimony from some jailhouse informants, Mr. Cruz was convicted and sentenced to die. Several months after the trial, a man named Brian Dugan was arrested for a similar rape and murder of a little girl. In the course of plea negotiations, Dugan told the authorities that he had committed several murders--including the one for which Mr. Cruz and Mr. Hernandez were on death row—and he provided detailed accurate facts about each crime. Mr. Cruz was given a new trial, but his lawyers were not allowed to inform the jury about all of the compelling evidence proving that Dugan had acted alone in raping and murdering the girl. Moreover, the prosecution presented the testimony of a new group of jailhouse informants, one of whom claimed that Mr. Cruz admitted to doing the crime with Dugan. A jury again convicted Mr. Cruz and he was again sentenced to death. This conviction, too, was later overturned. Prior to the third trial, DNA evidence excluded Mr. Cruz and Mr. Hernandez as the rapists, and pointed toward Dugan. During the third trial, a Lieutenant in the Sheriff's Department took the stand and admitted that he had lied when he corroborated the other detectives' testimony about the "vision" statement. The trail court directed verdict for Mr. Cruz and he was set free. In the aftermath of that trial, a special grand jury was convened to investigate the behavior of law enforcement officials in the case. That grand jury issued criminal indictments against three former prosecutors and four sheriff's deputies, charging them with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to frame Mr. Cruz. These defendants are set to go on trial in January 1999.



Muneer Deeb, Texas
Convicted 1985; Released 1993

Mr. Deeb was sentenced to death after being convicted of a triple murder. According to the prosecution, Mr. Deeb hired a man named David Wayne Spence to kill a woman with who Mr. Deeb had been romantically involved, and on whose life Mr. Deeb had taken out an insurance policy. According to the prosecution, Spence had mistakenly killed the wrong person, and had then killed the two witnesses to the crime. Although Mr. Deeb had passed a three-hour polygraph examination, exhibiting "no deception at all," a zealous detective pursued Mr. Deeb with a passion. With the testimony of two jailhouse informants who claimed to have heard confessions, Mr. Deeb was sentenced to die, as was David Spence. Mr. Deeb decided to represent himself after his conviction, and won himself a new trial. At that new trial, the jailhouse informants did not testify and Mr. Deeb was acquitted.



Henry Drake, Georgia
Convicted 1977; Released 1987

Mr. Drake was convicted of murdering a 74-year old barber during the course of a robbery, and was sentenced to death. The prosecution's key evidence against Mr. Drake was the testimony of William Campbell, who was himself facing charges for the crime as well. Campbell sought to implicate Mr. Drake as the main culprit, but juries ended up sentencing them both to death. Years later, Campbell admitted that he had lied at Mr. Drake's trial and that Mr. Drake, in fact, had nothing to do with the crime. After Mr. Drake's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles studied the matter and decided to release Mr. Drake on the ground of his factual innocence.



Neil Ferber, Pennsylvania
Convicted 1982; Released 1986

Mr. Ferber was sentenced to death for the murder of an organized crime leader and that man's dinner companion. The prosecution's case rested on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who claimed that Mr. Ferber had confessed to the crime. Years after the conviction, however, evidence emerged that this witness had been fed information by the police, that the police had created a false composite sketch designed specifically to match Mr. Ferber, that the police had manipulated witnesses to secure identifications of Mr. Ferber, and that the prosecution had suborned perjury when it allowed the jailhouse informant to deny that he was receiving consideration for his testimony. Once the misdeeds were exposed, pressure mounted on the District Attorney who ultimately agreed to drop all charges against Mr. Ferber. The City of Philadelphia subsequently settled Mr. Ferber's civil rights lawsuit for close to $2 million. As one judge stated in describing the level of misconduct involved in this case: "this case presents a Kafkaesque nightmare of the sort which we normally would characterize as being representative of the so-called justice system of a totalitarian state. Unfortunately, and shamefully, as the trial evidence showed, it happened here in Philadelphia."



Gary Gauger, Illinois
Convicted 1993; Released 1996

Mr. Gauger was sentenced to death for the murder of his parents, whose bodies were found after he reported them missing. The prosecution's evidence came from detectives who interrogated Mr. Gauger and claimed that he told them that he killed his parents during a blackout. These detectives admitted that Mr. Gauger initially made this statement in the context of telling the detectives that if they were telling the truth about the evidence proving that he killed his parents (which they were not), then he must have done it in a blackout because he knew nothing about it. The detectives claimed that after making the statement in that hypothetical way, Mr. Gauger then told them that he really did the crime. Yet the only details ascribed to Mr. Gauger ended up being flatly inconsistent with the facts of the crime. The prosecution also presented a jailhouse informant who claimed to have heard Mr. Gauger make some incriminating statements. On appeal, the court reversed the conviction on the ground that the entire interrogation was unconstitutional. Mr. Gauger was not retried, however, because by this time the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had happened across evidence (through a wiretap) showing that Mr. Gauger had nothing to with the crime, which had been committed by two members of a motorcycle gang. Eventually, a federal grand jury indicted these two gang members, charging them with the murder for which Mr. Gauger had been sentenced to die. (As an aside, the jailhouse informant has recently said that he will admit that his testimony was fabricated if he is paid for an interview.)



Charles Ray Giddens, Oklahoma
Convicted 1978; Released 1981

Mr. Giddens was sentenced to death for the murder of a grocery store clerk. The prosecution's evidence against him rested solely on the account of one Johnnie Ray Gray, a man whom the police had arrested for the crime. Gray, who was never indicted in the incident, claimed that he waited outside while Mr. Giddens committed the murder. The jury convicted Mr. Giddens after only 15 minutes of deliberation. On appeal, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction, holding that Gray's testimony was fraught with contradictions and that the uncorroborated account of someone in Gary's position--with so much to gain by fabricating his story--could not support a conviction. Mr. Giddens was immediately set free.



Richard Gladish
New Mexico
Convicted 1974; Released 1976

Four men-Richard Gladish, Richard Greer, Richard Keine and Clarence Smith-were all sentenced to death after they were convicted of kidnaping and murdering a college student. All four men were members of a Los Angeles motorcycle gang. The prosecution's key witness was a motel maid named Judith Weyer, who claimed that she witnessed the crime. Approximately six months after their convictions, Weyer admitted that her testimony was entirely fabricated and stated that she had been coached and pressured by the police and prosecutors. Nonetheless, the trial court refused to order a new trial. Rather, the four men were granted a new trial many months later when another man, Kerry Rodney Lee, confessed to having committed the murder. Based on this confession and substantial evidence corroborating it, charges against the four men were dropped and they were released.



Andrew Golden, Florida
Convicted 1989; Released 1993

Mr. Golden was sentenced to death for the drowning murder of his wife. Although the medical examiner had concluded that there was no evidence of foul play, the prosecution secured the conviction primarily on evidence that Mr. Golden was in debt and stood to collect on a life insurance policy if his wife were to die. There was no eyewitness testimony, no confession, and no other evidence tending to show that Mr. Golden's wife had been murdered by anyone. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that there was simply no evidence on which to base the conviction. Mr. Golden was exonerated of all charges and released.



Richard Greer, New Mexico
Convicted 1974; Released 1976


Four men-Richard Gladish, Richard Greer, Richard Keine and Clarence Smith-were all sentenced to death after they were convicted of kidnaping and murdering a college student. All four men were members of a Los Angeles motorcycle gang. The prosecution's key witness was a motel maid named Judith Weyer, who claimed that she witnessed the crime. Approximately six months after their convictions, Weyer admitted that her testimony was entirely fabricated and stated that she had been coached and pressured by the police and prosecutors. Nonetheless, the trial court refused to order a new trial. Rather, the four men were granted a new trial many months later when another man, Kerry Rodney Lee, confessed to having committed the murder. Based on this confession and substantial evidence corroborating it, charges against the four men were dropped and they were released.



Ricardo Aldape Guerra, Texas
Convicted 1982; Released 1997

Mr. Guerra was convicted of murdering a Houston police officer and was sentenced to death. His trial was conducted amidst a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria. Even though the physical evidence all pointed another culprit (one who was killed in a shootout with the police later that evening and was found with the gun that murdered the officer), Mr. Guerra was convicted based on some eyewitness identifications. Ultimately, Mr, Guerra's vindication came about as a result of intense efforts by a large Houston law firm, which represented him pro bono, and spent more than $3 million in his defense. After many years of battling for his freedom, Mr. Guerra was granted relief through a federal writ of habeas corpus. The federal courts found that the prosecution had intimidated witnesses to testify against Mr. Guerra, had conducted a thoroughly suggestive lineup, had hidden exculpatory evidence and had injected false evidence into the trial. The United Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the decision to grant Mr. Guerra relief, and he was freed when the State announced that it would be seeking to try him again.



Benjamin Harris, Washington
Convicted 1985; Released 1997

Mr. Harris was convicted of murder and was sentenced to death based on the testimony of a man who alleged that Mr. Harris was his accomplice. At trial, Mr. Harris was represented by a lawyer who spent one hour and 48 minutes preparing for trial. This lawyer interviewed just 3 of the 32 listed witnesses, and never conducted any investigation into the prosecution's case. Even more significantly, the lawyer advised Mr. Harris that his only chance at avoiding a death sentence would be to admit that he fired a shot at the victim. Mr. Harris followed his lawyer's instruction and so testified, although this tactic failed to result in a sentence other than death. After the Washington courts affirmed the conviction, Mr. Harris took the case to federal court, where the court granted habeas corpus relief based on the undeniable deficiencies in trial counsel's representation. Had trial counsel done his job, he would have discovered ballistic evidence that thoroughly refuted the prosecution's claim about Mr. Harris firing the gun as was claimed. Once a new trial was ordered, the prosecution chose not to proceed against Mr. Harris on any charges stemming from the murder or which he had spent so many years on death row.



Robert Hayes, Florida
Convicted 1991; Released 1997

Mr. Hayes was convicted of rape and murder and was sentenced to death. The prosecution presented testimony putting him with the victim, whom Mr. Hayes knew, at the time that the prosecution contended the murder took place. The prosecution also introduced DNA evidence that supposedly linked Mr. Hayes to the crime. On appeal from the convictions, a new trial was ordered because of faulty DNA analysis that rendered it unreliable and contaminated. At the second trial, evidence emerged that the victim was found clutching hairs of a white man in her hands, evidence which was very exculpatory of Mr. Hayes, who is African-American. Evidence also emerged suggesting that another man may have committed the murder--a man who had since been convicted of another rape. The jury at the second trial acquitted Mr. Hayes of all charges.



Timothy Hennis, North Carolina
Convicted 1986; Released 1989

Mr. Hennis was sentenced to death after having been convicted of raping a woman and then murdering her and her two daughters. Although the authorities tested blood, semen and hair samples, none of these tests revealed a match with Mr Hennis's characteristics. Instead, the prosecution's case rested on two tenuous eyewitnesses who came forward well after the crime, one of whom dramatically altered the description of the suspect over time. The prosecutors also introduced nearly 100 photographs of the victims' bodies-an inflammatory tactic that led to reversal of the conviction. Upon retrial, the flaws in the witness' testimony were fully exposed and the jury acquitted Mr. Hennis of all charges.



Alejandro Hernandez, Illinois
Convicted 1985; Released 1998

Mr. Hernandez was sentenced to death (together with Rolando Cruz) for the kidnaping, rape and murder a 10-year old girl. The case against him was built on evidence that Mr. Hernandez, who is somewhat mentally impaired, made an incriminating statement to a friend after being told that if he admitted to some minor involvement in the crime he could cash in a $10,000 reward and move to Puerto Rico. Several months after his trial, a man named Brian Dugan was arrested for a similar rape and murder of a little girl. In the course of plea negotiations, Dugan told the authorities that he had committed several murders—including the one for which Mr. Hernandez and Mr. Cruz were on death row—and he provided detailed accurate facts about each crime. Mr. Hernandez was given a new trial, but his lawyers were not allowed to inform the jury about all of the compelling evidence proving that Dugan had acted alone in raping and murdering the girl. After his second trial ended in a hung jury, Mr. Hernandez was tried again and convicted. This conviction was reversed based on a series of errors at the trial. By the time that the case was ready for the fourth trial, DNA evidence excluded Mr. Cruz and Mr. Hernandez as the rapists, and pointed toward Dugan. Moreover, during the trial of Mr. Cruz, a Lieutenant in the Sheriff's Department took the stand and admitted that he had lied when he corroborated the other detectives' testimony against Mr. Cruz. In light of these developments, the prosecution dropped all charges against Mr. Hernandez. Shortly thereafter, a special grand jury was convened to investigate the behavior of law enforcement officials in the case. That grand jury issued criminal indictments against three former prosecutors and four sheriff's deputies, charging them with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to frame Mr. Cruz. These defendants are set to go on trial in January 1999.



Larry Hicks, Indiana
Convicted 1978; Released 1980

Mr. Hicks was convicted of a double murder and sentenced to death. Police investigating the murder followed a trail of blood into the house of a drunken man named Bernard Scates, who was asleep on the floor. Two women were trying to clean bloodstains off the floor. Scates claimed that Mr. Hicks was involved in the murders, and the two women backed his story. Four days later, Scates killed himself in jail, after having told fellow prisoners that Mr. Hicks had nothing to do with the murder. Nonetheless, the two women testified against Mr. Hicks during a trial that lasted a day-and-a-half. Luckily, Mr. Hicks happened upon a lawyer who took a deep interest in his case and was able to demonstrate the falsehood of the witness's testimony. The conviction was reversed and Mr. Hicks was afforded a new trial. The jury acquitted Mr. Hicks of all charges.



Sonia Jacobs, Florida
Convicted 1976; Released 1992

Ms. Jacobs and her companion, Jesse Tafero, were sentenced to death for the murder of 2 policemen at a highway rest stop in 1976. A third co-defendant received a life sentence after pleading guilty and testifying against Jacobs and Tafero. In addition to his testimony, the prosecution also presented the testimony of a jailhouse informant who claimed that Ms. Jacobs had confessed to her. The jury recommended a life sentence for Ms. Jacobs, but the judge overruled the jury and imposed death. A childhood friend and film maker, Micki Dickoff, later became interested in Ms. Jacobs' case and, together with Ms. Jacobs' lawyers, helped uncover the evidence that exposed both of these prosecution's witness as liars. A federal court overturned Ms. Jacobs's conviction on a writ of habeas corpus in 1992. Following the discovery that the chief prosecution witness had failed a lie-detector test, the prosecutor accepted a plea in which Ms. Jacobs did not admit guilt, and was immediately released. Jesse Tafero, whose conviction was based on much of the same highly questionable evidence, had been executed in 1990 before the evidence of innocence had been uncovered.



Anibal Jarramillo, Florida
Convicted 1981; Released 1982

Mr. Jarramillo was convicted a double murder and was sentenced to death. The prosecution's case was built on the fact that Mr. Jarramillo's fingerprints were found on a knife casing, a table and grocery bag in the victims' home. Although the prosecution did present some evidence tending to incriminate the victims' nephew, there was no evidence other than the fingerprints to implicate Mr. Jarramillo, At trial, Mr. Jarramillo explained that he had been in the home earlier that day and had helped the victims' nephew cut open some boxes, but the jury convicted him nonetheless. On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that this evidence was completely inadequate to support a conviction, and ordered that Mr. Jarramillo be acquitted.



William Jent, Florida
Convicted 1980; Released 1988

Mr. Jent, together with Earnest Miller, was convicted of raping and murdering a 20-year old woman, and was sentenced to death. The case against them was built on the testimony of two women with whom they had been drinking on the night of the murder, who claimed that they saw Mr. Jent and Mr. Miller commit the crimes. Years after the convictions these women recanted their testimony; one of them stated that she had testified about facts she saw in a drug-induced dream, and the other explained that she was pressured by the police to go along with the story her friend had told. New facts also emerged that the victim's boyfriend had moved away immediately after the murder and that four months later a new girlfriend of his was found burned to death--just as the victim had been in the case for which Mr. Jent and Mr. Miller were convicted. In addition, it was revealed for the first time that even though Mr. Jent and Mr. Miller were alleged to have transported the victim's body in the trunk of their car, the police had searched the car and found no evidence that any body had ever been placed there. After a new trial was ordered through a writ of federal habeas corpus, prosecutors allowed the two men to go free on time served provided that they entered pleas to lesser offenses. As Mr. Jent put in explaining his feeling about this resolution of the case, "I'm disappointed because I had to stand up there and swear to a lie. They framed us once. What was going to keep them from doing it again."



Verneal Jimerson, Illinois
Convicted 1979; Released 1996

Mr. Jimerson, along with three other men now known as the "Ford Heights Four," was convicted of a double murder and rape. Mr. Jimerson and Dennis Williams Jimerson were both sentenced to death for the crime. Mr. Jimerson was charged based on the statement of Paula Gray, a 16-year old retarded girl, who gave a statement that she held a Bic cigarette lighter for more than 30 minutes as the four men each raped one of the victims and then killed them. Soon after making this statement, Paula Gray admitted that this statement was a lie and that she had seen nothing. As a result, prosecutors charged her in the crimes, but did not charge Mr. Jimerson (because without Gray's testimony they had no case). Years later, the prosecution convinced Paula Gray to testify for the prosecution once again. In her testimony, Paula Gray denied that she was receiving anything for her cooperation and claimed that she saw Mr. Jimerson and the others commit the crimes. Mr. Jimerson was convicted, and Paula Gray was released. On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the conviction, holding that the prosecutors had suborned perjury when they had Gray testify that there was no deal for her testimony. Gray ultimately recanted and explained that she had been threatened and coerced by the police to give her initial statement and her subsequent testimony. In the meantime, police notes that had been withheld from the defense showed that the police had received a significant lead just days after the murder from a witness who had seen the killers leaving the scene of the crime. The police never followed up on the lead because they had already committed themselves to charging Mr. Jimerson and the others. Following up on these notes, journalists interviewed the identified suspects and obtained admissions from two of the real killers, who made it clear that the Ford Heights Four had nothing to do with the crimes. The admissions of these men were corroborated when DNA testing excluded each of the Ford Heights Four and implicated one of the true killers. As a result of this new information, the Cook County State's Attorney dismissed all charges against Mr. Jimerson and his co-defendants, and obtained convictions of the actual killers. The Governor of Illinois then pardoned the Ford Height Four based on factual innocence. Apologizing to the men for what had been put through, the State's Attorney explained that this case is a "glaring example" of the system's fallibility.


Wrongly Convicted Page Two


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