Wednesday, July 06, 2005


119. Ohio...Conviction 1985
On February 28, 2005, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus dismissed all charges against Derrick Jamison for the death of a Cincinnati bartender after prosecutors elected not to retry him in the case.
The prosecution had withheld critical eyewitness statements and other evidence from the defense resulting in the overturning of Jamison's conviction in 2002.
Jamison was originally convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 based in part on the testimony of Charles Howell, a co-defendant who received a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony against Jamison.
The prosecution withheld statements that contradicted Howell’s testimony and that would have undermined the prosecution’s theory of how the victim died, and would have pointed to other possible suspects for the murder.
Two federal courts ruled that the prosecution's actions denied Jamison of a fair trial.
One of the withheld statements involved James Suggs, an eyewitness to the robbery. Suggs testified at trial that he had been unable to make a positive identification when the police showed him a photo array of suspects. In fact, police records show that Suggs identified two suspects, neither of which was Derrick Jamison. Additional withheld evidence consisted of a series of discrepancies between Jamison’s physical characteristics and the descriptions of the perpetrators given to police investigators by eyewitnesses.
The co-defendant Howell recently testified that he could not remember anything about the crime, and state prosecutors decided not to proceed against Jamison. He remains incarcerated on other unrelated charges.


118. Texas...Convicted 1987
Ernest Ray Willis was sentenced to death for the 1986 deaths of two women who died in a house fire that was ruled an arson.
He is the eighth person exonerated from Texas' death row since the reinstitution of capital punishment. Seventeen years later, Pecos County District Attorney Ori T. White revisited the case after a federal judge overturned Willis' conviction. White hired an arson specialist to review the original evidence, and the specialist concluded that there was no evidence of arson.
Willis, who was staying briefly at the house where the fire occurred, escaped from the house. Investigators believed they found an "accelerant" in the carpet.
Officers at the scene of the blaze said that Willis had acted strangely, and prosecutors had Willis arrested. Despite limited evidence, Willis was indicted for murder and arson. Prosecutors used Willis' dazed mental state at trial - the result of state-administered medication - to characterize Willis as "coldhearted" and as a "satanic demon."
Willis' court-appointed lawyers, one of whom later surrendered his law license following drug charges, offered little defense. The attorneys spent a total of three hours with Willis, and as a result, Willis was found guilty and sentenced to death.
The state's new arson specialist revealed, however, that the "accelerant" initially suspected of causing the fire was in fact "flashover burning," consistent with electrical fault fires. U. S. District Judge Royal Ferguson held that the state had administered medically inappropriate ant psychotic drugs without Willis' consent; that the state suppressed evidence favorable to Willis; and that Willis received ineffective representation at both the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial.
He ordered the state to either free Willis or retry him.
The state attorney general's office declined to appeal, and prosecutors dropped all charges against Willis. White, whose predecessors prosecuted Willis, said that Willis "simply did not do the crime. ... I'm sorry this man was on death row for so long and that there were so many lost years." Willis, who had no prior record, was released on October 6, 2004 with $100, ten days of medication, and the clothes on his back. Mr. Willis also had the help of a couple of dedicated pro-bono attorney's that worked hard for over 12 years.

Louisiana...Convicted 1999
On Monday, August 9, 2004, Jefferson Parish prosecutors dropped all charges against 24-year-old Ryan Matthews, making him the nation's 115th exonoree, and the 14th death row inmate freed with the help of DNA testing.
Shortly after his 17th birthday, Matthews was arrested for the murder of a local convenience store owner.
Three individuals interviewed by police were unable to definitively identify Matthews, and witnesses described the murderer as short - no taller than 5'8". Matthews is at least 6 feet tall.
Matthews' court appointed trial attorney was unprepared, and unable to handle the DNA evidence.
On the third day of the trial, the judge ordered closing arguments, and sent the jury to deliberate. When they could not agree on a verdict after several hours, the judge ordered the jury to resume deliberations until a verdict was reached. Less than an hour later, the jury returned a guilty verdict and Matthews was sentenced to death two days later.
In March 2003, Matthews' attorneys had the physical evidence (including a ski mask) re-tested.
The DNA results excluded Matthews, and this time they pointed directly to another individual - one serving time for a murder that happened a few months after the convenience store murder and only blocks away.
In April of 2004, based on the new DNA testing and findings that the prosecution suppressed evidence, a new trial was ordered for Matthews. Released into his mother's care after she posted bond, Matthews was officially exonerated on August 9, 2004 when prosecutors dropped all of the charges against him.

116. Louisiana...Convicted 1996
In 1996,Dan L. Bright was convicted of first-degree murder in Louisiana and was sentenced to death.
On appeal, the Supreme Court of Louisiana found the evidence insufficient to support his conviction of first-degree murder and rendered a judgment of guilty of second-degree murder.
The trial court imposed a sentence of life without parole at hard labor.
On May 25, 2004, the Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed Bright's conviction, vacated the sentence, and remanded for a new trial holding that the state suppressed material evidence regarding the criminal history of the prosecution's key witness, Freddie Thompson.
The court noted that there was no physical evidence against Bright, and that Thompson's testimony was the only evidence that served to convict him. Thompson was very drunk on the day of the crime. Moreover, the prosecution failed to disclose that he was a convicted felon and in violation of his parole.
The court held that the specific facts of Thompson's criminal record and the fact that he was still on parole when he testified against Bright raised questions about the veracity of his trial testimony: "This conviction, based on the facts of this case which include a failure to disclose what the State now admits is significant impeachment evidence, is not worthy of confidence and thus must be reversed."
Because material evidence had been withheld by the state, Bright's conviction was overthrown. The prosecution subsequently dismissed all charges and Bright was freed.

Massachusetts...Convicted 1974
Laurence Adams left a Massachusetts prison 30 years after his conviction for the 1972 robbery and murder of a transit worker in Boston.
Superior Court Judge Robert Milligan overturned Adams’ conviction in 2004 because police had withheld important evidence.
The District Attorney recommended that Adams be released on his own recognizance. Charges against Adams were formally dropped on June 7, 2004.
Adams had been convicted at age 19 on the testimony of two witnesses, both of whom had unrelated charges against them dropped after their testimony.
The government's key witness testified that Adams had admitted to the offense in a discussion in a private home, but subsequently discovered records indicated that the witness was actually incarcerated at the time that he alleged the conversation took place.
The witness was in fact incarcerated with one of a pair of brothers who were suspects in the case.
The second witness recanted her testimony against Adams just prior to her death.
The court-appointed attorney for Adams was also representing one of the two brothers at the same time he was representing Adams. (Boston Globe, May 21, 2004).
Adams was originally sentenced to death in 1974, but the Massachusetts Supreme Court reduced his sentence to life imprisonment, after declaring the state’s death penalty statute unconstitutional.
Adams had always maintained his innocence. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology while in prison. Adams’ appellate attorney, J. J. Barter, said, “it’s not a matter of him being there but not being culpable. He wasn’t there.”

114.Illinois...Convicted 1987
Gordon "Randy" Steidl was freed from an Illinois prison May 28, 2004, 17 years after he was wrongly convicted and sentenced to die for the 1986 murders of Dyke and Karen Rhoads.
An Illinois State Police investigation in 2000 found that local police had severely botched their investigation, resulting in the wrongful conviction of Steidl and his co-defendant Herbert Whitlock.
Due to the poor representation Steidl received at trial, a new sentencing hearing was granted in 1999, resulting in a sentence of life without parole.
In 2003, federal judge Michael McCuskey overturned Steidl's conviction and ordered a new trial for Steidl stating that if all the evidence that should have been investigated had been presented at trial, it was "reasonably probable" that Steidl would have been acquitted by the jury. The state reinvestigated the case, testing DNA evidence, and found no link to Steidl.
State Attorney General Lisa Madigan decided not to appeal the ruling and Edgar County prosecutors decided they would not retry the case.

113. North Carolina...Convicted 1998
Alan Gell was arrested for a 1995 robbery and murder of a retired truck driver named Allen Ray Jenkins.
The two key witnesses presented by prosecutors were Gell's ex-girlfriend and her best friend, who were both teenagers. Both girls, who were at Jenkins' house and pled guilty to involvement in the murder, testified that they saw Gell shoot Jenkins on April 3, 1995.
Prosecutors withheld valuable evidence that might have cleared Gell in the initial trial, *including an audiotape of* one of the girls saying she had to "make up a story" about the murder.
In 2002, a State Superior Court Judge found that the prosecutors withheld evidence "favorable" to Gell, and vacated Gell's conviction. Vacating conviction and granting new trial.
Gell was re-tried in February 2004.
The defense team was able to present evidence that Gell was out of state or in jail at the time of Jenkins' murder, which was placed closer to April 14th. This refuted the April 3rd claim by the original prosecutors. Also challenging the state's timetable was a series of statements by as many as 17 witnesses who told investigators that they had seen Jenkins alive between April 7th and April 10th. The most important new evidence was the taped conversation mentioned above, in which the state's key witness referred to making up a story about the murder.
Gell was originally convicted in 1998 and spent the next four years on death row until a new trial was ordered. On February 18, 2004, a jury found Gell not guilty on all counts, and he left the court with his family.


112.Pennsylvania...Convicted 1982
In 1981, Nicholas Yarris was in jail on a minor charge when he learned of the murder of 32-year-old Linda Mae Craig in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Yarris believed that he would be freed if he could tell investigators he knew the killer's identity. Yarris gave investigators a wrong name, believing he could blame the murder on a dead associate. Police leaked to other inmates that Yarris was a snitch, and Yarris endured days of regular beatings and torture. In an effort to save himself, Yarris asked what would happen if he had participated in the crime, but was not the murderer. The beatings stopped, and Yarris was charged with capital murder. A fellow inmate made a deal with the DA and began exchanging false information about Yarris in exchange for conjugal visits and reduced sentencing with the DA. This inmate became one of the few witnesses to testify against Yarris at trial. The only physical evidence prosecutors offered was semen that had been tested only for blood type. During the trial in June of 1982, the prosecution refused to hand over some 20 pages of documents that would later be revealed to include other physical evidence and conflicting witness accounts. Yarris was found guilty, and sent to death row.On appeal, a federal judge approved a motion by prosecutors to have evidence from the case tested in a lab in Alabama that was later revealed to have had no experience in DNA testing. This lab found no conclusive results to exclude Yarris or include anyone else. A May 1994 motion for a new trial was denied. The DNA evidence was finally independently tested in 2000 by arrangement with the Pennsylvania Federal Defender Office that now represents Yarris, and the results of 3 tests excluded Yarris based on evidence from the crime scene.A Philadelphia Common Pleas judge vacated his conviction and ordered a new trial. According to Delaware County Assistant DA Joseph Brielmann, the DA's office reviewed all available evidence, and "they have not uncovered enough information to proceed against Mr. Yarris. ... In fairness to Mr. Yarris, we requested that the prosecution be dismissed." District Attorney Michael Green said that he might be willing to offer an apology "in a private way." Yarris remains in custody, however, serving a sentence for the crimes committed during a 1985 escape in Florida. Florida and Pennsylvania officials are working to determine how much longer, if at all, Yarris will remain behind bars.

111. Missouri...Convicted 1986
Joseph Amrine was sentenced to death 17 years ago for the murder of a fellow prisoner while housed in one of Missouri's "SuperMax" prisons. Amrine has maintained his innocence since the incident, in which investigators never uncovered any physical evidence linking Amrine to the crime. Amrine was convicted on the testimony of fellow inmates, three of whom later recanted their testimony, admitting that they lied in exchange for protection. In a 4-3 vote in April 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court ordered Amrine released 30 days from their mandate. During arguments before the court, the state argued that new evidence of innocence should have no bearing on the case. On July 28, 2003, prosecutor Bill Tackett announced that he would not seek a new trial of Amrine and that he would be released.

109. Ohio...Convicted 1976
110.Ohio...Convicted 1976
Timothy Howard and Gary James were arrested in December, 1976 for a Columbus, Ohio bank robbery in which one of the bank guards was murdered. Both men maintained their innocence throughout the trial. In 1978, Ohio's death penalty was held to be unconstitutional and all death row inmates were re-sentenced. Howard and James were given life sentences. With funding from Centurion Ministries of New Jersey, Howard and James were subsequently able to uncover new evidence not made available to their defense attorneys at the time of their trial, including conflicting witness statements and fingerprints. James agreed to and passed a state-administered polygraph test, prompting Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien to dismiss all charges "in the interest of justice." Howard was freed earlier on April 23 when Franklin County Common Pleas judge Michael Watson overturned his conviction, citing evidence not disclosed or available at trial. The state dropped its appeal of the judge's ruling, thereby clearing him of the same charges. While O'Brien said that releasing the two men was an admission of a 26-year-old unsolved murder and robbery, "we don't want anybody in prison serving time for something they didn't do."

Louisiana...Convicted 1985
John Thompson was sentenced to death in 1985 following his conviction for a New Orleans murder. Thompson, who has maintained his innocence since his arrest was, released from prison on May 9, 2003, less than 24 hours after a jury acquitted him at his retrial. In 1999, just five weeks before his scheduled execution, Thompson's attorney discovered crucial blood analysis evidence that undermined information used to influence the jury's decision to send Thompson to death row. The blood evidence, which had been improperly withheld by the State, cleared Thompson of a robbery conviction. It was that conviction that kept Thompson from testifying on his own behalf at the murder trial. In 2001, trial judge Patrick Quinlan vacated Thompson's capital sentence, stating that the erroneous robbery conviction had likely influenced the jury's decision to send Thompson to death row. Thompson remained in jail under a sentence of life without parole. In a later appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal of Louisiana, the court ruled that Thompson was "denied his right to testify in his own behalf based upon the improper actions of the State in the other case." The court held that it was "the State's intentional hiding of exculpatory evidence in the armed robbery case that led to [Thompson's] improper conviction in that case and his subsequent decision not to testify in the instant case because of the improper conviction." The court reversed Thompson's conviction and sentence, ordering a new trial. The retrial featured never-before heard testimony by Thompson, professing his innocence. In addition, jurors heard testimony from an eyewitness who insisted that it was not John Thompson whom she saw kill the victim. They also heard testimony that another man, Kevin Freeman, was the actual killer. Freeman was originally charged with the murder, but arranged a plea agreement with prosecutors and implicated Thompson. Although Freeman died prior to Thompson's recent trial, jurors were allowed to hear his earlier statements about the case, which were followed by questions that the defense would have asked on cross-examination. The trial concluded after jurors took less than an hour to acquit Thompson.

107. Alabama...Convicted 1997
An Alabama jury acquitted death row inmate Wesley Quick of the 1995 double murder for which he was sentenced to death in 1997. The jury acquitted Quick at the conclusion of his third trial for this crime. Quick's first trial ended in a mistrial because of juror misconduct, but a second jury convicted him in 1997. During that trial, defense counsel tried to impeach the state's witness with prior inconsistent statements from the first trial, but the judge would not allow the attorney to use his notes, and would not provide counsel with a copy of the transcript from the previous trial. Quick was found guilty and sentenced to death, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that verdict in 2001, stating that the judge in Quick's second trial was wrong to deny Quick a free copy of the transcript from the previous mistrial in light of his indigent status. During Quick's third trial for the double murder, at which he received experienced representation, he testified that he did not commit the murders but said he was at the scene and saw the state's star witness against him, Jason Beninati, kill the men.

Arizona...Convicted 1999
On March 14, 2003, the Pima County (Arizona) Attorney's Office dismissed all charges against death row inmate Lemuel Prion, who had been convicted of murdering Diana Vicari in 1999. In August 2002, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously overturned his conviction, stating that the trial court committed reversible error by excluding evidence of another suspect. According to the Supreme Court, "There was no physical evidence identifying Prion as her killer," and the trial court abused its discretion in not allowing the defense to submit evidence that a third party, John Mazure, was the actual killer. Mazure, who was also a suspect in the murder, was known to have a violent temper, saw Vicari the night of her disappearance, concealed information from the police when they questioned him, and "appeared at work the next morning after Vicari's disappearance so disheveled and disoriented that he was fired." The Arizona Supreme Court held that the third-party evidence "supports the notion that Mazure had the opportunity and motive to commit this crime. . . ." Prion's conviction was based largely on the testimony of Troy Olson, who identified Prion as the man who was with Vicari on the night of her murder. However, when police first showed Olson photographs of Prion, Olson could not identify Prion. According to the Court, "[Olson] stated that the person in the photograph did not look familiar." Seventeen months later, after seeing a newspaper picture of Prion labeling him as the prime suspect in the Vicari murder, Olson believed he could identify Prion. The Arizona Supreme Court also held that the trial court committed prejudicial error in failing to sever the Vicari murder trial from Prion's trial for another crime, stating "any connection between the two crimes is attenuated at best.” Prosecutors admitted that Prion would most likely have been acquitted if prosecuted under the standards set by the August 2002 ruling. Prion remained incarcerated in Utah for an unrelated crime.

Florida...Convicted 1986
Florida death row inmate Rudolph Holton was released on January 24, 2003, after prosecutors dropped all charges against him. Holton's conviction for a 1986 rape and murder was overturned in 2001 when a Florida Circuit Court held that the state withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense that pointed to another perpetrator. The court also found that new DNA tests contradicted the trial testimony of a state's witness. At trial, a prosecution witness testified that DNA hairs found in the victim's mouth linked Holton to the crime. However, recent DNA tests conclusively exclude Holton as the contributor of the hair, and found that the hairs most likely belonged to the victim. In December 2002, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the lower court's decision to reverse Holton's conviction and sentence. Prosecutors announced in January 2003 that the state was dropping all charges against Holton, who had spent 16 years on death row.

104.Illinois...Convicted 1987
Stanley Howard was convicted in 1987 for the murder of Oliver Ridgell. At trial, one of the main pieces of evidence against Howard was his statement to the police. Howard, however, always maintained that his confession was obtained through the use of police torture. Testimony at his trial contradicted information in Howard's "confession." The other evidence used against Howard was the testimony of Tecora Mullen, the passenger who was in the car when Ridgell was shot. Mullen admitted that it was dark and raining outside at the time of the shooting. In addition, Mullen's husband was originally a suspect in the murder. Howard remains incarcerated for an unrelated offense.

103.Illinois...Convicted 1984
Leroy Orange spent 19 years on death row before Governor Ryan pardoned him. Orange was arrested and questioned about the murders of four persons, and he subsequently confessed. Orange later stated that his confession was obtained by police torture and that he was innocent. At Orange's trial, his half-brother, Leonard Kidd, testified that, although Orange was at the victims' apartment earlier in the evening, he left before the murders and took no part in the crime. Kidd testified that he was solely responsible for the murders. Shirely Evans, a friend of Orange, testified that Orange was with her the night of the murders. At trial, Orange was represented by attorney Earl Washington, who was paid only $400 to represent Orange and who had three Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) charges pending at the time of Orange's trial. The Chicago Tribune singled out Washington for his ineptitude, noting that the state filed new disciplinary charges against him. Those charges alleged that Washington's representation of Orange and others "amounted to professional misconduct."

Illinois...Convicted 1987
Madison Hobley was convicted of setting fire to an apartment building in 1987 that claimed the lives of seven tenants, including his wife and child. Hobley maintained his innocence, claiming that his confession was the product of police torture. At trial, the evidence against Hobley consisted of the testimony of Andre Council, a suspected arsonist who claimed to have seen Hobley buying gasoline before the fire, and a gas station attendant who could not identify Hobley in a lineup and could only state that Hobley "favored" the man who purchased the gasoline. Hobley's trial was marred by prosecutorial and juror misconduct. The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that "despite [Hobley's] pretrial requests for production, the State failed to disclose to him the evidence of two pieces of exculpatory evidence: (1) a report that defendant's fingerprints were not on the gasoline can introduced against him at trial, and (2) a second gasoline can found at the fire scene." Records also showed that police destroyed the second gasoline can after the defense issued a subpoena for it, a move the Illinois Supreme Court said supported a finding that the destruction was "motivated by bad faith." In addition, post-conviction affidavits of jurors stated that non-jurors intimidated some jurors while they were sequestered at a hotel, and that they were prejudiced by the acts of the jury foreperson, a police officer that believed Hobley was guilty. The affidavits also stated that jurors brought newspapers with articles about the case into the jury room and that they repeatedly violated the trial court's sequestration order. The Court remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether prosecutors’ violated Hobley's constitutional rights by withholding evidence, and on the issue of whether the jurors were intimidated during deliberations. In remanding the case, the Court stated: "we stress that we are deeply troubled by the nature of the allegations in this case."

101.Illinois...Convicted 1989
Aaron Patterson spent 14 years on death row and always maintained his innocence in the stabbing deaths of an elderly couple in 1986. During his pre-trial interrogation, Patterson etched the following words on an interrogation room bench: I lied about murders police threatened me with violence slapped and suffocated me with plastic - no phone - no dad signed false statement to murders (Tonto) Aaron. In addition, photographs of the interrogation room revealed the phrase "Aaron lied" etched in the door of the room. There was no physical evidence tying Patterson to the crime, and fingerprints recovered from the scene did not belong to him. In addition, Patterson's former girlfriend testified that she was with Patterson on the night of the murders. In 2000, the Illinois Supreme Court granted Patterson an evidentiary hearing to determine whether his attorney was ineffective for failing to present evidence that the confession was coerced. The Court stated: "Evidence identifying defendant as perpetrator consisted of (1) the oft-changing testimony of a teenager [Marva Hall] whose cousin had been a suspect in the crime; and (2) the testimony from the police officers and assistant State's Attorney concerning defendant's confession." After Patterson's conviction, Marva Hall swore in an affidavit that prosecutors pressured her into implicating Patterson. "It was like I was reading a script," she said of her testimony. Hall told Northwestern University journalism students who were investigating the case: "I helped send [an] innocent man to jail."
Patterson's first public words (to the press upon being relesased from death row) were, "I know most of you guys. How you doing, Dave Savini? Thanks a lot for the reports, thanks a lot. Unbelievable, it's a miracle. You know, miracles do happen. The governor gave an extraordinary speech, but I just want to make this statement very clear, you know.""I'm sure a lot of you-all have worked with me before and you-all know how hard it was for me to get my case out there," he said. "I wrote several news media and investigators to look at my case, you know. Some of you-all responded and some of you didn't. It's very important that you-all look into other guys' cases on death row and in (the) prison population. There are more innocent people locked up. There ARE more innocent people locked up."


On January 10, 2003 Illinois Governor George Ryan granted four pardons based on innocence. The men pardoned, Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange, and Stanley Howard, were all members of the "Death Row 10," a group of Illinois death row prisoners who claimed that they were the victims of police torture. The four pardoned men maintained that their confessions were given only after they were beaten, had guns pointed at them, were subjected to electric shock, or were nearly suffocated with typewriter covers placed over their heads. In 2002, a special prosecutor was named to conduct a broad inquiry into the allegations from more than 60 suspects who, like the Death Row 10, claimed that they were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge or his detectives at the Burnside Area Violent Crimes headquarters in Chicago during the 1980s. The Chicago Police Board fired Jon Burge in 1993 for his role in the torture of another prisoner. Governor Ryan examined the cases of all the Illinois death row inmates and selected these four for pardons based on their coerced confessions and other information. Governor Ryan commuted the death sentences of
167 other inmates , but did not pardon them.


100.Kentucky...Conviction 1999
Larry Osborne was acquitted of all charges and freed on August 1, 2002 in Kentucky. The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed his conviction because the trial court allowed inadmissible hearsay testimony from a witness, Joe Reid. Reid passed away prior to the original trial and, therefore, could not face cross-examination. Osborne was sentenced to death in 1999 following his conviction for the murder of two elderly victims in Whitley County, Ky. Osborne was only 17 at the time of the crime. He is the fourth exonerated death row inmate in the nation this year

Pennsylvania...Conviction 1998
Kimbell had been sentenced to death in 1998 following his conviction for the murder of four members of a family in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania in 1994. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2000 because evidence, which might have thrown doubt on his guilt, was barred at trial. The excluded evidence would have placed the husband of one of the victims at home, the scene of the crime, shortly before the murders. Kimbell maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration. With the excluded evidence allowed in, he was acquitted of all charges at his re-trial on May 3.

98.Arizona...Conviction 1992
On April 8, 2002, Ray Krone was released from prison in Arizona after DNA testing showed that he did not commit the murder for which he was convicted 10 years earlier. Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley and Phoenix Police Chief Harold Hurtt announced at a news conference on April 8, 2002 that new DNA tests vindicated Krone and that they would seek his release pending a hearing next month to vacate the murder conviction. Romley stated, "[Krone] deserves an apology from us, that's for sure. A mistake was made here. . . . What do you say to him? An injustice was done and we will try to do better. And we're sorry." Krone was first convicted in 1992, based largely on
circumstantial evidence and testimony that bite marks on the victim matched Krone's teeth. He was sentenced to death. Three years later he received a new trial. But was again found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 1996. Krone's post-conviction defense attorney, Alan Simpson, obtained a court order for DNA tests. The results not only exculpated Krone, but they pointed to another man, Kenneth Phillips, as the assailant. Prosecutor William Culbertson told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Alfred Fenzel that the chances are 1.3 quadrillion to one that DNA found in saliva on the victim's tank top came from Phillips.

97.Florida...Conviction 1984
Juan Roberto Melendez spent nearly 18 years on Florida's death row before being exonerated of the crime for which he was sentenced to death. Melendez, who was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Puerto Rico, was sentenced to die in 1984 for the murder of Delbert Baker. In December 2001, Florida Circuit Court Judge Barbara Fleischer overturned Melendez's capital murder conviction after determining that prosecutors in his original trial withheld critical evidence, thereby undermining confidence in the original verdict. The judge noted that no physical evidence linked Melendez to the crime. The state had used the testimony of two witnesses whose credibility was later challenged with new evidence. Following the reversal of the conviction, prosecutors announced the state's decision to abandon charges against Melendez.


96.Idaho...Conviction 1983
Charles Irvin Fain, a Vietnam veteran who spent over 18 years on Idaho's death row, was freed with all charges dismissed in 2001. Although Fain always maintained his innocence, he was convicted and sentenced to death for the February 1982 kidnapping, sexual assault and drowning of 9-year-old Daralyn Johnson. Fain, who was unemployed and living with his parents in Redmond, Oregon at the time of the crime had lived in Idaho until June 1981. He returned to Idaho in March of 1982 to look for work. Fain moved in with a neighbor of the Johnson family, and in September of 1982, police asked that he provide hair samples. Fain agreed, and those samples were the key evidence against him in his trial. Testifying on behalf of Fain were witnesses who placed Fain in Oregon in February of 1982. However, the jury found Fain guilty, primarily on the forensic testimony of an FBI specialist about the hairs, and the testimony of two jailhouse informants who claimed that Fain made "incriminating statements" about the case. With the help of new attorneys, Fain was able to get the physical evidence tested under a new DNA testing process known as Mitochondrial DNA Testing. Results of those tests not only excluded Fain, but also pointed to two other suspects. The US District Court judge who originally would not consider Fain's innocence claims vacated the conviction on July 6, 2001 and ordered prosecutors to either retry or release Fain. Canyon County District Attorney David Young announced that the state would not retry Fain, who was released from the maximum-security facility in Boise, Idaho on August 23, 2001. Young stated that "justice requires the action we have taken today," indicating that the investigation for the killer would be re-opened.

Nebraska...Conviction 1997
Jeremy Sheets was released after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a Nebraska Supreme Court decision overturning his conviction. Prosecutors then dropped the charges against him. In September, 2000, the Nebraska high court unanimously ruled that a tape recording made by an alleged accomplice who committed suicide prior to the trial was the kind of statement deemed "highly suspect," "inherently unreliable," and hence inadmissible without the opportunity for Sheets to cross-examine. The statements (later recanted) were made by Adam Barnett, who was arrested for the 1992 rape and murder of the same victim as in Sheets' case. Barnett confessed to the crime and implicated Sheets. In exchange for the taped statement, Barnett received a plea bargain in which he avoided a charge of first-degree murder, did not have an additional weapons charge filed, and received a commitment for his safety while incarcerated. Barnett's statement was the key evidence used against Sheets at trial.

94.Florida...Convicted 1997
Former death row inmate Joaquin Martinez was acquitted of all charges at his retrial for a 1995 murder in Florida. Martinez's earlier conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court because of improper statements by a police detective at trial. The prosecution did not seek the death penalty in Martinez's second trial after key prosecution witnesses changed their stories and recanted their testimony. An audiotape of alleged incriminating statements by Martinez, which was used at the first trial, was ruled inadmissible at retrial because it was inaudible. The new jury, however, heard evidence that the transcript of the inaudible tape had been prepared by the victim's father, who was the manager of the sheriff's office evidence room at the time of the murder and who had offered a $10,000 reward in the case. Both the Pope and the King of Spain had tried to intervene on behalf of Martinez, who is a Spanish national. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar welcomed the verdict, saying: "I'm very happy that this Spaniard was declared not guilty. I've always been against the death penalty and I always will be."

93.Alabama...Convicted 1995
Drinkard was sentenced to death in 1995, but the Alabama Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 2000. A team of lawyers and investigators from Alabama and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta spent hundreds of hours preparing for the case and were able to prove that Drinkard was at home at the time the crime was committed.


91.California...Convicted 1983
Morris was convicted in 1983 and sentenced to death. The California Supreme Court vacated his death sentence in 1988. Although the court did not overturn his conviction, it later ordered an evidentiary hearing when the state's chief witness against Morris issued a deathbed recantation. After the evidentiary hearing, the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted Morris a new trial. Prosecutors decided not to retry the case and Morris was freed in 2000. At his initial trial, Morris was represented by Ronald Slick, who was criticized in 2001 for giving prosecutors confidential documents to help them keep a former client on death row. Morris's chief accuser was Joe West. West implicated Morris after being arrested while on parole. "Joe West testified on direct examination by the prosecutor that his motive for cooperating with the prosecution was a quarrel with defendant which resulted in his attempt on defendant's life..." According to the California Supreme Court, "no motive or explanation for the murder was disclosed at trial other than the statement attributed to defendant by Joe West" that Morris wanted to kill someone. The prosecutor in the case, Arthur Jean, Jr., now a L.A. Country Superior Court Judge, withheld from the defense that West was given special treatment in light of his testimony. The California Supreme Court noted that Jean had written two pretrial letters on West's behalf, asking a fellow prosecutor and the parole board to grant West leniency for other crimes to reward his testimony against Morris. The California Supreme Court held that the prosecutor's failure to disclose these actions violated Morris's due process rights. The court added, "The nondisclosure was compounded, moreover, by the district attorney's affirmative representation to the jury that West had not received any benefits in return for his testimony. Jean told jurors in the case that "[There] is no evidence, not a shred, and you would have it if it existed, if Mr. West got any benefit from this, that is, in the handling of his criminal case." West later confessed that he fabricated the entire case against Morris. "The testimony I gave against Oscar 1978 was a lie," said West in a 1997 sworn declaration a few weeks before his death. (Note: Morris was originally charged with robbery and murder. The California Supreme Court in its 1988 ruling reversed the robbery charge when the court overturned his sentence.)92. Peter Limone Massachusetts Convicted 1968 Charges Dismissed 2001 Thirty -three years after being convicted and sentenced to death for a 1965 murder, Peter Limone's conviction has been overturned and the case against him officially dropped. The move came as a result of a Justice Department task force's discovery of compelling new evidence that Limone and his co-defendants Joseph Salvati, Henry Tamelo, and Louis Greco were actually innocent of the murder of Edward Deegan.In 1968, all four were convicted and Limone was sentenced to die in Massachusetts' electric chair, but was spared in 1974 when Massachusetts abolished the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Salvati, who was released from prison in 1997 when the governor commuted his sentence, received word from prosecutors that they were dropping the case against him as well. Tamelo and Greco both died in prison. At trial, the main witness against the four men was Joseph Barboza, a hit man cooperating with prosecutors, who later admitted that he had fabricated much of his testimony. The recently revealed FBI documents show that informants had told the FBI before the murder that Deegan would soon be killed and by whom, and a memorandum after the crime listed the men involved. Neither list included Limone, Salvati, Tamelo or Greco

Louisiana...Convicted 1987
Louisiana...Convicted 1987
After spending 13 years on death row, Michael Graham was released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola on December 28, 2000 after the Louisiana Attorney General dismissed charges against him and his co-defendant Albert Burrell. Burrell was released on January 3, 2001. Graham and Burrell were sentenced to death in 1987 for the murder of an elderly couple. Earlier this year, a judge threw out their convictions because of a lack of physical evidence and suspect witness testimony used at trial. Prosecutor Dan Grady acknowledged that the case was weak and "should never have been brought to [the] grand jury." During the trial,
prosecutors withheld key information from the defense, failed to produce any physical evidence, and relied only on witness testimony, which has since been discredited. Dismissing the charges, the Attorney General's office cited a "total lack of credible evidence" and stated "prosecutors would deem it a breach of ethics to proceed to trial." Recent DNA tests proved that blood found at the victims' home did not belong to Burrell or Graham. The trial attorneys appointed to defend Burrell were later disbarred for other reasons.

Florida...Convicted 1985
Frank Lee Smith, who had been convicted of a 1985 rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, and who died of cancer in January 2000 while still on death row, was cleared of these charges by DNA testing, according to an aide to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. After the trial, the chief eyewitness recanted her testimony. Nevertheless, Smith was scheduled for execution in 1990, but received a stay. Prosecutor Carolyn McCann was told by the FBI lab, which conducted the DNA, tests that: "He has been excluded. He didn't do it." Another man, who is currently in a psychiatric facility, is now the main suspect.

87.Pennsylvania...Convicted 1994
On October 20, 2000, William Nieves was freed from death row when a Philadelphia jury acquitted him of the 1992 murder of Eric McAiley. Nieves was convicted of the murder in 1994, but maintained his innocence. In 1997, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Nieves was inadequately represented at his first trial and granted him a new trial. "William Nieves' first trial was not presented in the way it should have been presented, and that's wrong when someone is being sentenced to death," said Nieves' new attorney, former prosecutor John McMahon, Jr. At the re-trial, McMahon pointed out inconsistencies in the key witness's identification of the killer.

86.Virginia...Conviction 1984
Earl Washington suffers from mental retardation. After he was arrested on another charge in 1983, police convinced him to make a statement concerning the rape and murder of a woman in Culpeper in 1982. He later recanted that statement. Subsequent DNA tests confirmed that Washington did not rape the victim, who had lived long enough to state that there was only one perpetrator of the crime. The DNA results combined with the victim's statement all but exonerated Washington. Shortly before leaving office in 1994, Governor Wilder commuted Washington's sentence to life with the possibility of parole. In 2000, additional DNA tests were ordered and the results again excluded Washington as the rapist. In October 2000, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore granted Earl Washington an absolute pardon.

85.Florida...Convicted 1993
Joseph Nahume Green was acquitted on March 16, 2000 of the murder of Judith Miscally. Circuit Judge Robert P. Cates entered a not guilty verdict for Green, citing the lack of any witnesses or evidence tying Green to the murder. Green, who has always maintained his innocence, was convicted largely upon the testimony of the states only eyewitness, Lonnie Thompson. In 1996, Green Is conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, which held that Thompson’s testimony was often inconsistent and contradictory, and that he not been fit to testify during Green's trial.

Missouri...Convicted 1987
Clemmons was sentenced to death for a 1985 murder, which occurred in a Missouri prison. After losing all his appeals in state court and his initial appeal in federal court, Clemmons had called his mother to make his funeral plans. But new attorneys convinced a federal appeals court to reverse themselves and grant a new trial, partly because of issues and evidence that Clemmons had filed himself. When all the new evidence was presented at re-trial, the jury acquitted him in 3 hours on February 18, 2000. Clemmons remains incarcerated on other charges, which he is also challenging.

83.Illinois...Convicted 1993
Steve Manning became the 13th inmate exonerated in Illinois, when prosecutors announced that they are dropping charges and no longer plan to retry Manning for the 1990 slaying of trucking company owner Jimmy Pellegrino. Manning was convicted and sentenced to death on the word of informant Tommy Dye, who testified that Manning twice confessed to him when they shared a jail cell. However, secret tape recordings of the two men's conversations, made at the request of the FBI, revealed no such confession, and Manning vehemently denied confessing. In exchange for his testimony, Dye received an 8-year reduction on his prison sentence on theft and firearms charges. Manning remains in prison on unrelated charges.
Despite being exonerated in Illinois, Manning was being held in Missouri on a kidnapping conviction. On February 26, 2004, Manning was also cleared of those charges and walked out of prison a free man. New investigations revealed that the informant who testified against Manning had received special treatment while in prison. A federal appeals court had ordered a new trial on the kidnapping charges in November of 2002, but prosecutors decided instead to drop all charges. Manning was the 13th person exonerated in Illinois and this led Governor George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions as exonerations exceeded executions


81.South Carolina...Convicted 1989
Manning was convicted in 1989 for the slaying of a South Carolina police officer in 1988. The conviction was overturned in 1991. Manning was retried in 1993, but the case ended in a mistrial. Manning's third trial in 1995 resulted in another conviction, but it was overturned on December 29, 1997, when the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the State's motion to change venue for the selection of the jury. The Court ordered a new trial. The subsequent trial was declared a mistrial, and prosecutors pursued the case a fifth time. In 1999, at his last trial, expert death penalty attorney, David Bruck, represented Manning. Manning maintained that although the officer for driving under license suspension had arrested him, Manning escaped when the officer stopped another car. The state's case was entirely circumstantial, and the jury acquitted Manning after less than 3 hours of deliberation. 82. Alfred Rivera North Carolina Convicted 1997 Charges Dismissed 1999 Rivera walked out of the Forsyth County Jail into the arms of his 3-year-old son after being acquitted at his re-trial on capital charges. Rivera had been sent to North Carolina's death row in 1997, but the N.C. Supreme Court overturned his conviction because jurors had not been allowed to hear testimony that others may have framed Rivera who pleaded guilty in the murder of two drug dealers.

Dexter was accused in 1990 of the 1991 murdering his wife of 22 years. Police overlooked significant evidence that the murder occurred in the course of a botched robbery and quickly decided that Dexter must have committed the crime. Dexter's trial lawyer was in poor health and under federal investigation for tax fraud and failed to challenge blood evidence presented at trial. The conviction was overturned in 1997 because of prosecutorial misconduct. The defense then had the blood evidence carefully examined and showed that the conclusions presented at trial were completely wrong. The state's blood expert admitted that his previous findings overstated the case against Dexter. On the eve of Dexter's retrial in June 1999, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Dexter was freed.
UPDATE: Mr. Dexter passed away April 10, 2005, after a long battle with cancer. He was a faithful memeber of WMCADP Board of Directors while his health permitted. He had also donated a beautiful quilt adorned with the faces of those death row inmates who were executed.

79.Illinois...Convicted 1989
Jones was a homeless man when he was convicted of the rape and murder of a Chicago woman. After a lengthy interrogation in which Jones says police beat him, he signed a confession. Prosecutors at his conviction described him as a "cold brutal rapist" who "should never see the light of day." Recent DNA testing revealed that Jones was not the rapist and there was no evidence of any accomplice to the murder. The Cook County state's attorney filed a motion asking the Illinois Supreme Court to vacate Jones's conviction in 1997. In May 1999, the state dropped all charges against Jones. He is being temporarily detained pending another matter in a different state.

78.Oklahoma...Convicted 1988
Ronald Williamson had been a major league baseball player before injuries forced him to quit. He was identified by police as a possible suspect, but was never arrested. A few years later he sat in jail awaiting trial on a bad check charge. It was then that a jailhouse informant told prosecuters that Williamson had confessed to murdering Deborah Carter.
Five days before his execution date, his attorney filed a habeus corpus petition on the grounds of inefective assistance of counsel. The petition was granted the following year and Williamson won a new trial. While awaiting trial, DNA test results came back showing conclusively that neither Williamson nor Fritz were the culprits. The DNA matched Glen Gore, the state's star witness at trial.
Williamson and Fritz filed a civil lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and were awarded an undisclosed sum of money.
Update: Williamson died in 2004 at the age of 51.

77.Illinois...Convicted 1985
Smith's conviction was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1999 because it was based on unreliable evidence. As a result, he is not subject to re-trial. Smith had been convicted of a murder outside of a Chicago tavern in 1985. The man killed was the assistant warden of the Pontiac Correctional Center. The Court said, "When the state cannot meet its burden of proof, the defendant must go free." On August 1, 2002, Illinois Governor George Ryan issued a pardon to Smith based on innocence. Smith is the 11th death row inmate to be freed in Illinois since the death penalty was reinstated and the 9th since 1994.

76.Illinois...Convicted 1983
Porter was released in February, 1999 on the motion of the State's Attorney after another man confessed on videotape to the double 1982 murder that sent Porter to death row. Charges were filed against the other man, who claimed he killed in self-defense. Investigator broke the case Paul Ciolino working with Prof. David Protess and journalism students from Northwestern University. Their investigation also found that another witness had been pressured by police to testify against Porter. Porter came within 2 days of execution in 1998 and was only spared because the Court wanted to look into his mental competency. Porter has an IQ of 51. His conviction was officially reversed on March 11, 1999.

Louisiana...Convicted 1996
All charges were dropped in the death penalty prosecution of Shareef Cousin in Louisiana. Cousin had been convicted and sentenced to death for a murder in New Orleans when Couisin was 16 years old. The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned his conviction because of improperly withheld evidence and the District Attorney decided on January 8, 1999 not to pursue the case further. Cousin had maintained that he was at a city recreation department basketball game at the time of the crime and his coach testified that he dropped him off at home just 20 minutes after the slaying. He remains incarcerated on unrelated charges.


74.Louisiana...Convicted 1984
Kyles was first tried in November 1984, but the ended with a hung jury and a mistrial. In his second trial, in December 1984, Kyles was convicted and sentenced to death. On April 19, 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Kyles' conviction citing prosecutorial misconduct in suppressing exculpatory evidence: The state had withheld considerable information about a paid informant who may have been the actual murderer. Kyles's successful appeal was in the form of a federal habeas corpus petition, since he had lost all of his appeals in state court. Kyles's third trial ended in October 1996 when the jury deadlocked. In two additional trials, one in September 1997 and another in February 1998, each ended with a jury deadlock. After the fifth mistrial, prosecutors decided to drop charges and Kyles was released.

73.Oklahoma...Convicted 1988
Miller was convicted of the rape and murder of two elderly women in 1988. In 1995, Miller's original conviction was overturned and he was granted a new trial when DNA evidence pointed to another suspect who was already incarcerated on similar charges. In February 1997, Oklahoma County Special Judge Larry Jones dismissed the charges against Miller, saying that there was not enough evidence to justify his continued imprisonment. One month later, Oklahoma County District Judge Karl Gray reinstated the charges in response to an appeal by the District Attorney's office; however, the prosecution ultimately decided to drop all charges and Miller was released.


72.Alabama...Convicted 1976
Bo Cochran was convicted in 1982 of the murder of a Stephen Ganey, the assistant manger of a grocery store. Upon his conviction, Cochran told the judge, "I did not kill Mr. Ganey. . . . When will I get justice in the courtroom?" The 1982 trial was Cochran's third trial. His first trial ended in a mistrial, and the second trial, which resulted in a conviction, was reversed and remanded for a new trial after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Alabama's death penalty statute. The 1982 conviction was also overturned. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld a District Court's decision to overturn the conviction, stating that "in [Cochran's] 1982 trial race was a determining factor in the prosecution's exercise of its peremptory challenges Cochran, who is black, was being tried for the murder of a white person, and the Eleventh Circuit found that during Cochran's previous trials, the district attorney's office that prosecuted his case had used an informal practice in peremptory challenges of striking black jurors based on their race. The Eleventh Circuit ordered a new trial for Cochran in 1995. Cochran was retried in 1997 and acquitted by the jury not only of capital murder but also of all lesser included offenses. At re-trial, defense attorney Richard Jaffe pointed out to jurors that there were no eyewitnesses to the murder and that it would have been impossible for Cochran to move the victim's body under a trailer in a nearby mobile home park while being chased by police.

71.Alabama...Convicted 1992
Padgett was convicted of murdering his estranged wife in 1990 and was sentenced to death. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction in 1995. In October 1997, Padgett was acquitted of all charges at a retrial. There was some evidence presented that another woman had committed the crime. Padgett's brothers, children and other relatives burst into tears when the foreman read the not guilty verdict.

70.Florida...Convicted 1991
Hayes was convicted of the rape and murder of a co-worker based partly on faulty DNA evidence. The Florida Supreme Court threw out Hayes's conviction and the DNA evidence in 1995. The victim had been found clutching hairs probably from her assailant. The hairs were from a white man, whereas Hayes is black. Hayes was acquitted at a retrial in July 1997.

69.Washington...Convicted 1985
On March 2, 1994, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan overturned Harris' conviction and vacated his sentence of death for the 1984 murder of Jimmy Turner on the basis that his original trial lawyer had been incompetent. Harris's attorney interviewed only 3 of the 32 witnesses listed in police reports and spent less than 2 hours consulting with Harris before trial. Harris's co-defendant was acquitted. Bryan ordered Harris released from custody if not brought to a speedy retrial. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision on September 12, 1995. The prosecution decided not to retry Harris but tried to have him confined as insane. (They had previously argued that he was competent to stand trial.) On July 16, 1997, a jury decided that Harris should not be imprisoned at Western State Hospital. Harris maintains his innocence and says he was framed.

68.Texas...Convicted 1982
Guerra was sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer in Houston. Federal District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled on Nov. 15, 1994 that Guerra should either be retried in 30 days or released, stating that the actions of the police and prosecutors in this case were "outrageous," "intentional" and "done in bad faith." He further said that their misconduct "was designed and calculated to obtain . . . another 'notch in their guns.'" The U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously upheld Judge Hoyt’s ruling. Although Guerra was granted a new trial, Houston District Attorney Johnny Holmes dropped charges on April 16, 1997 instead. Guerra returned to his native Mexico.