List of wrongful convictions in the United States

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This is a list of wrongful convictions in the United States. This list includes people who have been legally exonerated, including people whose convictions have been overturned and have not been retried, as well as people who have not been formally exonerated but are widely considered to be factually innocent. This list is not exhaustive and represents only exonerees who currently have Wikipedia articles. Crime descriptions with an asterisk (*) indicate that the events were later determined not to be criminal acts.

Before 1900[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1673 Thomas Cornell Jr. (son of Thomas Cornell) Murder of his mother Portsmouth, Rhode Island Execution Executed No
Thomas Cornell (Jr.) was accused, tried, convicted and hanged for the alleged murder of his mother, Rebecca Briggs Cornell, in Portsmouth in 1673. He was convicted using circumstantial evidence as well as spectral evidence, where witnesses recounted dreams involving ghosts pointing to his alleged guilt. American jurisprudence was later modernized to exclude the use of apparitions and dreams as evidence in trials. This case and its history have been chronicled in the book Killed Strangely: The Death of Rebecca Cornell by Elaine Forman Crane.
1692 Salem witch trials Witchcraft Salem, Massachusetts, as well as other nearby towns Execution Executed Yes
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, most of them women. Despite being generally known as the Salem witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in several towns in the Province of Massachusetts Bay: Salem Village (now Danvers), Ipswich, Andover, and Salem Town.
1805, November 12 Dominic Daley and James Halligan Murder of Marcus Lyon Boston, Massachusetts Death sentence Executed Yes
In November 1805, the body of a young farmer, Marcus Lyon, was found on the open road near the town of Wilbraham, Massachusetts. Irish immigrants Daley and Halligan were traveling in the area at the time, heading for New Haven, Connecticut, when they were arrested for the murder on November 12, 1805, for which their captor was paid $500. Despite their long confinement, they were granted defense attorneys only 48 hours before their trial. Once the trial began, they were convicted within minutes, under such flimsy evidence that one of the defense attorneys was led to declare that it was based simply on outright bigotry. They were executed the next day. On St. Patrick's Day 1984, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts issued a proclamation exonerating Daley and Halligan.[1]
1843, December 31 John Gordon Murder of Amasa Sprague Knightsville, Rhode Island Death sentence Executed Yes
Gordon was the last person executed by Rhode Island. His conviction and execution have been ascribed by researchers to anti-Roman Catholic and anti-Irish immigrant bias.[2] He was convicted for the murder of Amasa Sprague, a Cranston textile factory owner. The court justices, which included Justice Job Durfee, that were involved in all three trials acted as both trial judges and the court of final appeal.[3] Included in jury instructions, Durfee "told the jurors to give greater weight to Yankee witnesses than Irish witnesses."[2] Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee pardoned Gordon on June 29, 2011.[4]
1855 Chief Leschi Murder of Abram Benton Moses and Joseph Miles (or Miller) Olympia, Washington Death sentence, death by hanging Executed Yes
Leschi was a Nisqually chief when the government attempted to relocate the tribe to reservations. Leschi protested the move, claiming the reservation designated for the Nisqually tribe was a rocky piece of high ground unsuited to growing food and cut off from access to the river that provided the mainstay of their livelihood, salmon.[5] Leschi traveled to the territorial capital at Olympia to protest the terms of the treaty. He became war chief, in command of around 300 men, and led a small number of raids. Early in the conflict, Territorial militiamen Abram Benton Moses and Joseph Miles (or Miller) were killed.[6] Leschi maintained his innocence. He was convicted and executed. In 2004, he was posthumously exonerated.
1863 Chipita Rodriguez Murder of John Savage San Patricio, Texas Death sentence, death by hanging Executed Yes
Rodriguez was convicted for murdering John Savage with an ax and executed. She was posthumously exonerated in 1985.[7]
1872, May 5 William Jackson Marion Murder of John Cameron* Liberty, Nebraska Death sentence, death by hanging Executed Yes
Marion was convicted of killing John Cameron, who left with him to work on the railroad in 1872. In 1891, four years after Marion's execution by hanging, Cameron turned up alive, explaining that he had vanished by his own volition, to spend twenty years traveling across Mexico, Alaska, and Colorado. On March 25, 1987, Marion was pardoned posthumously by the State of Nebraska on the 100th anniversary of his hanging.[8]
1886, May 4 Oscar Neebe Haymarket affair Chicago, Illinois 15 years in prison 7 years Yes
Neebe was not present at the Haymarket Square on the day of the bombing, and stated that he was not even aware it had happened until he was told about it the following day. He was arrested because of his association with the defendants. At trial, the evidence against Neebe was particularly weak, mostly based on his political views and that he had attended socialist meetings, was associated with Arbeiter-Zeitung, and that a shotgun, a pistol and red flag were found in his home. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned Neebe and two of his co-defendants, having concluded that they were innocent.[9]
1887 Charles Hudspeth Murder of George Watkins* Marion County, Arkansas Death sentence, death by hanging Executed
Hudspeth and Watkins' wife Rebecca were arrested. After lengthy interrogation, Rebecca allegedly made a statement accusing Hudspeth of murdering Watkins to get him out of the way so they could be married. Based on Rebecca's testimony, Hudspeth was convicted and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Harrison, Arkansas, on December 30, 1892. In 1893, Hudspeth's lawyer located the victim alive and well in Kansas.
1894, August 9 George Washington Davis Sabotage of passenger train from trestle, causing 11 deaths Lincoln, Nebraska 10 years Yes
Davis was convicted of causing the 1894 Rock Island railroad wreck, which killed eleven of 33 on a passenger train traveling from Fairbury, Nebraska, to Lincoln. Some survivors claimed to have seen him holding a lantern at the site of the crash, however there was no evidence that Davis had anything to do with the incident. In 1905, Davis was paroled by Nebraska governor John Mickey, citing "grave doubts" as to his involvement in the crash.[10][11][12]
1896 Jack Davis Murder of Daniel Cummings and John Wilson Silver City, Idaho Death sentence, death by hanging 6 years Yes
Davis was convicted of the Deep Creek Murders. He was later pardoned following confessions by James Bower and Jeff Gray.[13][14][15]

1900s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1900 Caleb Powers Murder of William Goebel Frankfort, Kentucky 8 years Yes
Powers was convicted of complicity in the assassination of Governor William Goebel in 1900. The prosecution charged that Powers was the mastermind, having a political opponent killed so that his boss, Governor William S. Taylor, could stay in office. He was sentenced to prison. An appeals court overturned Powers' conviction, though Powers was tried three more times, resulting in two convictions and a hung jury. Governor Augustus E. Willson pardoned Powers in 1908. Powers had served 8 years in prison. While in prison, Powers authored the book My Own Story in 1905.
February 11, 1906 Ed Johnson Rape of Nevada Taylor Chattanooga, Tennessee Execution by hanging Lynched prior to execution Posthumously exonerated
Ed Johnson, a black man, was convicted for the rape of a white woman and sentenced to death. Taylor's initial description of the man was very vague. She told police she didn't get a good look at him and was unsure if the assailant was black or white. After the reward was increased to $375, another man in town told police he saw Johnson at the scene and Taylor subsequently identified Johnson as her rapist. Johnson was beaten by sheriff Joseph Shipp to extract a confession, but maintained his innocence. On March 3, 1906, Johnson appealed the conviction, alleging that his constitutional rights had been violated. Specifically, he alleged that all blacks had been excluded from the jury considering his case, and that he should have been granted a change of venue, and a continuance. He was granted a stay of execution and an appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The decision was communicated to Shipp who moved most prisoners to other floors of the jail and sent home all but one deputy, presumably to assist the lynch mob. Johnson was pulled from his cell by a group of men and hanged. Following the lynching, Shipp publicly blamed the Supreme Court's interference with local courts for Johnson's death.

The Supreme Court charged Shipp, his chief jailer, and several members of the lynch mob with contempt of court on the basis that Sheriff Shipp, with full knowledge of the court's ruling, nonetheless chose willfully to ignore his duties to protect a prisoner in his care to allow Johnson to be executed. United States v. Shipp is the only criminal trial of the Supreme Court in its entire history. It is considered an important decision in that it affirmed the right of the Supreme Court to intervene in state criminal cases.

Shipp and several of his co-defendants were convicted and sentenced to terms from 2–3 months in federal prison.[16]

1910s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1912 Bill Wilson Murder of his wife Jenny Wilson and their one-year-old daughter* Blount County, Alabama Life in prison 6 years Yes
Wilson was convicted of murdering his wife and their 19-month-old daughter. Bones presented in court were later discovered to be those of at least four or five people and likely indigenous. He received a formal pardon after his wife and daughter were discovered alive and living in Vincennes, Indiana.
1913 Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin Murder of John Q. Lewis Chester County, South Carolina Death sentence Executed Yes
The brothers were prominent black farmers in Chester County, South Carolina, believed to be the wealthiest blacks in the area. They were executed via the electric chair in 1915 for the murder in 1913 of 75-year-old John Q. Lewis. The Griffin brothers were convicted based on the accusations of another black man, John "Monk" Stevenson, who was known to be a small-time thief. Stevenson, who was found in possession of the victim's pistol, was sentenced to life in prison in exchange for testifying against the brothers. Two other African Americans, Nelson Brice and John Crosby, were executed with the brothers for the same crime. Some in the community believed that the murder might have been the result of Lewis's suspected sexual relationship with 22-year-old Anna Davis. Davis and her husband were never tried, possibly for fear of a "mixed race relationship" scandal.

Over 100 people petitioned Gov. Richard Manning to commute the brothers' sentence. The signatories included prominent people including Blackstock's mayor, a sheriff, two trial jurors and the grand jury foreman. Nevertheless, they were sent to the electric chair.[17]

Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin were pardoned in October 2009 after Tom Joyner sought this after learning they were his great-uncles.[18]

1913 Leo Frank Murder of Mary Phagan Marietta, Georgia Death Sentence, later commuted 2 years, killed by lynch mob Posthumously pardoned
1916 Thomas Mooney Preparedness Day Bombing San Francisco, California Death Sentence 22 years Yes
Mooney filed a writ of habeas corpus which was heard by the United States Supreme Court in 1937. Even though he presented evidence that his conviction was obtained through the use of perjured testimony and that the prosecution had suppressed favorable evidence, his writ was denied because he had not first filed a writ in state court. Nevertheless, his case is important because it helped establish that a conviction based upon false evidence violates due process. Mooney was pardoned in 1939 by Governor Culbert Olson.

1920s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1920 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Murders of Alessandro Berardelli and Frederick Parmenter during an armed robbery Braintree, Massachusetts Death sentences Executed No
In 1977, as the 50th anniversary of the executions approached, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis asked the Office of the Governor's Legal Counsel to report on "whether there are substantial grounds for believing–at least in the light of the legal standards of today–that Sacco and Vanzetti were unfairly convicted and executed" and to recommend appropriate action.[19] The resulting "Report to the Governor in the Matter of Sacco and Vanzetti" detailed grounds for doubting that the trial was conducted fairly in the first instance, and argued as well that such doubts were only reinforced by "later-discovered or later-disclosed evidence."[20] The Report questioned prejudicial cross-examination that the trial judge allowed, the judge's hostility, the fragmentary nature of the evidence, and eyewitness testimony that came to light after the trial. It found the judge's charge to the jury troubling for the way it emphasized the defendants' behavior at the time of their arrest and highlighted certain physical evidence that was later called into question.[21] The Report also dismissed the argument that the trial had been subject to judicial review, noting, "the system for reviewing murder cases at the time ... failed to provide the safeguards now present."[22] Based on recommendations of the Office of Legal Counsel, Dukakis declared August 23, 1977, the 50th anniversary of their execution, as Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day.[23] His proclamation, issued in English and Italian, stated that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names."[24][25][26][27][28]

1930s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1931, March 24 Scottsboro Boys Rape of Ruby Bates and Victoria Price Paint Rock, Alabama Varied, 8 were sentenced to death Varied Yes
Following an altercation with a group of white teens, nine black teenagers were accused of rape by two women. Eventually, one of the women admitted to fabricating the story. The Scottsboro case is considered a landmark case, leading to the prohibition on all white juries.
1932, December 9 Joseph Majczek and Theodore Marcinkiewicz Murder of Chicago police officer William D. Lundy Chicago, Illinois 99 years each 11 years Yes
1936, August 26 Joe Arridy Murder of Dorothy Drain Pueblo, Colorado Death sentence Executed Yes
Arridy was convicted and executed for the 1936 killing of 15-year-old Dorothy Drain with a hatchet. In 2011, Gov. Bill Ritter posthumously pardoned Arridy. Ritter said an overwhelming amount of evidence suggests Arridy didn't commit the crime and was likely not in Pueblo at the time of the crime.[29]

1940s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
March 23, 1944 George Stinney Murder of Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8 Alcolu, South Carolina Death by electric chair Executed Yes
Stinney, who was black, was convicted by an all-white jury of the first-degree murder of two pre-teen white girls. No physical evidence existed in the case, and the sole evidence against Stinney was the circumstantial fact the girls had spoken with Stinney and his sister shortly before their murder and the testimony of three police officers who claimed that Stinney had confessed to the murders.[30][31] On December 17, 2014, Stinney's conviction was vacated by circuit court judge Carmen Mullen, effectively clearing his name.[32]

1950s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1957, June 3 Jack McCullough Murder of Maria Ridulph Sycamore, Illinois 5 years in prison 1 year Yes
Prosecution in 2012 was based on hearsay evidence and FBI files proving he was nowhere near the scene at the time were excluded from evidence.[33]

1960s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1961, June 3 Clarence Earl Gideon Breaking and Entering, Petty Theft Bay Harbor, Florida 5 years in prison 2 years Yes
Gideon had been denied an attorney at the time of his first trial. At the time, the State of Florida did not have Public Defenders in all judicial circuits and the law did not require the court to appoint an attorney to the indigent. After conviction, he hand wrote a petition for writ of certiorari to the US Supreme Court. The justices considered the matter as Gideon v. Wainwright and ruled unanimously that Gideon's rights had been violated. Upon retrial with an attorney, it was determined that the primary prosecution witness had actually committed the crime. The case was the basis of the book and film Gideon's Trumpet.
1966, June 17 Rubin Carter Murder of James Oliver, Fred Nauyoks, and Hazel Tanis Paterson, New Jersey Life in prison 19 years No
Carter was a professional boxer who was twice convicted of the triple murder along with his friend John Artis. Carter's second conviction
1967, October 25 James Joseph Richardson Murder of his seven children by pesticide poisoning Arcadia, Florida Death sentence 21 years Yes
James Richardson was convicted of poisoning his children and received the death penalty.[34] It is considered likely that a neighbor, Bessie Reece, committed the murders. She subsequently developed Alzheimer's disease and confessed more than 100 times to her caregivers at the nursing home.[34][35] At the time of the crime, Bessie was on parole for the poisoning death of her husband.[35] Reece was not investigated thoroughly at the time despite being the last known person to see the children alive, the last to feed them, and she initially denied going into the apartment.[34][35]

1970s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1974 Gregory Bright Murder New Orleans, Louisiana Life imprisonment 27.5 years
Bright was convicted of second-degree murder in 1974 at the age of 20.[36] After several years of appeals, Mr. Bright was granted a new trial in 2001 on the grounds that the prosecution had withheld evidence from the defense in his previous trial. On June 24, 2003, after 27 1/2 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, Mr. Bright and Earl Truvia were both released after the Orleans Parish district attorney dismissed all charges.

Bright speaks around the country about his wrongful incarceration and life since prison. In 2010, Mr. Bright joined Innocence Project New Orleans as Assistant Education and Outreach Director.[37]

1974, February 3 Delbert Tibbs Murder of Terry Milroy Fort Myers, Florida Death sentence 3 years No
Teenager Cynthia Nadeau was raped and her boyfriend, Terry Milroy, was murdered by a man who picked them up while hitchhiking. Despite his alibi, Tibbs was convicted on the basis of a false eye witness identification and an alleged confession to a fellow inmate.[38] Pete Seeger wrote and recorded an anti-death penalty song named after Tibbs.[39] In 2011, Tibbs was instrumental in the decision of Governor Pat Quinn to repeal the death penalty in Illinois.[40][41][42]
1974, May 15 Michael Lloyd Self Murders of Rhonda Johnson and Sharon Shaw Galveston, Texas Life imprisonment Life No
Teenagers Rhonda Johnson and Sharon Shaw disappeared while at a beach in Galveston, Texas on August 4, 1971; their remains were found in a marsh in January 1972. Though Michael Lloyd Self, a local sex offender, wrote a confession, he contested that he was forced by police officers to do so at gunpoint. Two of the officers who took his confession were arrested for numerous bank robberies in 1976 and imprisoned for 30–50 year sentences. Self was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975. In 1998, Edward Howard Bell, a convicted serial killer, admitted to the murders, though no direct connection could be made. Self died in prison in 2000 of cancer. Numerous investigators, a Galveston police officer, and a former Harris County prosecutor all protested Self's conviction.[43]
1975 Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman Murder of Harold Franks Cleveland, Ohio Death sentence 39 years Yes
Jackson and Bridgeman were sentenced to death for the killing of Harold Franks, a money order salesman based on the evidence of a 12-year-old boy, Eddie Vernon, who was in a school bus a block away from where the murder took place. There were no other witnesses nor evidence linking the accused to the crime. In a signed affidavit in 2014, Vernon admitted he had lied (he had never seen the killing) after being coerced by the police. Jackson had escaped the death sentence because of a paperwork error. Bridgeman's sentence had been commuted to life. Jackson and Bridgeman were held in prison longer than any other innocent prisoner.[44]
July 1976 Lewis Fogle Rape and murder of Deann Katherine Long Indiana County, Pennsylvania Life without parole 34 years No
Fogle was convicted in 1982 of raping and killing 15 year old Deann Katherine Long who had died in 1976. DNA tests on the semen in the girl's body proved he was not the rapist. In August 2015, a Senior Judge vacated his conviction. The local district attorney joined in the motion to vacate his conviction and Fogle was released.[45]
1976, November 27 Randall Dale Adams Murder of Robert W. Wood Dallas, Texas Death sentence 12 years No
Adams was convicted of killing Dallas police officer Robert Wood. In 1988, the film The Thin Blue Line, which was based on the case, was released. Public outcry over the film prompted officials to take action in the case. He was released in 1989.[46]
1977 Dewey Bozella Murder of Emma Kapser Poughkeepsie, N.Y. 20 years to life 26 years No
Bozella was accused of forcing 6 feet of cloth down 92-year-old Emma Kapser's throat with an ice pick. He was convicted on the basis of testimony from 2 jailhouse informants. DNA testing was not available because evidence from the crime had been destroyed post conviction.[47] Bozella's first conviction was overturned because the prosecutor removed all African Americans from the jury. He was tried again in December 1990. At the second trial, one witness recanted his prior statements, but he was still convicted a second time. The other witness also later recanted. It was later uncovered that the prosecution failed to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense, including a fingerprint recovered from the scene linked to a felon. In 2009, his conviction was overturned and all charges were dropped.[48]
March 14, 1977 Brian Baldwin Murder of Naomi Rolin Monroe, Alabama Death Sentence Executed No
Naomi Rolin was a white girl of 16 who was raped and murdered. Ed Horsely confessed to the murder which he said he alone had committed and was executed. Nevertheless the police charged Baldwin with the murder based on his confession which Baldwin said was extracted under beatings and an electric cattle-prod. There was no forensic evidence connecting Baldwin with the crime and the murder was committed by a left handed person whereas Baldwin was right handed.[49] All evidence was lost or destroyed after the execution.
1977, July 9 Gary Dotson Rape of Cathleen Webb Chicago, Illinois 25 to 50 years' imprisonment for rape, 25 to 50 aggravated kidnapping to be served concurrently approximately 6 years Yes
Sixteen-year-old Cathleen Crowell Webb made up a rape allegation to explain to her foster parents her pregnancy concerns after having had consensual sex with her boyfriend the previous day. After a religious conversion, Webb confessed to her pastor that she had wrongly accused Dotson and began efforts to get him released but the prosecution refused to take any action, so they went to the media. The resulting public sympathy led the authorities to review the case. Eventually he was cleared via DNA testing and released.
1978, May 11 The Ford Heights Four, Verneal Jimerson, Dennis Williams, Kenneth Adams and Willie Rainge Rape of Carol Schmal and murder of Schmal and Lawrence Lionberg Ford Heights, Chicago, Illinois Death sentence for Jimerson and Williams, 75 years for Adams and life for Rainge 18 years for Williams, Adams and Rainge. 11 years for Jimerson Yes
The Ford Heights Four were convicted based on false forensic testimony, coercion of a prosecution witness, perjury by another witness who had a incentive to lie, and prosecution and police misconduct. Witness and DNA evidence uncovered in an investigation by three female journalism students at Northwestern University cleared the Ford Heights Four and led to the arrest and conviction of the real killers.[50]
1978, August 31 Joseph Sledge Murder of Josephine and Aileen Davis Elizabethtown, North Carolina Two consecutive life sentences 36 years Yes
Sledge escaped from prison during a 4-year sentence for misdemeanor larceny and was recaptured days later. During this time, two women were killed in their home in Elizabethtown, North Carolina. Sledge was convicted of murdering the two women based on the testimony of two inmates that claimed that Sledge had admitted to the crime while in prison the next year. One of the informants later recanted his testimony, saying that he had lied due to police coercion and a reward of early parole and $3000 prize money. The other informant received similar special treatment. Mitochondrial DNA testing of hairs found at the crime scene believed to be from the killer did not match Sledge and he was declared innocent in January 2015 after serving over 36 years for the crime.[51]
1979, November 23 Cornelius Dupree Aggravated Robbery and rape a 26-year-old woman during a carjacking (not charged for the rape) Dallas, Texas 75 years 30 years Yes
Dupree was convicted on the basis of eyewitness identification. He was later exonerated by The Innocence Project via DNA testing of pubic hair from the rape.

1980s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1989, Jan 4 Debbie Tucker Loveless and her common-law husband, John Harvey Miller Murder and torture of their daughter, 4-year-old April Loveless Emory, Texas Life in prison 4 years Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set aside the convictions
Set aside after reviewing DNA and other forensic evidence. Contributing factors to the decision to set aside the conviction include: False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense.

"A state petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed and on April 3, 1993, following a four-day hearing, Loveless and Miller were granted a new trial because of the prosecution's failure to turn over the medical records, and because of ineffective representation by their defense attorneys.

Loveless and Miller were released from prison on December 23, 1993 after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court decision to vacate the conviction.

On May 2, 1994, the charges were dismissed. Loveless and Miller filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Rains County prosecutors Alwin Smith and Frank Long and Rains County Sheriff Richard Wilson in 1995. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2001."[52]

1980, May 6 Joyce Ann Brown Murder and aggravated robbery Dallas, Texas 25 years to life in prison 9 years, 5 months, 24 days Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set aside her conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct. Her record was expunged in 1994.
Brown was convicted of robbery in 1980 despite the rental car used in the crime being leased to a different person named Joyce Ann Brown who lived in Denver, Colorado, and she had strong alibi of being at work. The conviction was based on a) eyewitness identification, b) testimony of a cellmate that she confessed. Following investigations by 60 Minutes, the Dallas Morning News, and Centurion Ministries, an appeal was filed and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set aside her conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct for not revealing that the prosecution witness had been convicted of perjury, and it was not revealed that she received a reduced sentence after testifying.
1980, October 12 Steve Titus Rape of Nancy Von Roper Seattle, Washington N/A Exonerated following conviction, but prior to sentencing Yes
Titus was convicted of the 1980 rape of a hitchhiking teenager. Seattle Times reporter Paul Henderson began investigating the case after a similar rape was committed a few months after Titus's conviction. His investigation of the case led to Titus's conviction being overturned and the charges dropped. Henderson won the Pulitzer Prize for his articles on the case.
1980, August 23 Clarence Brandley Murder of 16-year-old Cheryl Dee Fergeson at school following a volleyball game Conroe, Texas Death sentence 9 years No
Brandley was working as a janitor at Conroe High School[53] when 16-year-old Fergeson was raped and murdered in the loft above the auditorium. A foreign blood sample was found on Fergeson's shirt that did not match either Fergeson's or Brandley's blood type. Following conviction, Brandley's defense team discovered that several pieces exculpatory evidence were not disclosed. Semen was found at the scene, but was destroyed without being tested. A caucasian pubic hair was found on the body; Brandley is African-American. Also missing were photographs taken of Brandley on the day of the crime showing that he was not wearing the belt that the prosecution claimed had been the murder weapon. The prosecution received statements implicating two other men in the crime, but failed to disclose them. One of the janitors went to police following Brandley's arrest. He told police he saw another janitor leading the victim up the stairs. He alleges that he was threatened with arrest if he didn't implicate Brandley at trial.
1980s Kern County child abuse cases Satanic ritual sex abuse Kern County, California Varied Varied
The Kern County child abuse cases are a notable example of day care sexual abuse hysteria of the 1980s.[54] The cases involved claims of pedophile-sex-ring-performed Satanic ritual abuse, with as many as 60 children testifying they had been abused. At least 36 people were convicted and most of them spent years imprisoned. Thirty-four convictions were overturned on appeal. Two convicts died in prison.[55][56][57] A documentary titled Witch Hunt was produced and released in 2007. MSNBC also did a documentary on John Stoll and the Kern County cases. In 2009, John Stoll sued Kern County and was awarded $5 million in compensation.[58]

Prior to the start of the Kern County child abuse cases, several local social workers had attended a training seminar that foregrounded satanic ritual abuse as a major element in child sexual abuse, and had used the now-debunked memoir Michelle Remembers as training material.[59]

1980, December 21 Claus von Bülow Attempted murder of his wife Sunny von Bülow Newport, Rhode Island 30 years in prison 3 years No
Von Bulow was convicted of attempted murder on the theory that he injected his wife with insulin, sending her into a coma. She was comatose for 28 years until her death in 2008. His conviction was overturned and he was retried. His defense team hired a number of world-class experts who argued that Sunny's coma was caused by a combination of oral medications, alcohol, and chronic health conditions. Also entered into evidence was a hospital admission only three weeks prior to her irreversible coma where she ingested at least 73 aspirin tablets. The defense argued that this act demonstrated Sunny's mental state was such that she once again ingested an overdose of drugs. They also argued that the presence of insulin on the tip of the needle found near Sunny suggested that it had been dipped in the insulin, but not injected, as injecting it would've wiped the needle clean. He was acquitted.[60]
1981, Summer Thomas Martin Thompson Rape and murder of Ginger Fleischli Laguna Beach, California Executed 6 years No
Thompson was convicted and executed for the rape and murder of Ginger Fleischli, a crime for which he is widely believed to be innocent.[61][62][63] He was mainly convicted on the evidence of two notorious snitches who claimed Thompson had admitted committing the crime in jail. The prosecution did not inform the judge or the defense that they had also charged and later convicted another person of the crime.[61]
1981, September 18 Raymond Towler Assault of a 12-year-old boy and rape of 11-year-old girl in a wooded area Cleveland, Ohio Multiple: 12 years to life in prison, 7 to 25 years, and 5 to 25 years 27 years Yes
Towler was exonerated by DNA testing
1982 Anthony Porter Murder of Marilyn Green and her fiance Jerry Hillard Chicago, Illinois Death Sentence 17 years Yes
In 1998, students in a journalism course taught by Northwestern University professor David Protess investigated the crime as part of a class assignment for the Medill Innocence Project. The students gathered evidence exposing serious flaws in the prosecution. A witness recanted, saying that Chicago police had "threatened, harassed and intimidated" him into accusing Porter. Another student noted that the shot had been fired by a left-handed shooter; Porter was right-handed. Inez Jackson, the estranged wife of Alstory Simon, came forward and said that she had been with Simon when he killed Hilliard in retaliation for "skimming money from drug deals". Four days later, Simon himself confessed to the crime on videotape. Protess and the students came forward with the information. Porter was released. Simon and his wife later recanted.

In October 2014, Illinois State's Attorney Anita Alvarez decided to release Simon, stating that David Protess, a former Northwestern University journalism professor whose students initially investigated the murders and private investigator Paul Ciolino had used coercive tactics that were "unacceptable by law enforcement standards". Among the charges that Alvarez made was that Ciolino used an actor to falsely implicate Simon. She also criticized Simon's attorney, Jack Rimland, who represented Simon at the suggestion of Ciolino.[64]

1982 Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz Murder of Debra Carter Ada, Oklahoma Death sentence and life in prison, respectively 11 years Yes
Carter was murdered in her apartment following a night out with friends at a local bar. Evidence against the men included expert testimony in hair analysis, which is now regarded as unreliable. Ada resident Glen Gore testified against both Williamson and Fritz that Carter had complained to a friend that Williamson "made her nervous". Gore was later connected to the murder by DNA testing and convicted.[65] He is serving life without parole.[66][67] The case served as the inspiration for John Grisham's The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.
1982, June Earl Washington Jr. Murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams Culpeper, Virginia Death sentence 17 Years Yes
Washington, a farmworker who is mildly mentally retarded, was exonerated in 2000 by DNA tests. He was convicted solely on the basis of coerced confessions during which he seemed to have little knowledge of the crime, the victim's appearance, or the location of the crime.[68]
1982, October 21 Johnny Briscoe Rape and robbery St. Louis, Missouri 45 years 23 years Yes
Briscoe was tried for a 1983 rape and robbery. After the rape, the perpetrator smoked a cigarette, leaving the butt behind. While at the crime scene, the victim asked the perpetrator for his name. He told her his name was John Briscoe. Briscoe's photo was shown to the victim. A week later, she picked him out of a lineup in which he was the only one wearing a prison jumpsuit; the other men were wearing civilian clothing. Briscoe was convicted on the basis of a cross racial eyewitness identification and hair analysis of hairs found at the crime scene, both of which are known to have a high degree of unreliability. In 2004, the cigarette butt was found from the crime scene matching another man named Larry Smith. prior to the identification of Smith via DNA, Briscoe and Smith were serving time together in the same prison. Briscoe had heard rumors that Smith was the perpetrator and confronted him about it. Smith denied that he was involved. It is unknown why Smith used Briscoe's name during the crime.[69]
1983, August Willie Earl Green Murder of Denise Walker during a home invasion Los Angeles, California 33 years to life 25 years No
Denise Walker was killed during a robbery at the home of her boyfriend, Willie Finley. One burglar struck Finley on the head as he was returning from a store, and then brought him into the house where he ordered Walker to let in a second burglar. Walker's mother told police that Willie Green had robbed Denise a year earlier. Finley identified Green in a line up and he was convicted. Green sought help from Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey-based wrongful conviction advocacy group. In 2004, during their reinvestigation, Finley recanted his testimony. He said that he was high on crack at the time of the attack and that his eyesight had been impaired by the blow to the head. He told investigators that he did not identify Green until police suggested Green as the attacker and told him of the earlier robbery. Based on Finley's recantation, his conviction was vacated in March 2008, and prosecutors decided not to retry him.[70]
1983, September 13 Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon Murder of Delbert Baker Auburndale, Florida Death sentence 17 years No
Melendez had an alibi and was convicted largely on testimony of David Falcon, who had a longstanding grudge against Melendez. Witnesses said Falcon had threatened to kill Melendez at some point prior to Melendez allegedly confessing to him. His appeal was denied three times when defense lawyers discovered a taped confession made by Vernon James. In light of the new evidence, Justice Barbara Fleischer determined that Melendez was entitled to a new trial. The state of Florida declined to prosecute a second time since the key witness at the original trial, David Falcon, was now dead and another witness for the prosecution had since recanted his testimony.
1983, November John Gordon Purvis Murder of Susan Hamwi Fort Lauderdale, Florida life in prison 10 years
Police received a tip that a man named Robert Wayne Beckett Sr. may have been involved in the murder. Eventually a new set of detectives investigated Beckett, who admitted to the murder for hire of Susan Hamwi on the instruction of Paul Hamwi, her ex-husband. He named Paul Serio as an accomplice.[71]
1983, November Glenn Ford Murder of Isadore Rozeman Shreveport, Louisiana Death By Electrocution 30 years Yes
An all-white jury delivered a guilty verdict without any physical evidence directly linking Ford to the crime, with the inexperienced public defenders unable to secure any witnesses. Evidentiary hearings in 2004 and 2005 found the state failed to disclose exculpatory evidence. The state actively suppressed evidence from before the trial that showed two confidential witnesses corroborating Ford's story that he became involved in the crime after the murders, and that another man was in possession of the murder weapon after the crime. In 2013, the State notified Ford's counsel that a confidential informant for the Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office stated that another man confessed to the murder. Ford was exonerated and released in 2014.[72]
1983-1984 Anthony Capozzi Rape of two women along a bike path Buffalo, New York 11–35 years in prison 21 years Yes
Capozzi spent 21 years in prison maintaining his innocence when in 2006, a woman was killed along a bike path in a Buffalo suburb. Investigators noticed similarities to a number of other rapes and murders in the area and believed they were committed by one individual. DNA testing implicated Altemio Sanchez, who would eventually plead guilty to the 2006 murder and two others. At least eight crimes were eventually linked to Sanchez via DNA analysis. During the investigation, a detective noticed that one of Capozzi's alleged victims testified that she saw her rapist driving several days later and she copied down his license plate information. When the police initially investigated the tip, they found the owner of the vehicle, but he had an alibi. He was reinterviewed in 2006 and admitted that he lent the car to his nephew, Altemio Sanchez, that day.

Authorities subpoenaed the hospital where the rape victims were initially treated for evidence from the rape kits. It was believed that the evidence had been lost or destroyed, but eventually it was found and tested, excluding Capozzi and implicating Sanchez.[73]

1984 Employees of Fells Acres Day Care Satanic ritual sex abuse Malden, Massachusetts Varied
1984 Bernard Baran Sexual abuse of children Pittsfield, Massachusetts Three life sentences 21 years No
Baran's conviction is cited as an example of the day care sex abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 1990s as well as a case of homophobia. The Baran case is the subject of the documentary film Freeing Bernie Baran.
1984 Leroy Orange Murder of Ricardo Pedro, Michelle Jointer, Renee Coleman, and Coleman’s 10-year-old son, Tony Chicago, Illinois Death sentence 19 years Yes
Leroy Orange was arrested along with his half-brother Leonard Kidd. He was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend, Renee Coleman, and four other people on the basis of a confession allegedly obtained through torture methods such as beating, suffocation, and electroshock. He was pardoned in 2006. Kidd's death sentence was commuted to life in prison. He maintains his innocence and contends that his confession was elicited through torture as well.[74]
1984 Kirk Bloodsworth Murder of Dawn Hamilton Baltimore, Maryland Two life terms, consecutively 8 years Yes
Bloodsworth was convicted on the basis of mistaken eyewitness identification of the murder of Dawn Hamilton, who was 9 years old at the time. He was exonerated after DNA testing excluded him. The Innocence Project established the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, a program that helps states defray the costs of post-conviction DNA testing.[75]
1984 Darryl Hunt Murder of Deborah Sykes Winston-Salem, North Carolina Life in prison 19.5 years
Hunt was convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony. He was later cleared by DNA testing.
1984, January 3 Thomas Haynesworth Series of rapes Richmond, Virginia 84 years 27 years Yes
Haynesworth was arrested at the age of 18 in 1984 after a woman identified him as her attacker. He was convicted of a series of violent rapes in Richmond, Virginia, now believed to have been committed by a neighbor who resembled Haynesworth. In 2009, new state laws and procedures allowed for DNA testing, which was not available in the 1980s, and semen collected from the first attack implicated the neighbor.

The case, which The Washington Post called "one of the state's most extraordinary legal cases",[76] utilized DNA testing and new state laws that allowed possibly innocent convicts to present new evidence.

1984, December 6 John Thompson Murder and carjacking New Orleans, Louisiana Death sentence plus 49 years 18 years Yes
1985, February 5 "Beatrice Six" Murder of Helen Wilson Beatrice, Nebraska Varies Varies Yes
Thomas Winslow, Joseph White, Ada JoAnn Taylor, Kathy Gonzalez, James Dean and Debra Shelden were pardoned in 2008 after DNA evidence from the crime scene identified Bruce Allen Smith. Smith died in 1992.[77]
1985, February 25 Anthony Ray Hinton Murder and robbery of John Davidson and Thomas Wayne Vason Birmingham, Alabama Death Nearly 30 years Yes
Hinton was sentenced to death in 1985 for two murders he did not commit. The US Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that his defense lawyer had been deficient. Prosecutors admitted that the bullets found at the scene did not match Hinton's gun; Hinton's conviction was thrown out by a Circuit Court Judge in April 2015 and he was freed.[78]
1985, April Wee Care Nursery School employee Margaret Kelly Michaels Satanic ritual sexual abuse Maplewood, New Jersey 47 years in prison 5 years No
In April 1985, a nurse taking a rectal temperature from a 4-year-old boy reported to authorities that he said, "That's what my teacher does to me at nap time at school." Social workers and therapists collected testimony from 51 children from the day care center.[79] During the interviews, children made accusations such as that Michaels forced them to lick peanut butter off her genitals, that she penetrated their rectums and vaginas with knives, forks and other objects, that she forced them to eat cakes made from human excrement and that she made them play duck, duck, goose while naked. Michaels was convicted of 115 counts of sexual abuse.[80][81]

In March 1993, Michaels' conviction was overturned.[80] The New Jersey Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision and declared "the interviews of the children were highly improper and utilized coercive and unduly suggestive methods."[82] A three-judge panel ruled she had been denied a fair trial because "the prosecution of the case had relied on testimony that should have been excluded because it improperly used an expert's theory, called the child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, to establish guilt."[83]

1985, July 29 Steven Avery Rape of 36-year-old Penny Ann Beerntsen Two Rivers, Wisconsin 32 years 18 years Yes
Penny Ann Beerntsen was jogging along Lake Michigan when she was grabbed from behind, dragged into a wooded area and raped. Despite having an alibi, Avery was convicted on the basis of a visual identification by the victim and visual hair analysis. In April 2002, DNA testing of 13 pubic hairs recovered from Beerntsen excluded Avery. The DNA matched a man named Gregory Allen, who bore a striking resemblance to Avery. Avery was exonerated and released. As a result of the case, Wisconsin made changes to their eyewitness protocol. Avery also filed a civil suit for wrongful conviction against Manitowoc County, Wisconsin and some county officials, seeking $36 million in damages.[84][84][85]

On December 18, 2015 Netflix released a documentary that covers both of Avery's convictions. This 10-episode documentary titled Making a Murderer was filmed over 10 years.[86]

1985 Tim Cole Rape of a classmate, Michele Mallin Lubbock, Texas 25 years in prison 14 years (died in prison) Yes
Cole was convicted of rape on basis of a visual identification by the victim.[87] Among other things, Mallin told police that the rapist smoked during the rape. However, Cole never smoked because of his severe asthma. He died in prison on December 2, 1999, from an asthma attack. Another man, Jerry Wayne Johnson, confessed to the rape in 2007. DNA evidence later confirmed that the rape was committed by Johnson.[88] Cole was posthumously exonerated; the first posthumous DNA exoneration in the history of the state of Texas.[89]

Johnson confirmed in court that he was the rapist and asked the victim and Cole's family to forgive him. "It's been on my heart to express my sincerest sorrow and regret and ask to be forgiven," said Johnson, who is serving life in prison for two other 1985 rapes. However, Johnson cannot be charged in the Mallin case because the statute of limitations has expired.[90][91]

1986 Michael Morton Murder of his wife Christine Morton Williamson County, Texas Life in prison 25 years Yes
Morton was exonerated in 2011 after DNA tests linked another man, Mark Alan Norwood, to the murder. Norwood was subsequently convicted of Christine's murder. He also is a suspect in the 1988 murder of Debra Baker in her Austin home. Both women were beaten to death in their beds.[92] The prosecutor in the case was charged with contempt after it was discovered that he withheld evidence from the defense team. He gave up his law license and served 5 days in jail as part of a plea bargain.[93][94][95]
1986, June 30 Kenny Richey Murder of Cynthia Collins* Columbus Grove, Ohio Death sentence 21 years No
Two-year-old Cynthia Collins perished in an apartment fire while her mother was away. Her mother told police that Richey was babysitting. After partying with Cynthia's mother, Richey agreed to keep an eye on the girl in exchange for a place to sleep for the night. Richey was able to escape when the fire broke out, but Cynthia died from smoke inhalation. He was convicted on a number of charges related to starting the fire. The scientific evidence presented at trial to prove this was not accidental was highly disputed and his conviction was eventually overturned. In lieu of taking the case to trial again, prosecutors had offered to accept a "no contest" plea to attempted involuntary manslaughter, child endangering and breaking and entering in exchange for release. Although his conviction still stands, the case gained widespread attention across Europe. The European Parliament approved a resolution urging that Richey's life be spared, and Pope John Paul II made an appeal on his behalf. Amnesty International described his case as "the most compelling case of innocence we have come across on death row".[96][97]
1987, January 22 and February 16 Glen Woodall Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, Kidnapping, Robbery Barboursville, West Virginia 2 life terms without parole and 203 to 335 years, served consecutively 5 years Yes
Two victims in two separate incidents were abducted, raped, and robbed. The assailant wore a ski mask, but both victims noted a few characteristics, such as the perpetrator was uncircumcised. Woodall was convicted on circumstantial evidence, including testimony that he shared the same blood type, similar body and beard hair, voice identification, and a partial visual identification by victim two, and the fact that Woodall was uncircumcised.

Woodall was granted DNA testing in 1988 on semen samples recovered from the victims—the first ever admitted as evidence at the state level in the United States—which excluded Woodall and the conviction was thrown out.

Woodall was the first person to be exonerated after being convicted due to testimony by lab technician Fred Zain. Woodall's defense team conducted its own tests on the evidence, which determined that Zain had used flawed blood-typing methods in tying the semen to Woodall. It further appeared that Zain had initially determined a piece of hair was unidentifiable pubic hair, but later changed his identification to hair from Woodall's beard.[98][99] Woodall subsequently sued the state for false imprisonment and won a $1 million settlement.[100]

At the request of the state police, Kanawha County Prosecutor William Forbes began a criminal investigation. Forbes was so disturbed by what he found that he asked the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to appoint a special judge and a panel of lawyers and scientists to investigate the serology department.[99] On November 4, 1993; Senior Circuit Court Judge James Holliday issued a report finding that Zain had engaged in a staggering litany of misconduct and outright fraud. According to the report, Zain had misstated evidence, falsified lab results and reported scientifically implausible results that may have resulted in as many as 134 people being wrongfully convicted. Holliday found that Zain's misconduct was so egregious that any testimony offered by Zain should be presumed as prima facie "invalid, unreliable, and inadmissible". It also found serious deficiencies in the serology division's quality-control procedures. The Supreme Court unanimously accepted Holliday's report on November 12, calling Zain's actions "egregious violations of the right of a defendant to a fair trial" and a "corruption of our legal system".[99][100][101] West Virginia paid out a total of $6.5 million to settle lawsuits by people who had been wrongfully convicted due to Zain.[102][103][104]

1987, February 11 Tim Masters Murder of Peggy Hettrick Fort Collins, Colorado Life in prison 9 years Yes
Masters was a sophomore in high school at the time of the murder. He was convicted largely on the basis of graphic drawings by Masters portraying violent scenes. He was later eliminated via DNA testing. In 2008, special prosecutors assigned to the case agreed that critical information was not turned over to the original defense team.[105][106] Rather, the DNA results pointed to Hettrick's sometime boyfriend.[107] In 2008 a Colorado judge vacated Masters' conviction and ordered him released immediately.
1987 Levon "Bo" Jones Murder of Leamon Grady Duplin County, North Carolina Death sentence 14 years No
Lovely Lorden, the sole witness against Jones, admitted in an affidavit that she "was certain that Bo did not have anything to do with Mr. Grady's murder" and that she did not know what happened the night Grady was murdered. His conviction was overturned in 2006 and he was released.[108]
1986 Santiago Ventura Morales Murder of Ramiro Lopez Fidel Sandy, Oregon 10 years to life 5 years No
At trial, he was provided a Spanish interpreter, despite the fact that as a Mixteco, Spanish was not his native language. He maintained his innocence and several jurors later had second thoughts about the conviction and began advocating that he be released from prison. The lack of an appropriate interpreter and other deficiencies in his trial led to his conviction being overturned as well as evidence that pointed to another person.[109] In 1995, the state of Oregon passed a law that requires testing and certification of court interpreters as a result of the Morales case.[110]
1988, January 22 James Calvin Tillman Rape Hartford, Connecticut 45 years 16 years Yes
Accused and found guilty of rape, was released after DNA tests proved he was not the culprit.
1988, September 7 Martin Tankleff Murder of his parents Seymour and Arlene Tankleff Long Island, New York Two terms of 25 years to life 17 years Yes
Tankleff's parents were murdered while the 17-year-old Tankleff was sleeping in the home. He was convicted on the basis of a false confession given during an extended interrogation. His convictions were overturned in 2007 after his defense attorney presented an alternative scenario involving Seymour's business partner, to whom he owed money, and three former convicts, one of whom confessed to being the getaway driver.
1988, November 8 Joseph Burrows Murder of William Dulan, an 88-year-old retired farmer Kankakee, Illinois Death sentence 6 years
Several hours after the murder, a man named Chuck Gullion attempted to cash one of Dulan's checks at a local bank. Gullion was arrested along with 32-year-old Gayle Potter. Potter admitted to the killing, but implicated two others: Burrows and Ralph Frye, 22, a mildly retarded friend of Burrows.

No physical evidence linked either Burrows or Frye to the crime, and the two men had alibis. After a lengthy interrogation, Frye agreed to a plea deal in exchange for testifying against Burrows. Following Burrows conviction, Frye recanted his testimony to news reporter Peter Rooney, claiming that police had coerced him in exchange for a lesser sentence. Burrows's lawyers discovered a letter written by Potter asking a friend to lie and say that she had seen Burrows drive her to the crime scene. Confronted with the letter, Potter admitted that she had falsely accused the men in part because she mistakenly believed that Burrows had burglarized her trailer.

1989, January Employees at the Little Rascals day care facility Satanic ritual sex abuse Edenton, North Carolina Varied, 7 years to life Varied No
In January, 1989, allegations were made that Bob Kelly had sexually abused a child. A total of 90 children, after many therapy sessions (in some cases up to ten months' worth), also made allegations leading to accusations against dozens besides Kelly and charges against seven adults (Bob and Betsy Kelly, three workers at the day care, a worker at a local Head Start center and the son of a judge). The charges ultimately involved rape, sodomy and fellatio, while other bizarre allegations were also made, including the murder of babies, torture and being thrown into a school of sharks.

During the trial, children were asked to testify about events that had occurred three years previously, with memories "refreshed" in therapy sessions, meetings with the prosecution and repeated discussions with their parents. While the alleged abuse was occurring, no parents noticed anything unusual about their children's behavior to indicate abuse or torture. The eight-month trial against Bob Kelly was the most expensive in North Carolina history, ending in conviction on 99 of 100 charges and twelve consecutive life sentences, though on May 2, 1995 all convictions were reversed in the Court of Appeals.[111][112]

1989, April 19 "Central Park Jogger case": Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Kharey Wise Assault and rape of Trisha Ellen Meili New York, New York Varied Varied Yes
The five boys, who were between the ages of 14-16 at the time, were convicted of the assault and rape of Meili, who was jogging in Central Park. They were convicted on the basis of coerced confessions and faulty scientific evidence. The convictions were vacated in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer serving a life sentence for other crimes, confessed to committing the crime alone and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement in the rape
1989 April 11 Sabrina Butler Murder of her nine-month-old son, Walter Dean Butler* Mississippi Death sentence 5 years
She was convicted of murder and child abuse after her unresponsive son was rushed to the hospital. At retrial, one of Sabrina's neighbors corroborated her account of events and the medical examiner changed his opinion about Walter's cause of death, which he now believed occurred due to a renal condition. Sabrina was acquitted.
1989 August Jeffrey Scott Hornoff Murder of Victoria Cushman Warwick, Rhode Island Life in prison 6 years Yes
Hornoff was a police detective who had an affair with the victim. He was arrested in 1994, and convicted by a jury of first-degree murder in June 1996, despite what seemed a rock solid alibi and no physical evidence linking him to the crime. In November 2002, Todd Barry confessed to the murder. Barry was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2003.[113]
1989 December 2 Debra Jean Milke Murder of Christopher Milke Phoenix, Arizona Death sentence 23 years
Milke was convicted on the basis of an unrecorded, unsigned confession by police officer Armando Saldate. Saldate had a long record of misconduct, including a suspension for taking 'liberties' with a female motorist and then lying about it to his supervisors; four court cases where judges tossed out confessions or indictments because Saldate lied under oath; and four cases where judges suppressed confessions or vacated convictions because Saldate had violated the Fifth Amendment or the Fourth Amendment in the course of interrogations.
1989 September 7 Patricia Stallings Murder of her son Ryan Stallings St Louis, Missouri Life in prison 1 year Yes
Stallings' son Ryan died in 1989 of a mysterious illness believed to be caused by ethylene glycol poisoning--the main ingredient in antifreeze. She was tried and convicted of first degree murder. While in prison, she gave birth to a second son named DJ who was immediately placed in foster care. DJ was soon diagnosed with a disease called methylmalonic acidemia, a condition that presents with symptoms very similar to antifreeze poisoning. Upon reinvestigation, it was discovered that the lab that tested Ryan's blood mistook the propionic acid in the sample for ethylene glycol, since their peaks are very close on the gas chromatograph print out. A professor with St. Louis University saw the case featured on Unsolved Mysteries and did an experiment where he sent blood samples containing propionic acid to a group of commercial labs. Almost half identified the sample as containing ethylene glycol. Stallings was exonerated in 1991.

1990s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
1990 Jeffrey Mark Deskovic Murder of Angela Correa Peekskill, New York 15 years to life 16 years Yes
Deskovic was convicted on the basis of a coerced confession. He claims that during a 7-hour intensive interrogation, detectives fed him details and promised him he wouldn't go to prison if he confessed. Hair and semen samples collected did not match Deskovic, but prosecutors argued that they were from earlier consensual sex and were not related to the murder.[114] The DNA was later matched to a man who is serving time for another Westchester murder.[115]
1991, January 18 Francisco "Franky" Carrillo Murder of Donald Sarpy Los Angeles, California Life in prison 20 years No
Carrillo was convicted on the basis of testimony of six teenage boys who witnessed the murder. He was released after five of the six witnesses recanted; the sixth refused to testify.[116]
1991 Dixmoor 5 Murder of Cateresa Matthews Dixmoor Village, Chicago, Illinois varied varied Yes
Robert Taylor, Jonathan Barr, James Harden, Robert Lee Veal and Shainne Sharp were convicted of the murder. They were between the ages of 14-16 at the time. Three of them confessed after high-pressure police interrogations, and all five were arrested and charged with the crime. Two pleaded guilty and testified against the others in exchange for shorter sentences. Both men have since recanted their testimony. Each received at least 80 years in prison. DNA testing on semen excluded the suspects.[117][118] A convicted sex offender has been identified as the source of the DNA, but his name has yet to be released and he has not been charged. A suit filed by the men alleges police withheld exculpatory evidence, including the DNA, from their defense teams.[119]
1991, December 23 Cameron Todd Willingham Arson deaths of his three children* Corsicana, Texas Death Penalty Executed No
Willingham was convicted and executed for the death of his three children who died in a house fire. The prosecution charged that the fire was caused by arson. He has not been posthumously exonerated, but the case has gained widespread attention as a possible case of wrongful execution. A number of arson experts have decried the results of the original investigation as faulty. In June 2009, five years after Willingham's execution, the State of Texas ordered a re-examination of the case. Dr. Craig Beyler found, "a finding of arson could not be sustained". Beyler said that key testimony from a fire marshal at Willingham's trial was "hardly consistent with a scientific mind-set and is more characteristic of mystics or psychics".[120][121] The Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to discuss the report by Beyler at a meeting on October 2, 2009, but two days before the meeting Texas Governor Rick Perry replaced the chair of the commission and two other members. The new chair canceled the meeting – sparking accusations that Perry was interfering with the investigation and using it for his own political advantage.[122][123] In 2010, a four-person panel of the Texas Forensic Science Commission acknowledged that state and local arson investigators used "flawed science" in determining the blaze had been deliberately set.[124]

In 2011, a documentary film titled Incendiary: The Willingham Case was released.[125]

1991, December 29 Ray Krone Murder of Kim Ancona Maricopa County, Arizona Death penalty, Life in prison 11 years Yes
Krone was convicted twice largely on the basis of bitemark analysis, a science that would later come into question. He was eventually cleared via DNA testing.
1992, April 6 Robert Jones a series of armed robberies, a rape and a murder New Orleans Life in prison 23 years Yes
Jones was convicted largely on eyewitness identification, even though another man was also found guilty of the crimes and the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence. Jones' conviction was eventually overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court and all charges against him were subsequently dropped.
1992, August 17 Juan Rivera Murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker Waukegan, Illinois Life in prison 20 years Yes
Rivera was wrongfully convicted three times for the murder of Staker, who was babysitting at a neighbor's house when she was raped and murdered by an intruder. Swabs were taken of a semen sample, but DNA testing was not performed at the time. Rivera was convicted on the basis of a confession that he claims was given under duress and which contained many factual inconsistencies. He was convicted twice before DNA testing was performed on the swabs taken from the crime scene. DNA testing excluded Rivera from being the source of the semen. Prosecutors decided to try him again despite the results of the DNA test, arguing that the semen sample was from consensual sex prior to the murder. He was convicted a third time.

His case was overturned a third and final time with the appellate court heavily criticizing prosecutors for arguing that Holly was sexually active without evidence and for putting so much weight on a confession obtained while Rivera, who suffered from mental illness, was in an "acute psychotic state" and which contained so many inaccuracies.

Following his exoneration, his defense team sought to do further testing on shoes that the state had once sought to enter into evidence. Holly's blood was found on shoes worn by Juan. The evidence had been dropped once it was discovered that the shoes were not for sale anywhere in the US until after the murder. Genetic testing performed in 2014 found not only Holly's blood, but genetic material that matches the semen found at the crime scene. His defense team argued that the reasonable interpretation is that in an effort to plant blood on Juan's shoes, the state also planted DNA from Holly's real killer. Following this revelation, the state agreed to settle with Rivera, giving him a $20 million USD settlement, the largest wrongful conviction settlement in US history.

The source of the DNA has never been identified, however, it is has been linked to evidence found at another murder scene. The man convicted of that murder insists this is proof that he himself has been wrongfully convicted.

1993, April 8 Gary Gauger Murder of his parents, Morris and Ruth Gauger McHenry County, Illinois Death penalty 3 years Yes
Following the murder, police interrogated Gauger for 18 hours. Detectives lied to Gauger, claiming they had found blood-soaked clothes in Gauger’s bedroom and that he had failed a polygraph. Gauger was instructed to discuss a hypothetical situation and describe how he would have killed his parents during a possible alcohol-induced blackout. The interrogation was not tape-recorded and Gauger did not sign a confession. His hypothetical statements were later used in court in support of a claim that Gauger confessed to the crime. In 1996, he was granted an appeal and his alleged confession was thrown out. Without that evidence they were forced to drop the charges. James Schneider and Randall E. Miller, members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang, were later convicted of the murders. Gauger was pardoned in 2002.[126]
1993, February 13 Lynn DeJac Murder of her daughter Crystallynn Girard* Buffalo, New York 25 years 14 years Yes
Lynn DeJac summoned police to her home on February 13, 1993, after finding her daughter, Crystallyn Girard, dead in her bed. DeJac told police that she spent the evening out with her boyfriend, Dennis Donohue, with whom she had had an argument that evening. The coroner ruled that she died from strangulation. Donohue became a suspect for a brief time after DeJac told police he may have returned to her house while she was out. He was arrested, but was later was granted full immunity in return for testimony regarding DeJac's use of cocaine that evening. Wayne Hudson, a childhood friend of DeJac, claimed that DeJac confessed to him that she had killed her daughter. She was convicted on the basis of the testimony from the two men. At the time he came forward, Hudson was facing forgery charges and a possible life sentence in prison as a repeat offender. In 2008, a new autopsy determined that Crystallyn died of a cocaine overdose, not strangulation.[127]
1993, August 29 Mark Maxson Murder of six year old boy Lindsay Murdock Chicago, Illinois Life plus 40 years 23 years Yes
Police subjected Maxson to torture and beatings until he made a confession to the murder of Lindsay Murdoch. In spite of withdrawing his confession and lack of physical evidence against him, Maxson was convicted and sentence to life plus 40 years. In 2015 the Cook County, Conviction Integrity Unit got DNA testing done which proved another man, Osborne Wade, had committed the murder. Wade confessed to the murder.[128]
1994, April 30 Ken Wyniemko Criminal Sexual Conduct, Armed Robbery, Breaking and Entering Clinton, Michigan 40–60 years 8 years Yes
Wyniemko was convicted on the basis of his resemblance to the composite sketch and identification of Wyniemko in a lineup by the victim. He was later cleared by DNA testing.[129]
1995, March 2 Shareef Cousin Murder of Michael Gerardi New Orleans, Louisiana Death Sentence 4 years No
Cousin was convicted on the basis of an eyewitness identification by Gerardi's date. It was later discovered that she made statements to police indicating that she wasn't wearing her glasses and didn't get a good look at the assailant. This statement was not disclosed to the defense. Another witness testified that he was coerced to testify against Cousin in exchange for a reduced sentence on his own charges.[130] After his release, Cousin alleged that the prosecutor's office had illegally detained witnesses whom Cousin had planned to call to testify in his defense, making it impossible for them to testify.[131]
1995, April 14 (Discovered) Alan Gell Murder of Allen Ray Jenkins Aulander, North Carolina Death sentence 9 years No
Two 15-year-old girls testified that they were involved in a conspiracy involving Gell in exchange for a lower sentence. Gell was in prison or otherwise out of town for all but one day in April. Although the date of death is unknown, prosecutors hitched their timeline to that date. Gell's conviction was overturned after it was later discovered that prosecutors had withheld exculpatory evidence, including the testimony of 17 witnesses who said they had seen Jenkins alive after that date as well as a tape recording of one of the girls saying that she had to make up a story to tell the police. Gell was retried and acquitted of all charges.[132]
1996 Richard Alexander Several rapes, dubbed "River Park Rapist" South Bend, Indiana 20 years 5 years Yes
Alexander was convicted of a series of rapes in South Bend, Indiana and was dubbed the "River Park Rapist". He was convicted largely on the basis of eye witness testimony. In 2001, with Alexander already having served five years in prison, an alleged burglar and child molester named Michael Murphy confessed to one of the two rapes of which Alexander had been convicted, knowing details only the true assailant would know.[133] With this revelation, a judge ordered a new round of DNA testing in Alexander's case. Hairs found at the scene of the rape were submitted to mitochondrial DNA testing.[134] At the time of Alexander's original conviction, such testing was not available in the state of Indiana. The tests proved that the DNA did not match Alexander's profile, but did match Murphy's.[133] He was released from prison on December 12, 2001.[135] It is now believed that the River Park Rapist was actually two separate perpetrators.
1998, June 7 Clarence Elkins Murder of Judith Johnson, Elkins' mother-in-law, rape of his niece Brooke Barberton, Ohio Life in prison 6.5 years Yes
Judith Johnson was beaten, raped and murdered while her 6-year-old granddaughter, Brooke, was staying at her house. Brooke was also beaten and raped, but survived. She told police that the killer "looked like Uncle Clarence". He was convicted on the basis of this identification. She later explained that she meant the killer resembled him, rather than being a positive identification and she felt pressured to testify against him at trial by the prosecutor. DNA testing performed after conviction from semen found on the victims excluded Elkins, but his appeal was denied. Elkins' wife, who is Judith's daughter, solved the case through her research. She identified Earl Mann, Johnson's neighbor, as a likely suspect. Elkins, who was in prison with Mann at the time, collected a cigarette butt from Mann. It was a match.[136]

2000s[edit]

Date of crime Defendant(s) Crime Location Sentence Time served Legally exonerated
2000, September 28 David Camm Murder of his wife Kim and two children, Brad and Jill Georgetown, Indiana Life in prison 13 years Yes
The key evidence against Camm was testimony regarding blood spatter patterns on his tee shirt. It was later discovered that one of the key prosecution witnesses, a blood spatter analyst whose findings had triggered the arrest, had falsified his credentials. He had testified at trial that he was a college professor in the process of getting his PhD. It was later uncovered that he had no affiliation to the university, had no training in blood spatter or crime scene analysis, and had never worked a single case prior to the Camm family murders. In 2013, he testified for the defense, explaining that he worked as an office assistant for a crime scene analyst and had been sent to the crime scene to take photos when he began voicing his opinions on the evidence. He claims the prosecutor, Stan Faith, fabricated the credentials for the trial.

A new suspect emerged when the defense compelled the prosecution to run DNA evidence found on a sweatshirt on the floor of the crime scene through CODIS a second time. It was discovered that the DNA was never run through CODIS despite the fact that Faith had assured Camm's defense team that it had been run and it returned no matches. The sweatshirt contained the DNA, prison nickname, and department of corrections number of Charles Boney, a convicted felon with a history of stalking and attacking women. He was on parole at the time for the attempted kidnapping of several coeds from their apartment. Investigators had looked for Camm's DNA on the sweatshirt, but failed to investigate any other leads. A DNA analyst who worked on the case filed a complaint alleging that the prosecutor attempted to get her to testify that the foreign DNA sample was Camm's DNA. A fingerprint analyst who found Boney's prints testified to a similar interaction. The prosecutor was later discovered to be Boney's defense attorney as well as a personal family friend and they admitted discussing the case prior to Boney becoming a suspect. Faith asserts this is coincidental and he did not know Boney was involved.[137]

2001, November 1 Ryan Ferguson Murder of Kent Heitholt Columbia, Missouri 40 years in prison 9 years, 8 months Yes
Ferguson, who was 17 at the time of the murder, was convicted on the basis of a friend's confession to police claiming he and Ferguson killed Heitholt for drinking money. His friend, Charles Erickson, had mental health issues and substance abuse issues at the time and initially claimed to have no memory of the evening. Ferguson's conviction was overturned on November 5, 2013, after it was uncovered that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence and the witnesses who testified against him recanted their testimony. Erickson remains incarcerated, but Ferguson has vowed to work to get him released.
2002 Brian Banks Rape of Wanetta Gibson* Long Beach, California 6 years in prison 5 years Yes
Brian Banks was a student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School when a fellow student accused him of rape. He accepted a plea deal to avoid a lengthy sentence and ended up serving almost the entire sentence. The accuser was later recorded admitting that the sexual contact was consensual and that she made up the allegation so her mother wouldn't find out she was sexually active. Gibson's family had received a $1.5 million settlement from the school following Banks' guilty plea for failing to keep Wanetta safe.
2006 Hannah Overton Murder Corpus Christi, Texas Life without parole 7 years No
Hannah Overton was convicted of the murder of Andrew Burd, aged 4, after he died from a toxic salt overdose. The conviction was overturned after the prosecution failed to disclose evidence it had that was inconsistent, and potentially contradictory, to the state's accusations as to its theory of the events in question.[138]
2008 Susan Jean King Murder of Kyle "Deanie" Breeden Spencer County, Kentucky 10 years in prison 6.5 years Yes
While maintaining her innocence, King pleaded guilty to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence. The Innocence Project investigated and found it physically impossible for King to commit the crime. In 2012, Richard Jarrell Jr. confessed to killing Breeden to Detective Barron Morgan. In 2014, Kentucky Court of Appeals panel ordered a new trial based on Jarrell's confession. Detective Morgan won a $450,000 settlement against City of Louisville for being in violation of the state whistleblower protection act. In October 2014, Spencer County Attorney announced that there would be no re-trial because of the confession by Jarrell.[139][140]
2008, September 21 Adrian Thomas Murder of his son Matthew Thomas* Troy, New York 25 years to life in prison 6 years Yes
Four-month-old Matthew Thomas was rushed to the hospital by his father after finding him unresponsive. During the interrogation, investigators told him that it had been proven the child died from blunt force trauma and that they knew someone in the household had done it. They threatened to arrest his wife if he did not confess. He was convicted on the basis of his confession. It was later determined that the cause of death was sepsis.[141]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]