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Here you will find stories of some of the men and women that have been exonerated and released after living on death row somewhere in America. Where possible we have included links to listen to interviews or the exoneree themselves tell their story in their own words. All photos on this page are used with permission of their owner, Larry Zamba.
Ray Krone spent two years and eight months on death row and an additional 8 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. After 10 years in prison, two retrials, numerous appeals and DNA testing freed Ray from being executed. Ray was the 100 th person to be exonerated from death row.
Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon
Juan Roberto Melendez-Colon spent 17 years, 8 months and 1 day on Florida’s death row. Although there was no physical evidence against him and the prosecution's case rested on the testimony of two questionable witnesses, his conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Florida Supreme Court three times on appeal. A taped confession of the real killer, discovered 16 years after Juan had been sentenced to death, proved critical to his exoneration. Click here to read an article about Juan in Spanish.
Shujaa Graham spent three years on California’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Shujaa was framed for the murder of a prison guard because he was active in fighting for prisoners' rights. It took four trials and the work of dedicated high school students until Shujaa was found not guilty. Speaking on behalf of TX Death Row Inmate Kenneth Foster, July 2007.
Gary Beeman spent three years on death row in Ohio for a crime he did not commit. The real killer was the prosecutor’s chief witness and his testimony sent Gary to death row. Ultimately, the real killer confessed and Gary was found innocent. Despite his innocence Gary was kept in prison for another year before being released.
In 1989, the state of Pennsylvania sentenced Harold Wilson to death for three murders he did not commit. He spent more than 17 years in prison; most of that time was spent on death row. In 1999, Harold’s death sentence was overturned due to ineffective counsel. However, Harold was not released from death row until 2005 when DNA evidence was presented for the first time and he was acquitted of all charges.
Albert Burrell spent 13 years on Louisiana's death row for a crime he did not commit. The prosecutors in his case withheld key information from the defense, failed to produce any physical evidence, and relied only on witness testimony, which has since been discredited. In addition, the DNA tests proved that he was innocent.
In 1963, the state of Florida sentenced Freddie Pitts to death for the murder of two men, although they had no physical evidence to link him to the crime. After he was sentenced to death, another man confessed to the crime, an eyewitness recanted her accusations and Florida’s attorney general admitted that the state had unlawfully suppressed evidence. After losing 12 years of his life on death row, Freddie received a full pardon.
Gary Drinkard spent six years on Alabama’s death row for a crime he did not commit. Gary’s lawyers were experts in debt collection and foreclosures. They did not present the testimony of two physicians who would have testified that Gary had recently suffered a severe back injury that made it physically impossible for him to commit the crime.
Shabaka WaQlimi came within 13 hours of being executed by the state of Florida for a crime he did not commit. He spent 13 years on death row due to the false testimony and a personal grudge from someone he turned in for robbery. Shabaka was exonerated after the 11 th Circuit Court ruled that the prosecution knowingly admitted false testimony.
The state of Illinois sentenced Randy Steidl to death for the murder of two people in 1986 that he did not commit. Randy spent 17 years behind bars, 12 on death row and 5 serving a Life Without the Possibility of Parole sentence. An Illinois state police investigation found that local police had severely botched their investigation, which resulted in his wrongful conviction. Randy was released in 2003 but the real killer has not yet been found.
The state of Illinois sentenced Darby Tillis to death for a crime he did not commit. Darby spent eight years on death row. The real killer confessed to a friend at work who years later read an article about Darby and contacted Darby’s lawyer. This confession led to his exoneration.