18 years in prison unjustly

Innonence Project

The Connecticut legislature yesterday voted unanimously to award $5 million to Calvin Tillman who spent 18 year in prison for rape and was freed after DNA tests showed he could not have done it. He and his mother were invited in after the vote and got “sustained applause”.

Legislators seemed shaken by the fallibility of the legal system – and humbled by how graciously Tillman has coped with that failure.

“I’ll never vote for the death penalty again,” Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, told Tillman after the 33-0 vote in the Senate. “This did it for me.”

Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport, called Tillman the most gracious man he had ever met.

“If this had happened to me, I would hate the world for the rest of my life,” Gomes said.

How many more are there like Tillman? He was freed through the efforts of the Connecticut Innocence Project, a state program.

The nationwide Innocence Project has been instrumental in getting 200 convictions reversed based on DNA testing and works towards reforming the criminal system. Tragically, 15 inmates have been executed prior to DNA testing that showed them to be innocent.


  1. Also check out John Grisham’s nonfiction book, The Innocent Man.

  2. Cassandra T. Savoy, Esq.

    I am thrilled to hear a legislator say that she will never vote for another death penalty statute. I hope that she will join the ever increasing numbers of us who believe that the death penalty is simply wrong. This case had a happy ending. DNA exonerated the gentleman. However, our system, as good as it may be, still permits error, and where DNA is not available, it is for me unthinkable to have a person pay the ultimate punishment when he may not have been the guilty party. Once the person dies, he’s dead. . .no chance to compensate and no chance to start over. I applaud the Connecticut Legislature, and the Innocence Project.

  3. I love the innocence project. I do wonder if this man was a person of color–as so many wrongfully convicted cases involve poc. Do you know?

  4. Yes, he is African-American, as are many of those unjustly convicted then freed on DNA

  5. I know that people of color are more likely to be wrongfully convicted, however, all four of the men wrongfully convicted in the cases covered by Grisham’s book were white, charged by white cops and convicted by white juries. It;s a universal problem.

    I personally oppose the death penalty. But OTOH, my friend sentenced to so much time he is likely to die in a CA prison says that’s a cruel and unusual punishment– he often says he wishes he’d been sentenced to death instead. If he’s going to die inside, he says, why not just get it over with rather than putting him through the torture that passes for a prison system?

  6. Were the whites convicted in Grisham’s book poor/working class or well-off? I’m guessing poor. In many of these cases, it’s both class and racial bias at work.

    Your friend doing 25-to-life on a third strike, yeah, it’s a brutal sentence and the prisons themselves are brutal. This is just punishment for the sake of inflicting punishment.

    A guy who was in a SHU once told me, when you get out, you’re a walking time bomb.

  7. He did 9 months SHU time for a stupid little violation. He came out very angry. I think he would agree with that assessment.

    BTW, he’s doing 36 to Life for getting into a fight outside a 7-Eleven. At his age (now over 40), his odds of getting out are slim.

  8. Here in the UK two men recently had their convictions quashed and were releasaed after 20 years in prison for a murder they never committed. They were granted compensation but our system being what it is, then sued the two men for the board and lodgings for the twenty years they were inside. They objected but the High Court ruled that they had to pay. One of the men is now in a mental hospital. It’s called the Britih justice system.

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