Damon Thibodeaux was sentenced to death for the New Orleans-area murder of his half-cousin Crystal Champagne based largely on his recanted confession. Thibodeaux spent 15 years in prison for the crime before his exoneration through DNA testing on September 28, 2012.
The prosecution’s own expert had concluded that Thibodeaux falsely confessed based on fear of the death penalty, but this information was never shared with the defense.
With the consent of Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick, Jr., a judge late yesterday vacated the rape conviction and dismissed the charges against Henry James as a result of DNA testing on crime scene evidence proving his innocence.
Today, due to work by one of their member groups, The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, Greg Taylor walked out of a courtroom a free man and hugged his 26 year old daughter.
“She was 9 years old when I went to prison,” Taylor said, embracing her for one of the first times as a free man. “I missed her 10th birthday, I missed her 16th birthday. ”¦ I missed her marriage. I missed the birth of my grandson. Now all of that’s returned.”
After serving more than 25 years in Texas prisons for a crime he did not commit, Johnnie Lindsey was proven innocent through DNA testing and freed in September 2008. He was 30 years old when he was arrested and 56 when he was freed.
Lindsey was the 19th man exonerated by DNA testing in Dallas County since 2001.
The Innocence Project has a backlog of thousands of cases and only takes cases where DNA testing may be able to prove innocence.
The common themes that run through these cases — from global problems like poverty and racial issues to criminal justice issues like eyewitness misidentification, invalid or improper forensic science, overzealous police and prosecutors and inept defense counsel — cannot be ignored and continue to plague our criminal justice system.
Seventeen people had been sentenced to death before DNA proved their innocence and led to their release.
The average sentence served by DNA exonerees has been 12 years.
About 70 percent of those exonerated by DNA testing are members of minority groups.
In almost 40 percent of the cases profiled here, the actual perpetrator has been identified by DNA testing.