Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row
Last exoneration May 11, 2017 (#159)
For Inclusion on DPIC's Innocence List:
Defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and subsequently either-
a. Been acquitted of all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row, or
b. Had all charges related to the crime that placed them on death row dismissed by the prosecution or the courts, or
c. Been granted a complete pardon based on evidence of innocence.
See also DPIC's Innocence Database -Searchable database of all exonerations since 1973 - allows you to search and sort for cases by year, state, race, and other variables.
Note: James Bo Cochran (AL) and Timothy Hennis (NC) were originally on this list but are excluded following further research and developments.
Number of cases in which DNA was a substantial factor in establishing innocence: 20
**DPIC refers to the Innocence Project's (Cardozo Law School, NY) criteria for whether a post-conviction exoneration was the result of DNA testing.
The Innocence Project requires that both:
a) DNA testing played a role in the defendant's reversal, AND
b) the results of the testing were central to the inmate's defense and to the identity of the perpetrator.Sources: DPIC uses a number of resources when adding cases to the above list, including court opinions, media coverage, and conversations with those directly involved in the cases. The earlier cases in the list are based heavily on the research of Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet. (See, e.g., Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet, "Miscarriages of justice in potentially capital cases," 40 Stanford Law Review 21 (1987); M.Radelet, H. Bedau, and C. Putnam, In Spite of Innocence, Northeastern University Press (1992); see also M. Radelet et al., "Prisoners released from death rows since 1970 because of doubts about their guilt," 13 Thomas M. Cooley Law Review 907 (1996)).
Use of the term "exonerated": Columnist Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun asked DPIC about its list of exonerated individuals. DPIC's then-Executive Director Richard Dieter responded, and that response was reprinted in Mr. Rodricks' column, July 5, 2009:
With respect to your question about our list of exonerated individuals, we use very strict and objective criteria for inclusion of cases on this list. Basically, the list is determined by the decisions of courts and prosecutor offices, not by our subjective judgment. As we state in a number of places on our Web site and in our reports, the criteria for inclusion on the list is:
The list includes cases where the release occurred in 1973 or later, which was the time that states resumed sentencing people to death after the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the death penalty. The list originated from a request from Congress asking us to identify the risks that innocent people might be executed. The original list that we prepared was published as a Staff Report of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights. The list has been favorably referred to by Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts, as well as by many public officials around the country.
Return to Innocence