TUNE IN: Damon Thibodeaux on 48 Hours This Weekend
CBS’s 48 Hours will air an episode on Innocence Project client Damon Thibodeaux this Saturday, March 29, at 10:00 p.m. EST. The episode, which features interviews with Thibodeaux and Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck, examines the wrongful conviction that resulted in Thibodeaux spending 15 years on Louisiana’s death row for a murder he did not commit. His conviction was vacated based on DNA evidence of his innocence in 2012.
If you tune in to CBS an hour earlier, you’ll catch 48 Hours’ episode on Ryan Ferguson, who spent nearly a decade behind bars for a Missouri murder he did not commit before his conviction was overturned in November of last year.
Maryland Reform Bills Move Forward
Maryland State Senator Lisa A. Gladden and State Delegate Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk are championing a pair of bills that would mandate that law enforcement throughout the state of Maryland implement scientifically proven practices developed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Police Chiefs, such as double-blind administration lineups, during criminal investigations. They cite the case of Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man sentenced to death and later found innocent through DNA testing, to be a major inspiration for the bill. Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted in part due to an eyewitness misidentification, which laws such as the ones proposed in Maryland can help prevent.
The bills, SB 1200 and HB 860, have each unanimously passed their respective legislative chamber and await action in the Judiciary Committee of the other chamber. The Baltimore Sun has also editorialized in favor of the bills’ passage.
Newly Discovered DNA Evidence Points to Innocence of North Carolina Man
The Innocence Project filed legal papers March 20 urging a Durham County court to overturn the murder and arson convictions of Darryl Anthony Howard based on new DNA and undisclosed evidence pointing to his innocence. In November 1991, a mother and her 13-year-old daughter were found nude and strangled on a bed in their burned apartment. Evidence found on both mother and daughter strongly suggested they had been sexually assaulted. The medical examiner concluded that the daughter, Nishonda, died as a result of strangulation and the mother, Doris W., died from blunt force trauma to her abdomen. A Durham fire investigator determined that the fire had been intentionally set.
DNA testing before trial excluded Howard as the source of the sperm from the daughter, but Assistant District Attorney Mike Nifong told the jury that investigators never suspected either victim was sexually assaulted much less that sexual assaults were involved in the homicides. However, new evidence, never disclosed to the defense, reveals that an informant told the state just days after the murders that the crimes involved sexual assault and that the victims were murdered by more than one perpetrator who were drug dealers collecting an outstanding debt. New DNA testing points to two different men — neither of whom was Howard — as the real perpetrators. One of these men has been identified through the CODIS DNA data bank and has an extensive criminal record including drug crimes and assaults.
Why I Give
Vancouver, British Columbia
I first heard about the Innocence Project while reading John Grisham’s An Innocent Man on a plane. Until then I was unaware that innocent people were in prison. When I returned home, I looked up the Innocence Project website and started looking through the cases. I was absolutely shocked that injustice of such magnitude existed. The stories of the exonerees touched me profoundly.
After that, donating wasn’t even a choice for me; it was just something I had to do. I am a Canadian and I don’t see this as an American issue or a political issue but a human issue. It is deeply disturbing to me that there is even one person sitting in prison for a crime he or she did not commit. The fear and/or false sense of guilt at being accused of a crime that a person did not commit contributes to inner turmoil, not to mention the pain inflicted on loved ones and family members who are witness to this injustice; I've felt this turmoil myself in different circumstances.
I’m particularly proud to support the work of the Innocence Project to assist the exonerees after they are released. It’s so important to help people reintegrate into society after they’ve spent time in prison, sometimes half their lives. I am inspired to read about the newly released rebuilding their lives, spending time with their families, learning skills and furthering their healing process.
Join Jessica in supporting the Innocence Project by making a donation today!