It’s incredibly frustrating to be falsely accused of anything, nevermind killing someone. Sitting in the courtroom and hearing the judge and prosecution tell narratives of a story that you never lived would be nearly impossible to get through. As much as we want to trust our justice system, sometimes it gets the case wrong and punishes innocent people.
Thanks to DNA testing and better forensic science, many people who were wrongfully convicted are getting set free. This article tells the stories of some of the most devastating wrongfully convicted people of all time.
After Thomas Kennedy’s own eleven-year-old daughter falsely accused him of sexually abusing her on three separate occasions, he was sent to jail. His daughter was mad about the divorce and wanted to make her dad go away, so she faked the story.
It took eleven years for Cassandra to have a change of heart and told police her claims of rape were false. He was released after her testimony seemed credible.
In 1984, Darryl Hunt was convicted of the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes. Although Hunt’s girlfriend was able to provide an alibi, she turned on her boyfriend when she was arrested for larceny.
Despite any evidence, he was sentenced to life, and then life again when they went to a retrial. After DNA testing, 19 years after his conviction, he was released because the DNA matched a convicted murderer that had confessed to the crime.
The former Irish nun was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in jail in July 1999. Yes, this is all true. A nun, sentenced for rape. What makes it even more bizarre is that her sentence was quashed after she was found innocent from repressed memory evidence.
At the time she was the first woman in the history of the Irish state to be convicted of rape.
Charles Butler McVay III
He remains the only captain ever court-martialed for the sinking of a ship. Charles Butler McVay III was the commanding officer of the Indianapolis when it was hit by a Japanese torpedo.
The cruiser took 12 minutes to sink and killed 300 men right off the bat. 600 more were killed from dehydration and sharks. McVay was one of the few survivors and was stripped of seniority for failing to steer a zigzag to avoid the rockets. He committed suicide in 1968 and was exonerated in 2001.
Jean Calas was a French Protestant and became the face of religious intolerance in France. Catholicism was the state religion at the time, and no other religion was recognized.
After one of Calas’ sons died, he was accused of murdering him. Calas was sentenced to death even though all the signs pointed to his son committing suicide. He was exonerated after he was killed and his family received compensation.
Rubin Carter was a professional middleweight boxer. In 1966, he was arrested and wrongfully convicted for a triple homicide in a bar in New Jersey.
He and another man, John Artis, were tried and convicted twice for the murders. The second conviction in 1985 was overturned and the prosecution decided not to go to trial for the third time.
Bozella, a former amateur boxer, was imprisoned in 1983 for the murder of an elderly woman. He served almost three decades in prison before new evidence that had been suppressed by the prosecution showed that he was innocent.
Not only was he innocent, but he had been framed by law enforcement.
Arthur Allan Thomas
A double murder occurred at Arthur Allan Thomas’s house, but it wasn’t him who did it. He served over nine years in jail for something he didn’t do.
Law enforcement planted a rifle cartridge in his garden, and that was all the evidence that was needed to put him away. The police who planted the bullet are all dead now, but authorities are still looking into where it all went wrong.
He was just 14 years old when he was sentenced to death for strangling his classmate, Lynne Harper. Truscott was going to be the youngest person ever on death row.
He was released on parole at the age of 24, and went on to live a normal life. In 2007, new evidence presented in the case showed he was innocent. He was awarded $6.5 million by the government.
Alfred Dreyfus was a French artillery officer who was convicted of treason in what became one of the tensest political trials in European history.
He was accused of selling secrets to the Germans, which stemmed from the fact that French Jews were supposed to be disloyal citizens at the time. He was sentenced to life in prison but was exonerated shortly after and issued a public apology.
The Salem Witch Trials
200 citizens were accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts from 1692 to 1693. It was driven solely by gossip and paranoia in the town.
Women were accused of making people go mad using their "Devil’s Magic". There were many trials that led to 19 hangings and one man crushed to death with stones. Years later the state apologized and all the names of the guilty were exonerated.
On New Year’s Eve in 1980, Woodard’s girlfriend was sexually assaulted and strangled to death. The next day, James was charged in her murder.
Woodard had several alibis testifying to his whereabouts that night, but it wasn’t enough. James was sentenced to life in prison. 26 years later, he was released after lack of evidence.
Mahmood Hussein Mattan
Mattan was accused of robbing and slashing the throat of a pawnshop worker in 1952. He was from Somali heritage in the area of Cardiff, which made him stick out.
His language barrier mixed with racist attitudes and twisted evidence led to his hanging. In 1998, he was exonerated after crucial evidence proving he was innocent was witheld from the court.
General John D. Lavelle
General John D. Lavelle was stripped of his ranks because of allegations of misconduct over bombing missions in Vietnam.
20 years after his death, President Obama posthumously nominated him to the grade of General on the retired list. Information was released that he was just following orders at the time of the bombing.
Dr. Hawley Harvey
Dr. Hawley Harvey was convicted of murdering his wife by poisoning her with acid. He was hanged for the murder after he was found to have purchased poison that killed her and was attempting to run away with another woman.
While this hanging occurred in 1910, it took until 2007 to figure out the torso that was originally thought to be his wife’s mutilated body was actually that of a man. So many questions.
Saint Joan Of Arc
The Roman Catholic Saint, Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake at just 19 years old. She had led the French army to many victories as she claimed divine guidance.
Twenty-five years after her execution, a court authorized by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial and pronounced her innocent of “insubordination and heterodoxy”. She was declared a martyr.
Death Row is reserved for the worst of the worst. In 1985, Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl in Baltimore. He looked nothing like the sketch that was drawn, but multiple witnesses identified him.
He was in jail for nine years before DNA testing exonerated him from death row. He was the first person to get off of death row from DNA testing.
Jewell was a security guard working at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. He delivered a suspicious package to police, which had a bomb inside of it. It detonated, killing two and injuring over 100.
The FBI began to suspect that Jewell wasn’t just doing his job and bringing a bag in for search, but he planted it. After months of interrogation, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and ended up suing media outlets for libel.
Central Park Five
These five men, known as the Central Park Five, were wrongfully convicted of raping and assaulting a white female jogger in 1989.
The case was engulfed in racial bias from all over the world. It wasn’t until 2002 that a serial rapist confessed to the crime while he was behind bars. The men we were all released and New York State awarded them $41 million in damages.
After two teenagers were shot to death on some bleachers overlooking a pool in Chicago, the fingers were pointing at Anthony Porter. He was convicted and charged with the death penalty in 1982.
Only fifty hours before he was to be executed, the investigation re-opened and there was a videotaped confession to the killings by another party in 1999. He was freed two days later.