Innocent: A List of People Exonerated for Crimes They Did Not Commit

Steven Avery

Steven Avery

Steven Avery became a household name when Netflix released it’s extremely popular series Making a Murderer. In 1985, Steven Avery was convicted of rape and attempted murder in 1985 at the young age of 22. He served eighteen years in prison before being exonerated in 2003 based on DNA evidence.

Crooked County

Crooked County

It was also revealed that Manitowoc County more than likely knew of Steven’s innocence for years and did nothing with the evidence. Avery was in the process of suing the county for millions of dollars, when he was arrested again in 2005 for the murder of a young photographer named Teresa Halbach.

Hopeful For A Second Exoneration

Hopeful For A Second Exoneration

Making a Murderer follows the timeline of this case, in which Steven still purports his innocence. As of 2015, the lawyer Kathleen Zellner (who is famous for aiding in the exoneration of wrongfully convicted) has undertaken the Avery case and has already filed an appeal citing that Avery’s due process rights had been violated.

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

Across the pond in England, a lawyer named Sally Clark was falsely convicted of murdering her two sons. Both of her sons died within weeks of their births. It was later established that they died from SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Sally was exonerated in 2003, however, she developed many demons and passed away from alcohol poisoning in 2007 at the age of 42.

First DNA Exoneration

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Kirk Bloodsworth is notable for being the very first American on Death Row to be exonerated by DNA evidence. He was originally convicted of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. He spent nine years in prison before being released in 1993. Ultimately, the DNA evidence was used to find the real killer.

A SIDS Nightmare

A SIDS Nightmare

Angela Cannings is another case of a British woman being wrongfully convicted. She was also accused of murder in the deaths of her children. Her oldest child was a girl who also succumbed to SIDS. Prosecutors believed she had smothered her children. Ultimately, her case was re-examined and she was exonerated in 2003.

Death Before Exoneration

Death Before Exoneration

Frank Lee Smith was convicted of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Florida. He was on death row for fourteen years until dying of cancer in the year 2000. Sadly, he died before he could be exonerated with the use of DNA evidence eleven months after his death and the real killer was named.

Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy was accused of rape by his own eleven-year-old daughter. She said her father had assaulted her three separate times. After finding trauma indicating sexual assault, he was convicted. Almost ten years later at age 22 his daughter came forward and said that she had lied about the events.

A Family Betrayal

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She also stated that and the trauma medical specialists had witnessed was because of her sexual involvement with a boy starting from a young age. Following the testimony of his daughter and the young man whom she was sexually involved with, Kennedy was exonerated in 2012. The judge also ordered the state to pay reparation for his time spent in prison.

Minor League Conviction

Minor League Conviction

Ron Williamson was a minor league baseball player who was wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in 1988. He spent eleven years in prison before DNA evidence helped in exoneration and the real killer was found. The killer had actually testified as a witness for the state during Williamson’s trial. John Grisham wrote his first non-fiction book based on this case.

Sister of Mercy Exoneration

Sister of Mercy Exoneration

Nora Wall was a nun with the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland when she was falsely accused of rape in 1999. She only served four days of her sentence before the conviction was quashed. She was not officially exonerated until 2005. Both of her female accusers had mental issues and previous histories with false allegations. One of the women admitted she lied and the conviction was overturned.

Habib Wahir Abdal

Habib Wahir Abdal

Habib Wahir Abdal, previously known as Vincent Jenkins, was convicted of rape in 1983. He fit the description of the suspect at the time of the crime. He served sixteen years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him in 1999. And in 2002, he received reparations from the court. Sadly, he passed away only six years after being freed.

Olympic Bombing Exoneration

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Richard Jewell was a former police officer and security guard. While working security for AT&T he was accused of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing during the Summer Olympics in Georgia. This case is interesting because he was never formally charged however the media demonized him and made him seem guilty based on misinformation. Jewell died in 2007 at age 44.

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity

Dennis Maher was charged with raping three different women in the 1980’s. Police found a knife and other tactical equipment in his possession; however, he was a Sergeant in the Army at the time. He served nineteen years behind bars before being exonerated based on DNA evidence. Maher was released in 2003.

Wrongly Accused

Wrongly Accused

Tammy Marquadt is a Canadian citizen who was convicted of the death of her two-year-old son in 1993. A doctor testified that she had smothered her son; however it was later found that he may have offered unreliable testimony. She was officially exonerated in 2009. She spent fourteen years in jail.

Son Of A Cop

Son Of A Cop

In 1986 Herman Atkins was charged with robbery and rape. Notably, Atkins was the son of a highway patrol officer. Atkins served eleven and a half years for a crime he did not commit. In 2000, he was finally exonerated based on DNA evidence. He was awarded nearly $2 million in reparations.

Blamed For Daughters’ Murder

Blamed For Daughters’ Murder

Lynn Dejac was a woman from New York who was convicted of murdering her daughter in 1994. She was the first woman to be exonerated based on DNA evidence. It is likely that her partner was responsible for the murder; however, he cannot be tried as he received immunity during the trial. She filed a large lawsuit against the county but she passed away in 2014 of cancer.

Not Enough Height

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Wilton Dedge was convicted of sexual and aggravated battery and robbery in 1982. The victim said she thought he resembled her attacker although he was shorter, the prosecution used this information claiming Dedge was wearing boots at the time of the attack. He spent twenty-two years in prison before his release. Eventually, he was exonerated with the aid of DNA evidence. Dedge’s innocence was finally proven in 2004.

Nineteen Year Old Conviction

Nineteen Year Old Conviction

In 1984, Darryl Hunt was arrested when he was 19-years-old for a murder he did not commit. DNA evidence successfully proved that he was not guilty, however, it took over ten more years of jumping through legal hoops before he was actually released in 2004. The DNA evidence ultimately revealed the true killer of the crime.

Ten Years in Prison

Ten Years in Prison

Vincent Moto was convicted of raping a woman in 1985. The woman accused two different men of raping her. He ended up serving ten and a half years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence. The Innocence project was involved in his release which was ultimately in 1996.

Mickleberg Brothers

Mickleberg Brothers

A robbery of ninety-two gold bars took place in Perth Australia in 1982. Three brothers, Ray, Brian, and Peter were framed by police for the robbery. Ultimately, a detective came forward telling the truth about the conspiracy against the brothers. They were exonerated in 2004, after spending over twenty years in prison.

A Fearful Confession

A Fearful Confession

Larry Bostic was convicted of sexual assault and robbery in 1989. He was scared into pleading guilty with the threat of a life sentence for the rape charge. Bostic truly did not commit the crime he was accused of, and DNA evidence ultimately exonerated him. He is currently free after serving eighteen years in prison.

Wrongfully Convicted Boxer

Wrongfully Convicted Boxer

Dewey Bozella was an amateur boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murdering an elderly woman in 1983. Ultimately, it was found that he had been framed for the murder and he had his conviction overturned in 2009. After he was released he worked at a gym teaching youth about boxing and the dangers of gangs.

Identification Error

Identification Error

Dean Cage was convicted of rape in Chicago in 1994. The victim erroneously misidentified him in a police lineup and by the sound of his voice. He served fourteen years in prison before being exonerated with the aid of DNA testing. Cage was exonerated in 2008. He happily united with his family upon his release.

Gerry Conlon

Gerry Conlon

Gerry Conlon was wrongfully accused of being a member of the IRA group, the Guilford Four, in Ireland. He was convicted of a bombing in Guilford which killed five people and injured many more. He claimed that police had tortured him into making a confession. Ultimately the court ruled that police fabricated evidence and he was released in 1989.

Wrongful Conviction Leads to Fame

Wrongful Conviction Leads to Fame

The movie In the Name of the Father starring Daniel Day Lewis was made about his story. He had a hard time readjusting to life out of prison suffering with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues. He continued to work for those falsely convicted in Ireland and around the world before his death in 2014.

A Supportive Mother

A Supportive Mother

Anthony Capozzi was convicted of two separate rapes in 1987. He proclaimed his innocence and his mother continued to believe and support him through his twenty-year stint in prison. Capozzi was ultimately exonerated with the use of DNA evidence in 2006. The real rapist was found using the newfound DNA evidence.

A Royal Pardon

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Arthur Allen Thomas is a New Zealand citizen who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of a husband and wife. He was ultimately granted a Royal pardon after finding that police had planted evidence. He spent nine years in prison before his exoneration. Thomas also had a film made about his case called Beyond Reasonable Doubt.

A False Confession

A False Confession

In 1990, James Dean was one of six people convicted of raping and murdering an elderly woman. There were several factors that went into his conviction including false confessions. Dean served five years in prison, and he along with most of the other defendants was released. DNA evidence helped to prove his innocence.

Rubin Carter: The Hurricane

Rubin Carter: The Hurricane

Rubin Carter is a former middleweight boxer who was falsely convicted of murder. He wrote an autobiography in 1975 which inspired the Bob Dylan song “Hurricane”. He has also had a film made about him by the same name starring Denzel Washington. He was convicted in 1967 and released after twenty years behind bars.

Eighteen Years In Jail

Eighteen Years In Jail

Ada JoAnn Taylor was convicted along with several other defendants of raping and murdering a woman in 1985. Eventually, DNA evidence tied another suspect entirely to the crime, whom authorities believed was the only perpetrator of the crime. She was released in 2008 after serving over eighteen years in prison.

A Canadian Crime

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Steven Truscott is a Canadian man who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1959. He maintained that he was innocent until 1975 when he was finally acquitted of the crime. He was the last person to see the victim alive which helped implicate him in her murder. Several films and other pieces of art have been based around the case.

Hairs of Fate

Hairs of Fate

Charles Irvin Fain was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a young girl in 1983. He received the death penalty. He was convicted because hairs found at the scene were similar to his. Finally, DNA testing was performed in 2001 and proved his innocence. He spent eighteen years in prison for the crime.

Under Pressure To Confess

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Bruce Godschalk was convicted of two counts of rape and burglary in 1987. A detailed confession he gave shortly after being arrested was proven to false as well as misconduct on the part of the investigators. He served fourteen and a half years for the crime until he was exonerated with the use of DNA evidence in 2002. Investigators have still not found who was responsible for the crime.

Paula Gray

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Paula Gray is a mildly intellectually disabled woman who was convicted of rape and murder in 1978. After being held for two days without access to legal counsel she gave a false confession. She recanted but was still convicted and also received a perjury charge along with four other men. Ultimately, DNA evidence exonerated all those involved with the case.

Cleared After Death

Cleared After Death

Mahmood Hussein Mattan was a Somali man convicted of the murder of a woman in 1952 in Wales. He was executed six months later for the crime. His family sought and won an appeal after his death. Another man was likely responsible for the crime as he later murdered another individual in a similar manner.

Convicted At Seventeen

Convicted At Seventeen

Nathaniel Hatchett was arrested for kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery. He was only seventeen years old at the time. He served ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit and was only exonerated after DNA evidence was presented and it revealed that someone else was responsible for the crime.

A Marine Conviction

A Marine Conviction

Lesly Jean was a U.S. Marine who was falsely accused of raping a woman in 1982. One of the investigators claimed to hypnotize the victim to “improve her memory,” after which she agreed that Jean was her attacker. Jean served nine years in prison, until he was released due to evidence, specifically the hypnotizing tapes had not been presented. Ten years later, with the help of DNA evidence he was fully exonerated.

A Murder He Didn’t Commit

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Chaunte Ott was convicted of murder in a crime he did not commit. Investigators claimed that he killed a girl while he was attempting to rob her in 1995. The Innocence Project worked on his release and discovered DNA evidence which resulted in his successful exoneration. Ott served twelve and a half years in prison.

Pardoned By The Governor

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David Shawn Pope was falsely accused of raping a woman in 1985. The following year he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Several eyewitnesses thought that he looked similar to the account of the victim, and tried to present fault evidence stating voicemails left for the victim matched his voice. In 1999, police received an anonymous phone call and looked further into the case. New DNA evidence was discovered and proved his innocence and matched that of a convicted rapist. He had served fifteen years of his life in prison and was officially pardoned by then Governor Rick Perry.