People Who Were Incarcerated For Crimes They Didn’t Commit

The justice system isn’t perfect. While judges and juries do their best to make the right decisions based on the facts, they don’t always have all the information necessary to properly convict criminals. From prosecutors withholding evidence to the true murderer lying on the stand as a witness, the following people were unjustly imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. One innocent man even spent time on death row and was five days away from execution.

Robin “Hurricane” Carter Was Imprisoned For A Triple Homicide


Robin “Hurricane” Carter was a middleweight boxer who was arrested along with a friend in 1966 for a triple homicide that took place in a bar and grill in Paterson, New Jersey. They were taken to the scene of the crime, and upon searching their car, police found firearms that matched the crime. Police did not take any fingerprints at the scene of the deaths and were unable to test for gunshot residue because they didn’t have the resources. Carter and his friend were tried for the crimes twice and convicted twice. He served time in Rahway State Prison.

He Became A Motivational Speaker & Earned Two Doctorates


Witnesses didn’t identify Carter as one of the killers after he was first arrested. Carter’s second conviction was overturned in 1985. He spent 20 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Afterwards, he moved to Toronto, Ontario, and became a Canadian citizen. He led the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) from 1993 until 2005. He was wrongly arrested again in 1996 for a drug crime that he didn’t commit. Carter a good deal of his time as a motivational speaker, and earned two honorary Doctorates of Law — one from York University in Canada and one from Griffith University in Australia.

Steve Truscott, 14, Gave A Classmate A Bike Ride & Was Accused Of Raping & Killing Her


Canadian man Steven Murray Truscott was convicted of raping and murdering his classmate Lynne Harper in 1959. Steve, 14, had given her a ride on his bicycle and was the last person to see her alive. He was initially sentenced to death by hanging, but his sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He was given parole in 1969. Although he became a free man again, Truscott spent almost 50 years seeking justice to clear his name. In 2007, he was acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal due to the fact that forensic evidence submitted during his trial was much weaker than it appeared to be.

Find out what had actually happened next.

Truscott Received Millions In Reparation For The Wrongful Conviction


Steve, who was only a teen when the crime was committed, was tried as an adult. The entire time he professed he was innocent. He explained that he dropped Lynne off at an intersection. He peddled away, but when he looked back to where he left her, Lynne was getting into a grey Chevy. Prosecutors claimed he took Lynne into a bush and killed her. Evidence later revealed that Lynne died during a time period when Steven couldn’t possibly have killed her. In 2008, the Ontario government gave him $6.5 million in compensation for its miscarriage of justice.

Tammy Marquardt Was Accused Of Suffocating Her 2-Year-Old Son


Tammy Marquardt spent almost 14 years in prison for the murder of her 2-year-old son, Kenneth Wynne. Marquardt said that she found her son entangled in bed sheets. He died three days later when he was taken off life support. Kenneth had asthma and pneumonia and was treated for seizures on numerous occasions. Pathologist Charles Smith claimed Kenneth died of asphyxia, probably due to smothering or suffocation. The theory was that the young mother was upset and suffocated Kenneth out of anger. Later, two neurologists looked at Kenneth’s medical records and determined that his unexplained death was due to an epileptic seizure.

See who lied on the stand that led to her being put in prison.

The Pathologist Was Unqualified & Lied On The Stand


Marquardt was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 10 years. She was released on bail in 2013. Throughout the trial, she vehemently denied that she was responsible for her son’s death. The pathologist, Charles Smith, was considered to be an expert on suspicious deaths of children. After years of problems with Smith’s work, then-attorney general Michael Bryant urged a public inquiry into his work. They determined Smith was unqualified, a bad expert witness, and sometimes lied on the stand. Marquardt spent almost 14 years in prison due to misleading statements.

Kirk Bloodsworth Was Imprisoned For Killing & Assaulting A Little Girl


In 1984, Kirk Bloodsworth was accused of beating, assaulting, and strangling a nine-year-old girl. An anonymous caller claimed they had seen Bloodsworth with the girl that day. A witness said the perpetrator was tall, skinny and had curly blonde hair, while Bloodsworth was over 200 pounds and had red hair. During the trial, five witnesses identified him, even though two had been unable to do so previously in a police lineup. There was no physical evidence linking Bloodworth to the crime, yet he was sentenced to death row. While serving time, he was tried for a second time and sentenced to two life terms.

Bloodsworth’s case made history. See what happened next.

He Was The First Person To Be Sentenced To Death & Then Get Exonerated


In 1992, Bloodsworth was able to use DNA testing to prove his innocence. A lab and the FBI determined that Bloodsworth’s DNA was not at the scene or on the victim’s clothing. After spending nine years in prison, he was let go. He was the first person to be sentenced to death and then subsequently exonerated. After his release, Bloodsworth began advocating for other people who have been wrongfully convicted. He wrote a book in 2004 and started working as the Advocacy Director for Witness to Innocence. His work led to the end of the death penalty in Maryland.

Faulty Forensic Evidence Led To Ron Williamson’s Conviction


Ron Williamson grew up in Oklahoma and was picked in baseball’s amateur draft in 1971. He retired following a shoulder injury, and he and a man named Dennis Fritz were accused of murdering a woman named Debra Sue Carter in 1988. Carter’s body had been found in 1982. Problems with the exhumation of the body and fingerprint analysis led to the delay in arresting Williamson and Fritz. The pair was known to hang out at the restaurant where Carter worked. Forensic testing led to their convictions. Williamson was sent to death row and spent 11 years in prison. At one point, he was five days away from execution.

His Story Was Made Into A Bestseller By John Grisham


While in jail, Willamson contacted the Innocence Project. DNA testing was granted in 1988, proving that neither the semen nor hair at the scene matched Fritz or Williamson. Interestingly, the DNA results did match a man named Glenn Gore, who testified as a witness at Williamson’s trial. During his time in prison, Williamson had been within five days of execution. His and Fritz’s story became the subject of John Grisham’s first nonfiction book, “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.” It became a bestseller. Willamson died at the age of 51 in a nursing home while battling cirrhosis of the liver.

Prosecutors Said Sally Clark Killed Both Of Her Infant Sons


British woman Sally Clark was convicted of murdering her two infants. Her first son died in 1996 just weeks after he was born. Her second son died in a suspiciously similar way two years later. Shortly after her second son’s death, she was arrested and sent to trial for each death. Clark was convicted in 1999 and given life imprisonment. The sentence was based largely on pediatrician Roy Meadow’s testimony that the odds of two children from a well-to-do family dying of sudden infant death syndrome was 1 in 73 million. In truth, he had mistakenly arrived at this figure.

She Was Exonerated But Died A Few Years Later


Clark’s convictions were upheld on appeal in 2000. They were overturned in 2003. It later emerged that her second son, Harry, had died of natural causes. The prosecutor’s pathologist had information gleaned from microbiological reports but did not pass it on during the trial. Clark was released after serving three years in prison. Afterwards, the attorney general started looking into hundreds of other cases. As a result, two other women were set free. Clark was so distressed by everything that happened that she struggled mentally and had problems living a normal life. She passed away in her home in 2007 from alcohol poisoning.

Bennie Starks Was Convicted Even Though He Didn’t Look Like The Assailant

In 1986, a woman, 69, was taking a walk when she was grabbed, beaten, bitten, and raped. She said her attacker was a clean-shaven black man who was about 18 years old. Investigators found a coat, watch, and other items at the crime scene. They connected Bennie Starks to the crime after finding a dry cleaning receipt in the coat even though he didn’t match the assailant’s description. He was 26 and had facial hair. He also claimed to have been at a bar that night. He told police he had been mugged and the items that were stolen were found in the ravine.

Even With DNA Evidence, He Was Denied A New Trial


During the trial, a forensic odontologist linked the bite marks on the victim’s body to Starks’ teeth. A second odontologist said the same thing. However, bite mark analysis is unreliable and can not scientifically prove a person’s involvement in a crime. Through the Innocence Project, DNA testing proved that semen on the victim’s underwear did not belong to Starks. A new trial was denied. In 2004, additional DNA testing proved Starks was not involved. His conviction was overturned in 2006. Rape charges were dropped in 2012, but prosecutors believed Starks still beat the victim. He was finally exonerated of all charges in 2013.

Dewey Bozella Was Convicted Of Murdering A 92-Year-Old Woman During A Burglary


Dewey Bozella had it tough growing up. When he was nine years old, he watched his father beat his pregnant mother to death. Two of his brothers were murdered, and a third died of AIDS. He became a boxer but was imprisoned for a few years for attempted robbery. Then in 1972, he was accused of killing an elderly woman. Authorities claimed he was robbing an apartment when Emma Crapser came home and caught him in the act. That’s when he allegedly killed her. Bozella was sentenced for murder and 20 years in prison. He kept proclaiming that he was innocent of the crime.

Then they found out the prosecutors were hiding evidence.

He Later Received The Arthur Ashe Courage Award


Bozella declared his innocence at every one of his parole board meetings. He was denied parole four times. He contacted the Innocence Project, and they discovered there was no DNA evidence to back up the case. Then a few lawyers found that some evidence had been suppressed by prosecutors, which would have proved Bozella was not involved in the crime. After 26 years, he was released from prison. After his release, he worked with at-risk youth and taught them boxing. He also delivered speeches about his life experiences. He received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2011 and subsequently published his memoirs.

Andre Hatchett Was Using Crutches The Night He Was Accused Of Beating A Woman To Death


In 1991, a woman named Neda Mae Carter was beaten to death in Brooklyn, New York. Andre Hatchett, who has special needs, was convicted of murder due to the testimony of a man who claimed to have witnessed the beating. Carter lived in the same rooming house as Hatchett’s aunt. Hatchett visited the rooming house nearly every day. He talked to police and gave them an alibi. At the time of the crime, he was recovering after being shot in the throat and leg. He was wearing a cast and was using crutches. The man who identified Hatchett had been arrested for burglary.

He Was Released After Serving 25 Years In Prison


After the man/burglar testified at Hatchett’s trial, his burglary charge was dismissed. During Hatchett’s trial, no one submitted medical records that would have proven it was nearly impossible for Hatchett to have committed the crime because of his medical issues. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. His case was later reviewed in an effort to crack down on questionable convictions. Seema Saifee, an attorney at the Innocence Project, noted upon his release: “This case involved a perfect storm of error — bad defense counsel, an unreliable witness, critical evidence that was never disclosed to the defense.”

Michael Morton’s Experience Changed Texas Law


Michael Morton of Texas was convicted of beating and killing his wife, Christine Morton, in 1986. He spent 25 years in prison, but DNA evidence later proved that he was innocent and someone else killed his wife. He left prison in 2011, and a prosecutor was charged with withholding evidence even though a judge ordered that it be released. Texas Senate Bill 1611, also called the Michael Morton Act, was made into law in 2013. It requires a more open discovery process. Morton’s case was made into a book and a documentary. He released his memoirs, “Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace,” in 2014.

Frank Lee Smith Was Exonerated — Many Years After He Died


An eight-year-old girl was killed in her home during a burglary. She was hit on the head repeatedly with a rock and then strangled. She was also sexually assaulted. Neighbors and the victim’s mother claimed a black man around 30 years old killed the little girl. The mother put together a sketch for the police, who arrested Frank Lee Smith based on her description of him. At the end of the trial, the jury unanimously called for the death penalty. Smith won a stay of execution. Unfortunately, he died of cancer on January 30, 2000. Fourteen years after his conviction he was exonerated based on DNA testing.