Innocence and the Death Penalty

Since 1976, we have executed over 1,300 individuals in this country. As of today, 150 individuals have been exonerated from death row — that is, there has been one person exonerated for every 10 people who have been executed in the last 36 years.  Seventy-eight of these innocent people were African American.

CARLOS DELUNA. Executed 1989 – found innocent 2006. In 1989, DeLuna was executed for the stabbing of a Texas convenience store clerk. Almost 20 years later, Chicago Tribune uncovered evidence that shows DeLuna was likely innocent. The evidence showed that Carlos Hernandez, a man who even confessed to the murder many times, actually did the crime.

CAMERON TODD WILLINGHAM. Executed 2004 – found Innocent 2009. In 1992, Willingham was convicted of arson murder in Texas. He was believed to have intentionally set a fire that killed his three kids. In 2004, he was put to death. Unfortunately, the Texas Forensic Science Commission later found that the evidence was misinterpreted, and they concluded that none of the evidence used against Willingham was valid. As it turns out, the fire really was accidental.

RUBEN CANTU. Executed 1993 – found innocent 2005. Cantu was 17 at the time the crime he was alleged of committing took place. Cantu was convicted of capital murder, and in 1993, the Texas teen was executed. About 12 years after his death, investigations show that Cantu likely didn’t commit the murder. The lone eyewitness recanted his testimony, and Cantu’s co-defendant later admitted he allowed his friend to be falsely accused. He says Cantu wasn’t even there the night of the murder.

LARRY GRIFFIN. Executed 1995 – found innocent 2005. Griffin was put to death in 1995 for the 1981 murder of Quintin Moss, a Missouri drug dealer. Griffin always maintained his innocence, and now, evidence seems to indicate he was telling the truth. The first police officer on the scene now says the eyewitness account was false, even though the officer supported the claims during the trial. Another eyewitness who was wounded during the attack was never contacted during the trial, and he says Griffin wasn’t present at the crime scene that night.