Exonerated After Execution: 12 Men (And One Woman) Found Innocent After Being Put to Death

September 27, 2011  |  

By Alexis Garrett Stodghill

The execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last week despite tremendous doubt about his guilt has brought the issue of capital punishment into the national spotlight. As a country that supports use of the death penalty, America is in poor company with “the world’s great dictatorships and autocracies [such as] Iran, Zimbabwe, China, North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, [and] Belarus” according to The Atlantic — while we are supposed to be the land of the free. Far above and beyond the politically nasty associations with capital punishment is of course the moral concern over accidentally putting innocent people to death. It is likely that the average American believes this is a rare occurrence worth the social value of the death penalty as a deterrent from violent crime. Unfortunately innocent people are often placed on death row. In a study of executions in 34 states between 1973 and 1995, Columbia University professor James Liebman found that: “An astonishing 82 percent of death row inmates did not deserve to receive the death penalty. One in twenty death row inmates is later found not guilty.” Most death row inmates do not have the resources or time necessary to determine their innocence before it is too late. Hopefully, Troy Davis’ case and others like his will show U.S. citizens how the death penalty destroys innocent lives. Over 1,000 people have been executed since 1976. We may never know how many went to death in error. Here are just a few who we know for sure were likely innocent — but this was discovered too late.


Larry Griffin

Griffin was executed by lethal injection in 1995 for the 1980 murder of Quenton Moss, a drug dealer in St. Louis. Griffin was convicted and received the death sentence based mainly on the testimony of a career criminal, Robert Fitzgerald, who later admitted to committing the crime himself. Fitzgerald also stated that the police pressured him into accusing Griffin. Griffin, like Troy Davis, maintained his innocence until the end.

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • Marsha Rupe

    Woodward is being hysterical. Can’t face the fact we, as humans, make errors, especially in an adversarial system of justice as the one we use in the United States? We’ve had all kinds of people pulled off death row based on DNA evidence. Why can’t you believe we’ve executed innocent people?

  • Kenneth Lyneham

    Any person who thinks it is okay for an innocent person to be executed JUST because there are guilty ones executed as well, deserve themselves to be executed.
    The death of just one innocent can NEVER be justified by any number of guilty ones executed. Also,, it has been shown that the death penalty as a deterrent against capital crimes, is a failure.

  • delly

    There are always people convicted wrongly meaning that there must be people executed wrongly. Then add this information to he amount of executions that are mishandled or do not go according to plan. As long as the death penalty exists there will always be people who suffer wrongly!

  • Pingback: Electric Chair | MOOC Magazine!MOOC Magazine!()

  • Jenn Eckert

    Only three people from two separate crimes were ever exonerated. The two guys from the 1913 case and the Baker woman from Georgia. Of course they weren’t enough to sustain the writers agenda for this ridiculous article. Saying there is a little evidence that may or may not justify yet another look is not proving innocence and is not exoneration.

  • Jenn Eckert

    David Wayne Spence was guilty. He nor the other men involved were ever exonerated. The one surviving convicted male is currently serving out his sentence.

  • Jim Woodward

    wrong fool!! there has not been one single executed murderer proven innocent.

    your lies and distortions will never change that REALITY

    • cab

      Use your head!!! If many have been released from death row after it coming to light that they did not, with 100% proof, commit the crimes that landed them there. You can not say innocent people haven’t been executed. You would be a fool to think our system is flawless. In the years before dna you must conclude many paid for crimes they did not commit, with their own lives. So open your eyes and get out of the dream that we live in a perfect mistake free world.

      • Jim Woodward

        there is no perfect world, and i have never intimated that one exists. i did fail to note that the statement i made is that, since 1976, there has not been a single innocent person executed. the simple FACT is that the 20+ exonorations since 1981 is conclusive proof that no factually innocent individual ever COULD be executed.
        there were not MANY innocents executed prior to furman, but, there were some. lena baker was one, and its possible that bruno hauptmann was also innocent.
        of course, NOTHING prior to 1976 has ANY relevance to the subject whatsoever

        • zonmoy

          because the courts keep denying and then destroy the evidence that can exonerate them after execution. thus like you they lie and deny.

    • Shhelb

      Yes there has.

    • zonmoy

      Denial is not just a river in Egypt

    • Marsha Rupe

      Seems to me you are the one who is wrong. Why don’t you deal with reality?

  • Pingback: Best type of death penalty? - Page 2 - Defending The Truth Political Forum()

  • Pingback: Rick Perry brags about how much Texas values life on evening of state’s 500th execution | Death and Taxes()

  • Nonny Maus

    I tell the pro-life nuts in my life, "if you don't like abortion, go adopt all those unwanted children yourself." If you don't like the death penalty, how would you feel to pay and house and feed a convicted murderer, if you're so sure they're all so innocent? In some states, it's grossly UNDER-used due to the appeals process. There is zero chance of rehabilitation for a repeat offender convicted of violent, premeditated acts. If you want to act like a rabid animal, you get put down like one. It's called justice, and those in death row were convicted in COURT, not by a lynch mob.

  • This is disgusting, just disgusting…

  • alicia duncan

    down south is known for doing sh**t like this

  • Destiny

    I don't understand why there aren't more people protesting,marching for the horrible injustice of the innocent… I guess we're just that comfortable. It's sickly and horrible. I would die inside myself knowing I was being put to death for a murder I did not commit. It's wrong. Two wrongs will NEVER make a right. EVER!. It's not 100% error free, which means it shouldn't be. SMH. SMH.

  • G

    This does not change my mind. I still support the death penalty. I feel it is right for some cases.

    • Mike

      Yeah unless it was you falsely accused and convicted and waiting to die.