No criminal justice system is perfect. As human beings, it is inevitable that we are going to make some mistakes. No justice system has been under such scrutiny as that of the United States.
Recently we talked about notorious criminals who received the death penalty. This made us think of all the people who might have received the death penalty but perhaps didn't deserve it. Depending on your views on capital punishment, you may think no one deserves this fate. The fact is, these folks definitely didn't...
Whether it’s underdeveloped technology, a bad lawyer, a harsh judge or an ignorant jury, there are so many factors that go into the conviction of a crime that there is an indescribable margin for error.
This is the reason cases often take years to go to trial, prosecutors need to have every single shred of evidence accounted for in order to make the proper assumptions about the case, and they need to be presented to the jury so that they are able to make the most informed decision possible. However, sometimes cases are rushed or evidence is overlooked.
Any number of reasons could lead to an innocent person being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. We have found 10 chilling cases where people were sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. If things had gone a bit differently, they may still be alive today.
Probably in one of the most influential cases leading to the abolishment of capital punishment in the United Kingdom, is that of Timothy Evans. In 1949, Timothy was convicted of murdering his daughter in their home in Notting Hill. Despite weak evidence collected throughout the police investigation, and despite Evans protesting his innocence and accusing his neighbour John Christie, he was still sentenced to death by hanging. It was later found out that Christie did, in fact, kills Evans’ daughter along with several other women.
Claude Jones was sentenced to death for the murder of a liquor store owner in Point Blank, Texas. Jones, along with two other men were linked to the murder. The two other suspects both testified against Jones stating he was the shooter so they could avoid receiving the death penalty. Despite Jones stating he never stepped foot in the store, he was found guilty, with the only piece of hard evidence being a strand of hair found at the scene of the crime. A forensic expert testified that the sample looked like it came from Jones’ head however the technology was underdeveloped at the time and was unable to determine if Jones’ DNA was a match. He was executed in 2000 for the murder. In 2007 it was later found out that the hair came from the victim and there would not have been enough evidence to sentence Jones to death.
Cameron Todd Willingham
Willingham was executed in 2004 for the murder of his three daughters after ‘intentionally’ setting fire to their family home in Texas. Cameron maintained his innocence until his death and tried to appeal his conviction for years, however, he was still executed. It was later found out that the arson investigators who determined that the fire was intentionally set were using ‘flawed science’ and their findings are seen as negligent. This case is still being investigated and if it is found that Willingham did not set the fire it will be the first time an official as officially declared a wrongful execution in the state of Texas.
Ruben Cantu was sentenced to death for the murder-robbery of a San Antonio man at the age of 17. Despite the fact that the young man had no prior convictions. He was depicted as a violent murderer who shot his victim 9 times as well as shot an eye witness 9 times, however, the witness lived to testify against Cantu however later recanted and admitted he named Cantu out of fear and influence from authorities. Despite Cantu’s claims that he was framed for the crime and the fact that there was no physical evidence linking Cantu to the murder, he was still executed in 1993 at the age of 26.
Leo Jones was executed in 1998 for the murder of a Florida police officer. Jones has ‘confessed’ to the murder after 12 hours of police interrogation. He later claimed that this was a false confession due to the intimidating nature of the interrogation where authorities threatened his life and forced him to play ‘Russian roulette’. The same arresting police officers were later released from the department for using violence in other cases. Despite appeals and witness testimonies in support of Jones’ exoneration his sentence was still carried out and he was killed by electric chair.