Extracted Confession, Inadequate Legal Defense, False Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct
Eleven year-old Lacresha Murray was convicted of killing two-year-old Jayla Belton. She “confessed” to the crime after 39 denials and enduring three hours of police questioning along with threats to jail her and her grandparents from whom she had been separated for four days. Her conviction was based almost entirely on this “extracted 'confession.'” After a trial in which her attorney offered no defense, she was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. She was exonerated after three–plus years in prison when an appellate court ruled that the police violated her rights when they interrogated her. It is now known that Jayla, most likely died as a result of the chronic abuse she was suffering at the hands of other people—not Lacresha. A civil suit seeking damages on Murray’s behalf was dismissed by a federal judge—a decision that was upheld by the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in June 2009.
Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation and Lack of Social Support for Reintegration
Several eye-witnesses to a 1993 shooting on a Chicago northside street, identified 13-year Thaddeus Jimenez as the killer of Eric Morro. Despite other witness statements to the contrary and no sign of gunshot residue on his clothes or hands, Thaddeus was charged with murder, tried, and sentenced to 50 years in prison. In 2007, two of the original eyewitnesses recanted their testimony and Thaddeus’ conviction was vacated in 2009. Thaddeus sued the City of Chicago for wrongful conviction and was awarded $25 million. By that time, he had already been sentenced to a year in prison for felony possession of narcotics, and in 2016 he pled guilty after shooting a former gang member who resisted Jimenez’s attempt to force him back into a street gang he was involved in rejuvenating with recruitment bonuses of $50,000. In March 2017 he was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
George Junius Stinney Jr.
False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation,
Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense,
Fourteen-year-old George Junius Stinney Jr. is the youngest person in the United States in the 20th-century to be sentenced to death and to be executed. In 1944, the child was convicted in less than 10 minutes, during a one-day trial, by an all-white jury of the first-degree murder of two white girls. While police officers testified that George confessed to the crime, there was no written record of his confession and no transcript of the brief trial. Since Stinney's conviction and execution by electric chair 73 years ago, the question of his guilt, the validity of his "confession," and the process leading to his execution have all been extensively criticized. A group of lawyers and activists investigated his case on behalf of his family and on December 17, 2014, his conviction was posthumously vacated 70 years after his execution—the circuit court judge ruled that he had not been given a fair trial, he had no effective defense and his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated.