Left to Right: Assistant Federal Public Defender Brian Abbington, Larry Roberts, and CHU Investigator Carlos Escobedo.

Since the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Furman v. Georgia (1972), 200 death-sentenced men and women across 29 states have been exonerated. Analysis from the Death Penalty Information Center reveals these individuals have collectively spent 2,621 years in harsh prison conditions for crimes they did not commit. On average, death row exonerees spent 13 years under the sentence of death before their exonerations, with some individuals spending more than 40 years fighting to prove their innocence. 65% of exonerees are people of color, and of them 54% are Black, highlighting systemic racial disparities. Florida has the highest number of death row exonerations of any state (30), followed by Illinois (22), and Texas (18).

The Death Penalty Information Center has collected and documented the case details of these 200 exonerations. Larry Roberts (pictured), the 200th exoneree, was wrongfully convicted in 1983 for the murder of a fellow prisoner and prison guard at the California Medical Center in Vacaville, California. The only witnesses to these stabbings were fellow prisoners who testified against Mr. Roberts; he was sentenced to death for both killings. After 41 years, the California Attorney General’s Office has now agreed with a US district judge who granted Mr. Roberts a new trial and has said it will not retry him.

Of the 200 exonerations that the Death Penalty Information Center has documented, 141 cases (70.5%) have included official misconduct by police, prosecutors, or other government officials, and 127 cases (65%) have included false accusations or perjury.

There are many other death-sentenced prisoners who have not been exonerated, despite strong evidence of their innocence. In Texas, Melissa Lucio was sentenced to death for the death of her two-year-old daughter, despite persuasive evidence that now indicates her daughter succumbed to injuries from an accidental fall, not abuse. Similarly, Robert Roberson, also on death row in Texas, was sentenced to death for the death of his daughter based on the so-called “Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS),” and is now scheduled to be executed on October 17, 2024, even though SBS has now been thoroughly debunked by new scientific and medical evidence.

In Alabama, Toforest Johnson has been on death row since 1995 for murder despite having a credible alibi and clear evidence of prosecutorial misconduct involving the state’s star witness. In 2001, Marcellus Williams was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a local journalist in Missouri. Mr. Williams has maintained his innocence and DNA testing done in 2015 revealed a male DNA profile inconsistent with that of Mr. Williams. He is scheduled to be executed on September 24, 2024.

In Oklahoma, Richard Glossip was sentenced to death for his supposed role in a murder-for-hire plot. Mr. Glossip has also maintained his innocence in this crime and has garnered widespread support for a new trial from various Oklahoma officials, including Attorney General Gentner Drummond. The United States Supreme Court is set to hear Mr. Glossip’s appeal in fall 2024 to consider whether the state’s suppression of prosecution witness testimony violated his due process rights, whether the entirety of the evidence must be considered in assessing claims of prosecutorial misconduct, and whether the violations of due process warrant reversing Mr. Glossip’s conviction.