Top 10 Wrongfully Convicted People Found Not Guilty After Serving More Than 35 Years

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There are numerous people who were found not guilty after serving a life sentence. Well, it is pretty unlucky to be booked for the crime you did not commit but some were lucky in context by proving their innocence in a very short time. But there were some who were convicted in their 20’s and came out of the jail after getting old.

Some were so unlucky that they were able to prove their innocence in their 80’s. It’s hard to express how they must be feeling.

Here are those 10 wrongfully convicted people who fought their way out and proved their innocence even after 40 years.

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart Jr. – 35 years

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This is a case of wrongfully convicted, police corruption and evidence suppression which took more than 35 years to come in notice. Three men Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart Jr. were convicted for the crime they did not commit.

These three guys was serving the life sentence for the killing of 14 year-old DeWitt Duckett since 1983 for wearing the same basketball jacket as the victim was wearing. After serving the more than 35 years in prison their innocence was proved when police found the evidence in their own records.

Donald Kincaid, who was the detective investigating the case withheld the evidence that three of the four people who testified that these three men committed the crime earlier told that they saw only one man committed the crime who is now dead. They told the detective that these three men are not the one they saw.

Actually what happened is four friends was going during school time was going together to eat something. They were near a ally when one returned back to school to pick some of his material. When they were passing an ally one man attacked Duckett and told to hand over his jacket , on seeing this his other two friends ran away. There was struggle between the two and Duckett was shot in the neck with .22 caliber rifle and died later.

When detective Donald asked the victims to testify that on these three guys showing picture every one of them denied to have seen these men killing Duckett. But later the same people and one other witness testified to have seen Chestnut, Stewart and Watkins killing Duckett.

Source: The Gaurdian

Cathy Woods – 35 years

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Source: Los Angeles Times

In 1976, Michelle Mitchell a 19 year-old student was found dead in a garage near his university. Cathy Wood who was the patient in the mental hospital told the staff of killing Michelle as reported by the hospital members to the police.

Police detective who interviewed Woods told that Cathy accepted that she killed Michelle and was convicted with first degree murder with weapon. She was sentenced life in prison with parole.

In 2013, when Woods requested for testing DNA again it was found that no evidence prove that Cathy DNA was found on the crime scene. The cigarette butt which was found on the crime scene was matched with the DNA of some another criminal named Rodney Halbower.

In 2015, Cathy Woods was proved innocent and was released. On coming out she filed a civil right lawsuit against many executive and city of Reno. She was agreed to receive $3 million amid the lawsuit.

Source: Generation Why Podcast

Joseph Sledge – 36 years

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Source: New York Post

Joseph Sledge was convicted of misdemeanor larceny and was sentenced four years in prison. While he was in prison one day he escaped and was captured again a day after. On the same day of his escape two women Josephine and Aileen Davis were killed in their home in Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

On the testimony of two Sledge’s inmate who claimed that he admitted of killing those two women during his escape from prison. On this basis Sledge was given two consecutive life sentences.

Later after several years one of the informants recanted his testimony, saying that he lied to the police because he was bribed with early parole and $3000prize money. The second informant was also given the same treatment. Later when DNA sample of hair which was found at the crime did not match with that of Sledge’s, he was declared innocent after serving 36 years in prison in 2015.

Source: The National Registry of Exonerations

Craig Coley – 39 years

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Craig Coley who was boyfriend of Rhonda Wicht was convicted for life imprisonment for her and her son murder.

Craig who was the former restaurant manager fought for years to prove his innocence for the double murder which he didn’t committed.

After many years when the case was reopened one of the detective found something that proved Craig innocence. He found out that Coley was sentenced without even checking the DNA found at the crime scene. The detective also found out that the two laboratories which were running tests gone out of business. Another Lab was given all its contents.

New tests were done on the evidences which were still sitting in the other lab and found out that the DNA that was received at the crime scene does not match with that of Coley’s.

Police department told that the officer who was handling the case had mishandled the investigation. After serving 39 years in prison Coley was given pardon in 2017.

Source: Los Angeles Times

David Bryant – 40 years 9 months

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Source: Black Like Moi

In 1975, police found the dead body of 8 year-old girl Karen Smith in the stairs of sixteenth floor. She had been stabbed ten times and was also sexually assaulted.

Sgt. William Brent who interviewed Brant testified that Brant agreed on sexually assaulting and killing Karen. According to Sgt., he said that after killing her he threw the knife in a dumpster few blocks away. He told the same thing to the assistant prosecutor .David Bryant was found guilty by the jury and was given life sentence.

After many years David Brant send the samples of his blood and DNA and requested to check them again with the evidence recovered at the crime scene.

According to the reports the samples of DNA and blood type which were found at the crime scenes does not match with the DNA and blood of David Bryant.

He walks out of the court as a free man in 2019 after being wrongfully convicted and serving approximately 41 years.

Source: Planet Princeton

Ledura Watkins – 41 years 3 months

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Source: Youtube

Ledura Watkins was only 19 years old when he was give a life sentence for a murder he didn’t even commit.

In 1976, he was given life sentence because of the hair that was found on the crime scene. The detectives believed that the hair belonged to him. There was no proof that the hair that was found was Watkins, still jury called him guilty.

After so many years when the police again run some tests on the recovered hair it did not match with Watkins hair.

He was released in 2017 and later filed lawsuit with the state for compensation claim. It is believed that a wrongfully convicted person can get up to $5000 for each year he spends in prison.


Clifford William Jr. – 42 years 7 months

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Nathan Myers (left) hugs Clifford Williams during a press conference announcing their 1976 murder convictions have been overturned Thursday, March 28, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. The order to vacate the convictions originated from the first ever conviction integrity review unit set up by State Attorney Melissa Nelson. [Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union]

In 1976, Clifford William Jr. and his nephew, Nathan Myers were wrongfully convicted for the murder and wounding of Jeanette Williams and wounding her girlfriend, Nina Marshall. In an interview with the police, Nina Marshall told that she saw two men entered their bedroom and fired gunshots from close range. She identified both Clifford and Myers as the shooters.

Clifford and his nephew were given life sentence and later sentenced to death.

Later in 2018, Conviction Integrity Unit issued a report stating the innocence of the criminals. According to the reports the shooting which Marshall told to happened in the room actually happened from outside the room. They shots were shots from outside the window because of the gunfire found on the window pane. Police also did not consider the statement of an alibi who told that both the criminals were with him partying next door during time of the murder.

After spending 42 years both of them were released as free man.

Source: NBC News  

Charles Ray Finch – 42 years 11 months

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Charges have been dropped against Charles Ray Finch, center. He is shown here the day of his release from prison. Finch was accused of a 1976 murder in Wilson. Drew C. Wilson| Times

Charles Ray Finch was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the crime didn’t even commit. After 43 years, now when he is 81 years old, he is dismissed of all charges in 2019.

Finch was arrested for the robbery and murder of the grocery store clerk and sentenced to death in 1976.

There was the eye witness who identified that Finch was the criminal who committed the crime.

After many years when investigation was reopened and the evidence was checked the police found many loopholes.

The women who testified Finch had cognitive issue, were the alcohol addict and was suffering with short term memory loss. She told the police that the killer used the shotgun and never said that killer had facial hair.

Actually pistol was used to kill the victim and Finch had long beard at the time of the death of the victim.

There was also some kind of the forgery in the evidence when one evidence states reported that shotgun shells were found at the crime scene matched to that was found in Mr. Finch car.

Well, it looks like there is too much corruption in US police force.

Source: Equal Justice Initiative

Wilbert Jones – 44 years 7 months

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Source: The Times

Wilbert Jones is another case of wrongful convicted in the history of United States. A Louisiana Jury found Jones guilty for the sexual assault or rape on the basis of victim testimony.

Victim girl in her testimony told the police that the attacker was 5 feet and 8 inches tall. Later she told the police that he was 5 feet 9 inches tall. Then again she changes and told that he was 6 feet and 3 inches tall.

Wilbert Jones was only 5 feet and 3 inches tall.

She also told that the attacker had a gap in between his front teeth. She Jones was convicted the victim, expressed concern that Jones has a rough voice while attacker has a soft voice.

At that time there was one serial rapist who was caught several times and even fit the description of the victim, but the prosecution did not tell the defense about this man.

After 45 years Innocent Projects New Orleans helped Jones reopened the case. He was found not guilty as per the lack of evidence but what about his life which perished in the prison. Can anyone give it back?

Source: Mighty Cause

Richard Phillips – 45 years 7 months

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Source: Detroit Free Press

25 years-old Richard Phillips was imprisoned for life after wrongful conviction of killing Gregory Harris in 1971. He was convicted and given life without parole of the crime solely on basis of the false testimony on one witness.

Later in 2017 the University of Michigan innocence project took his case and helped him prove his innocence.

He was released in 2017 because of the lack of evidence to prove him guilty. Later he was exonerated in 2018.

He is the longest serving innocent man behind the bars in the history of United States.

Source: Michigan Radio


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