According to a Stanford University study, “at least 4% of all people who receive the death penalty are innocent.” That may seem like a relatively insignificant amount, but that accounts for more than 1,000 innocent people since 1980. Courts can make snap judgments, especially in emotional cases with victims who were tortured, raped, brutally beaten, and/or murdered. Sentencing someone who is innocent doesn’t solve anything, however. What happens when innocent people are charged guilty of terrible crimes? Here are some of the most notable cases.
When criminal appeals attorneys finally took interest George Kelly, a man accused of robbing a cinema and murdering the cinema manager and an employee, it was too late. Decades before, police pinpointed Kelly as the murder, thanks to a tip (but only in exchange for the tip writer’s immunity). The writer claimed he was also involved in the robbery, but not in the killing. Although Kelly defended his innocence until the very end, that did not stop the English justice system from executing him in 1950. In 2003, Daniel Johnson confessed to the murders, and criminal defense attorneys officially exonerated Kelly.
In 1974, courts convicted James Bain kidnapping and raping a nine year old boy. Jurors convicted him based on the boy’s description of his attacker: a man with a mustache and thick, bushy sideburns. Bain’s sister testified in court that he had been home that night, but that didn’t matter. Anyone has the right to appeal criminal charges, but Bain seized his opportunity in 2000, when Florida courts ruled that old cases could be revisited with new DNA testing. DNA evidence proved that Bain did not commit the crime. Thanks to the 2000 ruling and the help of criminal appeals attorneys, Bain is now free and caring for his sick mother.
Every term, accused criminals ask the U.S. Court of Appeals (or the Federal Circuit Court) to review 10,000 cases. Cases like Kelly and Bain’s prove that the appeals process is more than necessary.
Speak with a appellate lawyer