The death penalty is a divisive topic all over the world, especially in America, where 1 in every 24 death penalties is innocent. Now, whichever side you stand on the death penalty, you still have to agree with one thing. The person being sent to the gallows should at least be guilty before we discuss their execution. However, most convictions are marred with conspiracy and coercion of the main witnesses during trials bringing a question on whether the justice system is even working in the first place. In recent years, these 10 death penalties have forced the world to give a second thought sending men to the gallows.
The Griffin brothers
Many people consider the posthumous pardon of the brothers as a “shame on you” on the justice department. Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin were victims of racial injustice accused of killing a 73-year-old man who was found dead in his house in January 1889. The murder weapon, a gun, was traced to John Stevenson, who testified naming the Griffins as the murderers. The police offered Stevenson, a life sentence for testifying against the brothers. The then racially-biased judge was said to be against land ownership by black Americans.
The two were wealthy black men who owned 130 acres of land in Chester, South Carolina, but had to sell their property to cover the legal costs incurred during their trial. Though there was clearly no evidence to convict the Griffins, the judge sentenced them to death by the electric chair anyway. 94 years later, the brothers were granted a posthumous pardon after a petition signed by over 120 people was presented to Governor Richard Manning.
Joe was mentally handicapped with an IQ of just 46. His mental condition made him very susceptible to coercion. The police arrested him as he happened to be near the murder scene at the time of the incident. Arridy was charged with assault and murder of a 15-year girl. Due to his mental condition, Arridy readily confessed to suggestions of him committing murder.
Frank Aguillar, the perpetrator of the crimes, confessed to the murder while Arridy was still in custody. Despite psychiatrists’ confirmation of Arridy’s mental state, the judge found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Sentenced to the electric chair without an understanding of what awaited him, he spent his last days happily playing with a toy truck only to be executed on June 6, 1939. 72 years later, he was granted a pardon after his case was appealed.
Cameron Todd Willingham
Todd’s house was razed down by an accidental fire killing his three children who got trapped inside while he survived. Witnesses to the incident said that he made no efforts to save his kids; rather, he saved his car by moving it away from the fire. He was charged with the murder of his children by arson. In his trial, they claimed that Todd was a sociopath who had a fascination with fire leading him to commit the heinous murders.
His criminal record betrayed him. He had been arrested and sentenced on separate accounts for burglary, grand larceny, driving under the influence of drugs, among others. Multiple testimonies made during his case claimed that he was abusive to his wife and family. His wife initially denied the accusations but later on admitted that Todd was at times abusive to her. Unfortunately, years later, it was discovered that the fire was indeed accidental. Todd was convicted in 1992 and was executed by lethal injection in February 2004.
Welshman Timothy Evans
It is the case that ended the death penalty in Britain. Timothy was executed for the murder of his daughter in 1958. His marriage was struggling due to his financial problems. When his wife got her second pregnancy, they decided to abort. It marked the start of his legal battle against murder charges. He found his wife dead after his neighbour John Christie agreed to perform the procedure. Christie strangled Evans’ wife and their one-year-old daughter and dumped their bodies in the washhouse of the building.
Evans was executed for the murder of his daughter by hanging despite the lack of forensic evidence pointing him to the crime. Three years later, bodies of Christy’s victims were found by police under the floorboards of his house, among them, his own wife’s body. In addition to granting Evans a posthumous pardon, his case led to the abolishment of capital punishment in Britain.
The Campden wonder
In 1660, William Harrison went missing on the day he had gone to collect rent from his tenants. During the search, Mrs Harrison developed suspicions that the Perrys’ were involved in her husband’s disappearance. Upon interrogation, Perry junior claimed that his mother and brother had killed Mr Harrison and took his money. At a time when people had deep-seated beliefs in sorcery, Perry’s mother was accused of being a witch and was hanged.
Perry and his brother also got the same sentence for murder. The motives of John Perry, however, still remain a mystery as it is quite abnormal to make such claims and accusations. This case took quite a mind-blowing twist when the murder victim turned up alive, claiming to have been abducted and sold to slavery by pirates. He had managed to escape found his way back home.
Tafero and his friends, Jacob and Rhodes, who had a criminal record, was in a car when a police officer approached. When the officer learned of Rhodes’ record via radio, he opened fire with Rhodes responding by shooting the officer and handing the gun to Tafero. Tafero and Jacob had to go with Rhodes’ plan of running from the scene. The three were later caught in a stolen car at a police roadblock and arrested.
Rhodes confessed to the murder, naming Jacob And Tafero as his accomplices in a negotiation for a life sentence. Though Jacobs eventually won the case, Tafero was unlucky. He was sentenced to death and died in a botched execution by the electric chair in May 1990. His execution led to the abolishment of the electric chair in the state of Florida. Though Rhodes purportedly confessed to a jail guard to have lied during his interrogation, the prosecution still maintained that Tafero was guilty.
Griffin was sentenced to death in an unfair trial for the death of Quintin Moss, a drug dealer who was killed by a drive-by shooter. There was no forensic evidence that linked Griffin to the crime scene. Allegedly the prosecution promised their primary witness, Robert Fitzgerald, a reduced sentence for testifying against Griffin. His judgment was made after positive identification of Griffin by Fitzgerald, who confessed to seeing him and other men in the vehicle.
The court refused to withdraw his conviction even after the prosecution’s inability to produce any forensic evidence linking him to the murder. Though there was another eyewitness at the crime scene, the police never sought his testimony. He reported that Griffin was not among the gunmen in the vehicle. Griffin’s case still remains a mystery years after his execution.
Carlos de luna
Carlos was arrested for a murder committed by someone who was his lookalike. The perpetrator, Hernandez, got away after stabbing Wanda Lopez to death at a convenience store in Texas. Carlos was arrested following an eyewitness statement that identified him as the murderer. Carlos’ claims that he was a victim of mistaken identity fell on deaf ears as the prosecution said that Hernandez was a product of his imaginations.
Hernández was years later arrested for killing yet another woman with the same murder weapon as the first. He himself had cleared Carlos De Luna’s name by telling his family about a guy who had been implicated in a murder that he had committed. His family, however, feared to speak about it to the police. He was arrested and convicted over a decade after the death of his lookalike, who has since then not received any apologies from the prosecution for botching his trial.
Collin Campbell Ross
Hairs found on Ross’ bed, whose colour matched with the victims were the only physical evidence presented during his trial. He owned a bar that attracted some rather odd characters, from prostitutes to criminals, giving it a very bad reputation. In 1922, he was charged with abduction, rape, and murder of a 12year old girl, Alma, whose body was found in an alley. In his trial, the prosecutors went as far as using the confession of a man who was convicted of perjury.
He received a letter before his execution from the real killer while in prison. The killer, however, was not willing to face charges for his crime. With the authenticated letter as evidence of his innocence, he was still executed by hanging. His execution was even used as an experiment to test the effectiveness of the four-stranded rope in hanging, causing ross much pain from the botched execution. Ross was, however, granted a posthumous pardon in 2008.
He was just 18 at the time of his conviction in Inner Mongolia. Huugjilt was on a night out with his friends when he responded to the cries of a lady who was raped and murdered in a public toilet. His attempt to help was in vain as he was charged with the murder of the lady when he reported the crime to the police. He was executed in April 1996.
In 2005, a serial rapist, Zhai Zhihong, confessed to the crime after being arrested for another crime. Zhai’s confession revealed an injustice to Huugjilt. In addition to being exonerated, his parents received a compensation of $4,850 for the loss of their son who was unjustly executed. It is very sad that a young man suffered for trying to uphold integrity.