The West Memphis 3

In 1993, shortly after three eight-year-old boys were found murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, police immediately targeted Damien Echols. He was soon charged with murder along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. The prosecution was based upon an error-filled and police-coerced confession, extracted from Jessie, a mentally disabled 16-year-old. There was no physical or other evidence linking the young men to the victims, no weapon, and no motive, and they all had strong alibis. The jury, exposed to the confession and inflammatory assertions by a prosecution expert on Satanism, convicted the young men of murder. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, while Jason and Jessie were sentenced to life in prison.

Update on the case: The Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously ordered a new evidentiary hearing for the three men based upon new DNA and other compelling evidence of their innocence

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Marty Tankleff

Marty Tankleff had just turned 17 when he was arrested for killing his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in their home on Long Island, New York. Based on a dubious, unsigned "confession" extracted from him following hours of interrogation by a detective with a questionable background, Marty was convicted and sentenced to 50 years to life, and served close to 18 years in maximum security prisons for a crime he did not commit.

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Jeffrey Deskovic

On November 2, 2006, Jeff Deskovic's indictment charging him with murder, rape, and possession of a weapon was dismissed on the grounds of actual innocence. Postconviction DNA testing both proved Deskovic's innocence and identified the real perpetrator of a 1989 murder and rape.

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Eddie Joe Lloyd

Innocence Project client Eddie Joe Lloyd served 17 years in Michigan prison for a murder and rape he didn't commit before DNA testing proved his innocence and led to his release in 2002.

Lloyd was convicted of a brutal 1984 murder of a sixteen-year-old girl in Detroit, Michigan. While in a hospital receiving treatment for his mental illness, Lloyd wrote to police with suggestions on how to solve various murders, including the murder for which he was convicted. Police officers visited and interrogated him several times in the hospital. During the course of these interrogations, police officers allowed Lloyd to believe that, by confessing and getting arrested, he would help them "smoke out" the real perpetrator.

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Norfolk Four

In the early morning hours of July 8, 1997, Omar Ballard raped and murdered eighteen-year-old Michelle Bosko in her apartment in Norfolk, Virginia. Ballard has admitted, and continues to confirm, that he committed this horrific crime alone. Although there were multiple clues that should have led police directly to Omar Ballard, instead, less than four hours after Ms. Bosko's body was discovered, the police jumped to the conclusion that Danial, who lived in the apartment across the hall from the Boskos with his wife Nicole, had committed this heinous crime. The police's tunnel vision zeroed in on Danial and later focused on Joe, Eric, and Derek, despite glaring warning signs that these men could not have committed this crime, and long after the evidence conclusively proved that they were innocent of Michelle's rape and murder.

The Norfolk Four have finally been released from prison based upon a conditonal pardon by the former govenor of Virginia which commuted their sentneces but left thioer convcitons intact. They are currently fighting for full exoneration. PBS Frontline has done an exceptional story on the case.

Update: Police detective at heart of Norfolk Four case was convicted himself. Many now call on Governor for a full pardon for the Four.  New York Times

 

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Central Park Jogger Case

The Central Park jogger case, in which five juveniles were convicted of rape and assault based on detailed "confessions" they gave after 40 hours of interrogation. Years later, a convicted serial rapist confessed, saying he acted alone, and DNA tests confirmed his guilt. There was no DNA evidence linking any of the other youths.

Michael Crowe

The Crowe case, in which Michael Crowe, the brother of murder victim Stephanie Crowe, "confessed" to police (as did one of his friends) after 27 hours of interrogation. Later, DNA tests on a drifter's clothing led to the exoneration of Michael and the conviction of the drifter.

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Bruce Godschalk

The Bruce Godschalk case, in which Godschalk "confessed" to rape, was convicted and ultimately exonerated by DNA tests. Prosecutors fought to preserve Godschalk's conviction for seven years even after DNA tests by two separate labs proved his innocence.

Peter Reilly Case

The Peter Reilly case, in which Reilly "confessed" to killing his mother, but was saved when it was revealed that prosecutors had withheld evidence placing Reilly far from the scene of the crime when it occurred.