10 Wrongfully Convicted People

1. Saint Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc, falsely accused

Saint Joan of Arc is a French national heroine and a Catholic saint who led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War, helping to restore her benefactor, the French king Charles VII, to the throne. But then she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English who tried her for heresy. She was 19 years old when they executed her in 1431 by burning her at the stake. When she expired, after burning on a tall pillar, the English raked back the coals to expose Joan’s charred body so that nobody could say she had escaped alive, then burned the body twice more to reduce it to ashes and prevent any collection of relics. 25 years after the execution, Pope Callixtus III found Joan was wrongly accused. He nullified her conviction and cleared her of the heresy charges, pronouncing her innocent and declaring her a martyr. In 1909 Joan was beatified and in 1920, nearly five centuries after her death, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV, who made her Saint Joan of Arc.

2. Alfred Dreyfus

Alfred Dreyfus, falsely accused 
Alfred Dreyfus, a high ranking French artillery officer of Jewish background, was falsely accused of treason and railroaded into exile and disgrace. Despite his protestations of innocence, on October 15, 1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus was arrested for allegedly providing secret information to the German government. He was sentenced to life prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana and placed in solitary confinement. Two years later, the new chief of French military intelligence, Lt Colonel Picquart, found evidence that the real traitor was a French Army major, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. However, the new evidence was suppressed by high-ranking military officials and major Esterhazy was unanimously acquitted after the second day of his trial in military court. In order to silence Picquart, he was transferred to the Sahara desert in the south of Tunisia. Instead of being exonerated, Captain Dreyfus was further accused on the basis of false documents fabricated by a French counter-intelligence officer. In 1899, Dreyfus was pardoned by President Émile Loubet who allowed him to return from solitary confinement in Devil’s Island and in 1906, Dreyfus was finally officially exonerated by a military commission. The next day,  he was readmitted into the army with the rank of Major. The political scandal is today known as the Dreyfus Affair.

3. Hawley Harvey Crippen

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, falsely accused 
Dr. Crippen, an American homeopathic physician, was wrongfully convicted and hanged in Pentonville Prison, London, for the murdering and dismemberment of his wife, Cora Henrietta Crippen, whose body was found under the brick floor of the basement in Crippen’s home. Although the pathologist Sir Bernard Spilsbury could not even discern whether the remains of the body were male or female, he said he found a piece of skin with what he claimed to be an abdominal scar consistent with Cora’s medical history. However, on November 23, 1910 Dr. Crippen was executed. In 2007, David Foran, a forensic biologist at Michigan State University, found mitochondrial DNA evidence which showed that the remains found in Crippen’s home were not those of Cora Crippen. The remains were also tested for sex, and the researchers discovered that the they were those of a man. With all the new findings Crippen’s relative, Patrick Crippen, requested that the British government pardon Crippen and return his bones to America. In 2009, the Criminal Cases Review Commission declared that the court of appeal will not hear the case to pardon the doctor posthumously.

4. Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin

Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, falsely accused

Brothers Griffin, black farmers and landowners from Chester County, South Carolina, were convicted of murdering a white farmer and Confederate veteran in Blackstock, John Q. Lewis. The conviction was based on the accusations of John “Monk” Stevenson, known to be a small-time thief who was found with the victim’s pistol. Although more than 100 people petitioned Governor Richard Manning to commute the brother’s sentence, they were executed via electric chair in South Carolina in 1915. Nearly 100 years after their execution, in October 2009 brothers Griffin were pardoned, after a nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner sought the pardons from state appeals court in Columbia, South Carolina. It was the first time ever that South Carolina has issued a posthumous pardon in a capital murder case.

5. Charles Butler McVay III

Charles Butler McVay III, falsely accused

Captain McVay was a career naval officer and the Commanding Officer of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA-35), which earned ten battle stars in World War II. In 1945 the cruiser was hit by two torpedos, one blowing off most of her bow, where the officers slept. The sinking lasted 12 minutes and about 300 of the 1,197 men aboard went down with the ship. In the wake of the incident Captain McVay was blamed for it. He is the only captain ever court marshaled for losing a ship by the United States Navy. On November 6, 1968 he committed suicide, after years of mental health problems. In 2001, he was posthumously exonerated by the United States Congress.

6. Dr. Samuel Holmes Sheppard

Dr. Sam Sheppard, falsely accused 
Sam Sheppard, an American osteopathic physician and neurosurgeon, became a prime suspect when his pregnant wife, Marilyn Reese Sheppard, was brutally beaten to death in their home on July 4, 1954. Although he had claimed his wife was killed by a man with dark bushy hair and a white shirt who also attacked him and twice knocked him unconscious, Dr. Sam was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. He served 10 years in the Ohio Penitentiary before his conviction was overturned in 1966. In 2000, his son Sam Reese Sheppard sued the State of Ohio for his father’s alleged wrongful imprisonment, but a civil jury ruled against him. However, Dr. Sheppard was free but his life never really recovered. He became alcoholic and died of liver failure in 1970.

7. Rubin ”Hurricane” Carter

Rubin Hurricane Carter, falsely accused

Rubin Carter, a former professional boxer, was arrested for 1966 double murder that occured in the Lafayette Bar and Grill in New Jersey when two men entered the bar and shot a bartender and a costumer. Hurricane and another man, John Artis,  were tried twice and convicted for the murders. Almost a quarter century later, in 1985, a federal judge overturned the convictions, and the State of New Jersey decided not to try the case for a third time and withdrew the indictments against them.

8. Randall Dale Adams

Randall Dale Adams, falsely accused 
Randall Dale Adams was convicted of murdering Dallas police officer Robert W. Woods and sentenced to death in 1977. He spent over 12 years in prison, at one point coming within 3 days of being executed. The appellate judges discovered that Dallas prosecutors had suppressed evidence and knowingly used perjured testimony to obtain a conviction against Adams. Robert W. Woods was actually killed by sixteen-year-old David Ray Harris, who framed Adams to avoid prosecution himself. The case of  Randall Dale Adams is profiled in the documentary The Thin Blue Line.

9. Nora Wall

Nora Wall, falsely accused 

Nora Wall, a former Irish nun of the Sisters of Mercy, was the victim of wrongful conviction based on false allegations by two women, Regina Walsh who had a psychiatric history, and Patricia Phelan who had a history of making false allegations of rape prior to the event. Walsh, whom Wall had cared for from the age of 8, claimed that a homeless schizophrenic man Pablo McCabe had raped her, while Wall held her legs and that Wall had sexually abused her on numerous occasions. Wall and her co-accused McCabe were found guilty of raping a 10-year-old girl. Wall was arrested in Dublin in October 1996. McCabe was jailed for 12 years and Wall for life. A week after the rape convictions, Walsh gave an interview to a newspaper, claiming she had also been raped by a “black man in Leicester Square.” Moreover, the newspaper published the names of Walsh and her “witness” Patricia Phelan for the first time. A businessman who was reading the newspaper recognised Phelan as the woman who had made a false rape allegation against himself, and the defence came into possession of the evidence. Nora Wall was officially declared the victim of a miscarriage of justice in December 2005. She was the first woman in the Irish State to be convicted of rape and also the first person to receive a life sentence for rape.

10. Steven Truscott

Steven Truscott, falsely accused

Steven Truscott, a man from Canada was sentenced to death in 1959 for the murder of classmate 12-year-old Lynne Harper. Truscott was only 14 years old when he was found guilty and he became the youngest person ever to sit on Canada’s death row. Later, his death sentence was commuted to to life in prison. In 2007, after review of about 250 fresh pieces of evidence, Truscott’s conviction was declared a miscarriage of justice and he was formally acquitted of the crime. Harper’s family have never agreed that Steven Truscott is innocent of the murder.

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