Learn Their Names: Cases of Racial Injustice

Central Park 5

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Sharanda Jones

Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana, 14, Antron McCray, 15, Yusef Salaam, 15, and 16-year-old Korey Wise, also known as the Central Park 5, were falsely arrested and convicted for the rape and assault of a white woman jogging through Central Park in 1989. Police coerced the boys into confessing for a crime they did not commit, and they were sentenced to 6 to 13 years in prison. At the time, Donald Trump — then a New York property mogul — was convinced that the teens were guilty, and spent $85,000 on four full-page advertisements titled “Bring Back The Death Penalty, Bring Back Our Police.” He wrote, “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I’m not looking to psychoanalyze or understand them, I am looking to punish them.”  DNA evidence years later revealed that all five boys were completely innocent, and they were released. (Read More)

Sharanda Jones grew up in Terrell Texas with her paraplegic mother, and several siblings that she had to take care of from a young age. In an effort to overcome the hardships of poverty, Jones began dealing drugs to support her family. Jones was a first-time non-violent offender when she was arrested for seven counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and convicted for only one. In 1999 she was sentenced to mandatory life in prison, and incarcerated. She spent several brutal years in prison, facing abuse, violence and miserable conditions. Jones was a recipient of clemency by the Obama administration and was released in 2015. (Read More) 

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Jabbar Collins 

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Jabbar Collins served 16 years after being wrongfully arrested and convicted of second-degree murder following the death of an Orthodox rabbi. Two key eye witnesses to the crime could not positively identify Collins as the perpetrator in a police lineup, and Collins had a strong alibi placing him away from the scene of the crime.  Early police reports indicated that a few witnesses had stated that the perpetrator was a local drug dealer who had been under recent investigation, along with his brother, for another robbery. One of the witnesses said that these men resembled the perpetrators. Police built their case on witnesses who were heavy drug users and whose accounts were not consistent with those of actual eyewitnesses. Collins was only 20-years-old at the time, and lived in a nearby housing project when he was sentenced to 34 years-to-life-in-prison. (Read More

Kalief Broeder

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On Saturday, May 15th, 2010, 16-year-old Kalief Browder and a friend were returning home from a party. As they walked past East 186th Street, they saw a police car driving towards them, with more squad cars arriving. An Officer told Browder that a man had reported that they had robbed him. Browder and his friend maintained their innocence, but because Brwoder was on probation, the Judge in the case ordered him to be held, with bail set at $3000. Browder’s working class family could not afford this high cost, so he spent three years in prison awaiting trial for a crime that he did not commit. After being brutally beaten by both guards and other prisoners at Rikers Island, Browden committed suicide in 2015 after being released. (Read More) 

Walter McMillian

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Walter McMillian, whose case is documented in Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a young white woman who worked as a clerk in a dry cleaning store in Monroeville, Alabama in 1986. McMillian had no prior criminal history, and was a self-employed logger who was beloved by his community. His affair with a married white woman and the subsequent public divorce between the woman and her husband pulled McMillian into the limelight, and he went from being someone in an interracial affair to a convicted felon for a crime he did not commit. Mr. McMillian was held on death row prior to being convicted and sentenced to death. His trial lasted only a day and a half. Three witnesses testified against Mr. McMillian and the jury ignored multiple alibi witnesses, who were black, who testified that he was at a church fish fry at the time of the crime. The trial judge overrode the jury’s sentencing verdict for life and sentenced Mr. McMillian to death. After working with Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative, he was released in 1993. (Read More

Joe Sullivan

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In 1989, Joe Sullivan was a mentally disabled 13-year-old child who was regularly subjected to physical and sexual abuse. He was convinced by two older boys to participate in a burglary. That same afternoon, the elderly homeowner was also sexually assaulted in her home. She never saw her attacker. One of the older boys, who may have been the assailant, accused Joseph of sexual battery. Joe Sullivan was charged and tried in adult court. During trial, the prosecutor and witnesses made repeated, unnecessary reference to the fact that Joe is African American and the victim is white. Biological evidence collected from the victim was not presented at trial and was destroyed before it could be subjected to DNA testing. Joe’s appointed lawyer — who was later disbarred — did not object to a “voice identification” of Joe by the victim that she had first rehearsed with the prosecutor before repeating it for the jury. Even though Joe was the youngest person in the country sentenced to die in prison for a non-homicide, his lawyer filed a brief on appeal saying there were no issues to challenge in his case. Joe was sent to an adult prison and brutally victimized by older inmates. (Read More)

Herbert Richardson

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Herbert Richard was a Vietnam War veteran who was honorably discharged due to psychiatric illness he developed from his service. Richardson dealt with trauma, PTSD, childhood abuse, and severe mental illness. In a bad mindset, after a woman broke up with him, Richardson devised a plan to plant a bomb in front of her house and then save her from it so that she would take him back. Unfortunately, a young girl came outside, shook the package, and the bomb to exploded, killing her and her friend. Richardson was horrified, as he had not intended to hurt anyone. At trial, the prosecutor painted Mr. Richardson as an evil person and an intentional killer. In an act of racial bias, the prosecutor removed all black people from the jury so that Mr. Richardson was tried by an all-white jury. Richardson was convicted of murder in 1978 and in 1989, he became one of 66 people executed by the death penalty . (Read More

Clifford William Jr. and Myers

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Williams Jr. and Myers heard gunshots and commotion after walking home from a party, and went with other on-lookers to see what was happening. A Florida resident had been killed in her home. Despite their alibis that they were at the party when the gunshots rang out, a fact confirmed by 45 party-goers, they were arrested hours after the shooting. At the trial, Nathan’s council did not even give an opening statement and presented no witnesses. Physical evidence was never presented. None of the witnesses that could confirm the mens’ alibis were called. Both men were sentenced to life in prison. Clifford was 34 and Nathan was 18. In 2017, following a year of review, the men were released. (Read More)

Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart

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Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart were 16-years-old when Baltimore police focused on them as suspects in the November 1983 murder of a 14-year-old boy inside Harlem Park Junior High School, ignoring numerous witnesses and leads that pointed to another suspect. When defense attorneys asked for evidence about the other suspect, a Baltimore prosecutor lied to a judge and said there were no such reports. Chestnut eventually uncovered the reports in a public records request to the Maryland attorney general in 2018. After supplying them to Baltimore State’s Attorney, Mosby’s Conviction Integrity Unit worked to have the men freed by Thanksgiving — 36 years after they were first jailed. (Read More)

Malcom Alexander

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 Malcolm Alexander was arrested in 1980 for a 1979 rape in which the only evidence  against him was the eyewitness identification of the victim, who was attacked from behind and whose identification four months after the crime the police twice labeled as “tentative.” The jury never heard this and Mr. Alexander’s trial lawyer didn’t bother to give an opening statement, closing argument or present any witnesses in his defense. In 2017, results of DNA testing that Innocence Project secured for Mr. Alexander excluded him as the donor of the pubic hairs that all the evidence suggests the perpetrator left in the bathroom where the victim was attacked. In 2018, Alexander’s conviction vacated and he was released from custody. (Read More)

Kevin Bailey and Corey Batchelor 

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Bailey and Batchelor were both only 19 when they were falsely accused of the murder of Lula Woods, the wife of a police commander who was later fired for torturing suspects. Bailey was questioned for 12 hours before he confessed to taking a part in the murder after being grabbed by the neck and threatened by a police officer. Corey was questioned for 24 hours and was choked, kicked and slammed against the wall. Despite inconsistencies with known facts of the case, Batchelor was sentenced to 30 years and Bailey to 80. DNA evidence proved that they were innocent decades later, and they were released. At that point Bailey had served 28 years and Bachelor was on parole. (Read More)

Alfred Swinton

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Swinton was arrested for the rape and murder of 28-year-old Carla Terry. Police focused on 42-year-old Swinton after witnesses said they saw him talking to Terry a few hours earlier at a nearby tavern. During the search, they found a black bra in Swinton’s house. Since Terry’s sister did not recognize the garment, police believed that Swinton had killed Terry after she refused to trade sex for drugs and that he took the bra as a “trophy”. A forensic analyst said that the bite marks on Terry’s breasts were made by Swinton’s teeth, and he was arrested. Swinton was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 60 years in prison. In 2014 and 2015, at the request of the Connecticut Innocence Project, DNA testing was performed on the bite mark swabs and identified male DNA that didn't belong to Swinton. The presence of skin cells on the bra did not belong to the victim or Swinton and anal and vaginal swabs also revealed male DNA that did not match Swinton. Since this incident, the scientific community has come to reject bite mark analysis as a forensic method capable of identifying a suspect. (Read More

Gregory Counts and VanDyke Perry

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Counts and Perry were 19 and 21 respectively when they were charged with rape, sodomy, kidnapping and criminal possession of a weapon. However, investigators had no physical evidence. Semen recovered from the victim did not match the two accused men, and the prosecution’s case solely relied on the woman’s testimony, which was inconsistent throughout the trial. In addition, the defense argued that the woman we a recovering drug addict whose boyfriend was wanted by the police for shooting Mr.Perry two months prior. Nevertheless, a jury found these men guilty. Counts spent 26 years in prison and Perry spent 11 before the supposed victim revealed in 2018 that the rape "never happened". (Read More

Cyntoia Brown

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Cyntoia Brown was 14 when she was charged as an adult and given a life sentence for the murder and robbery of a 43-year-old real estate agent, Johnny Allen. The night of his murder, he had picked up Brown at a drive-in intending to have sex with her. Brown said she feared for her life while at the victim's house, so she shot him in an act of self defense. She ran away with his money, guns and a car. Brown was a victim of sex trafficking and was forced into prostitution the a drug dealer which she had an abusive relationship with. After her case received national attention, Brown was released in 2019. During her time in prison, Brown got a GED and bachelor’s degree and mentored at-risk youth. (Read More)

Tanya McDowell

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McDowell, a mother from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was sentenced for "stealing a public education". She enrolled her five-year-old son in school with the address of her son's godmother. At the time, they were living out of their van and homeless shelters. When the school found out, she was required to enroll her son in a different school, which she did in the same day. When she found out that police where looking her, she went to find out why and was immediately arrested. She was then charged with an additional four counts of drug trafficking. Although she denied the drug charges, she accepted a plea offer on all charges, thinking it was the best thing for her to do for her son. (Read More

Patrick Beadle

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Beadle, a 46-year-old musician from Oregon, Beadle obtained nearly 3 pounds marijuana from Oregon (where medical marijuana was legal) to treat chronic pain in his knees. He was bringing it back home when he was pulled over by an Officer, arrested, and incarcerated. He was originally sentenced to 8 years in prison without parole for drug trafficking but later took a plea deal for drug possession. This meant 12 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 3.  (Read More

Crystal Mason

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Mason, a 43-year-old former tax preparer had been released from federal prison for a 2020 tax fraud conviction after serving time. She was eager to transition back into society and contribute positively to her community. As a result, she cast a ballot for the 2016 presidential election, not knowing that her status as a felon made her ineligible to vote. Mason was indicted on a charge of illegal voting, and was sentenced to five years in prison. (Read More

Ferrell Scott 

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Ferrell Scott was sentenced to life in prison for possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. Marijuana is now legal in many states and turning a profit for the (primarily white) pot industry. Several other individuals who were charged with possession of or conspiracy to distribute marijuana only received probation or community service. Scott was denied clemency by the Obama administration. (Read More)

George Stinney

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In 1944, 14-year-old George Stinney was executed for the murder of two young white girls, with no witnesses and little evidence, becoming the youngest person in modern times to be put to death. Stinney was questioned in a small room, alone – without his parents, without an attorney. Police claimed the boy confessed to killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, admitting he wanted to have sex with Betty. They rushed him to trial. After a two-hour trial and a 10-minute jury deliberation, Stinney was convicted of murder on April 24 and sentenced to die by electrocution, His lawyer, a local political figure, chose not to appeal. of a confession. Today, most people who could testify are dead and most evidence is long gone. (Read More).

Tiarra Brown

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17-year-old Tiarra Brown, an honors student and cross-country and track runner, was working hard to save up money so that she could enjoy her high school graduation. But she never made it. Police falsely arrest the 17-year-old for murder and reckless endangerment, despite significant physical evidence that proved otherwise. They had acted on a complaint by the victim's daughter, claiming that Brown had killed her mother and threatened her. However, another woman had already been arrested for the crime. As a result, Brown missed her own graduation. (Read More)

Paula Grey

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Anthony Ray Hinton

Paula Grey was a mentally disabled 17 year old when she was question by police over two nights in a motel about the abduction of Lawerence Lionberg and Carol Schmal and the rape of Schmal. After prolonged questioning, she falsely confessed to being present when four Black men (Kenneth Adams, Verneal Jimerson, Willie Rainge, and Dennis Williams) committed these crimes. When Grey tried to take back her words, she was charged along with the other men. They were all sent to prison and two were on the death row. It was later discovered that there was a police report soon after the arrest in which a witness claimed to know who the actual perpetrators were. Grey’s conviction was thrown out 23 years after the incident. (Read More)

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Anthony Gay Hinton spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row after being wrongfully convicted of robbery and murder of two fast-food restaurant managers. He was linked to the crime through a gun found at his house and convicted despite having an alibi placing him away form the scene of crime. In 2002, 3 of the nation's experts in firearms testified that they could not be certain his gun was the one that shot the two men. Despite this, state prosecutors refused to retrial him or consider this new information. Another 12 years after that, the Supreme Court ruled that he had "constitutionally deficient" representation and reversed the lower courts. It was then found that Hinton must've been innocent because the bullets did not match his firearm. (Read More)