It’d be nice to think our judicial system is totally infallible, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Innocent people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit more often than anyone would like to admit, and in some cases, people who were later found to be innocent have actually been put to death.
Here are 8 people who were executed and innocent.
1. Cameron Todd Willingham—In 1992, Willingham was convicted of arson murder in Texas. He was believed to have intentionally set a fire that killed his three kids. In 2004, he was put to death. Unfortunately, the Texas Forensic Science Commission later found that the evidence was misinterpreted, and they concluded that none of the evidence used against Willingham was valid. As it turns out, the fire really was accidental.
2. Ruben Cantu—Cantu was 17 at the time the crime he was alleged of committing took place. Cantu was convicted of capital murder, and in 1993, the Texas teen was executed. About 12 years after his death, investigations show that Cantu likely didn’t commit the murder. The lone eyewitness recanted his testimony, and Cantu’s co-defendant later admitted he allowed his friend to be falsely accused. He says Cantu wasn’t even there the night of the murder.
3. Larry Griffin—Griffin was put to death in 1995 for the 1981 murder of Quintin Moss, a Missouri drug dealer. Griffin always maintained his innocence, and now, evidence seems to indicate he was telling the truth. The first police officer on the scene now says the eyewitness account was false, even though the officer supported the claims during the trial. Another eyewitness who was wounded during the attack was never contacted during the trial, and he says Griffin wasn’t present at the crime scene that night.
4. Carlos DeLuna—In 1989, DeLuna was executed for the stabbing of a Texas convenience store clerk. Almost 20 years later, Chicago Tribune uncovered evidence that shows DeLuna was likely innocent. The evidence showed that Carlos Hernandez, a man who even confessed to the murder many times, actually did the crime.
5. David Wayne Spence—Spence was put to death in 1997 for the murder of three teenagers in Texas. He was supposedly hired by a convenience store clerk to kill someone else, but he allegedly killed the wrong people by mistake. The supervising police lieutenant said “I do not think David Spence committed this crime.” The lead homicide detective agreed, saying “My opinion is that David Spence was innocent. Nothing from the investigation ever led us to any evidence that he was involved.”
6. Jesse Tafero—In 1976, Tafero was convicted of murdering a state trooper. He and Sonia Jacobs were both sentenced to death for the crime. The main evidence used to convict them was testimony by someone else who was involved in the crime, ex-convict Walter Rhodes. Rhodes gave this testimony in exchange for a life sentence. In 1990, Tafero was put to death. Two years later, his companion Jacobs was released due to a lack of evidence…the same evidence used to put Tafero to death.
7 & 8. Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin— The oldest case on this list dates back to 1915. The Griffin brothers, two black men, were convicted of the murder of a white man. The reason they were convicted is because Monk Stevenson, another black man suspected of committing the murder, pointed to the brothers as having been responsible. He later admitted the reason he blamed them is because they were wealthy, and he assumed they had the money to beat the charges. The Griffin brothers were completely innocent, but they were put to death nonetheless.