Making a Murderer and the story of Steven Avery has been an emotionally manipulative journey that has become a cultural phenomena.
Before the Netflix era, there have been many men and women who have spent time behind bars for years, convicted for crimes that they did not commit. Some of these high-profile cases have blasted the spotlight on the justice systems in both United States and Canada.
According to the Innocence Project, there have been more than 273 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States and 17 of those people have served time on death row.
These are some of the most notorious cases.
THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE
(Photo by West Memphis Police Department via Flickr)
Three teenagers – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted of the gruesome slaying of three young Arkansas boys in 1993. Echols received three death penalties and Misskelley, with a reported IQ of 68 and Baldwin were sentenced to life in prison.
This infamous case gained major attention from celebrities and musicians, several documentaries that assisted in raising funds for their legal fees and their message of innocence. Problems noted with the trial include the prosecution citing Echols’ Metallica t-shirt as evidence that he was involved in Satanic killings. They were released on a plea deal in 2011. Echols wrote a memoir about the prison stay and has been running a Reiki practice for several years.
Timothy Brian Cole died in a Texas prison while serving a 25-year sentence for a rape that he did not commit. Nearly a decade after, DNA evidence from the crime posthumously exonerated Cole and implicated another man as the perpetrator. In 1985, he was arrested and accused of attacking several coeds at Texas Tech after an eyewitness account of one victim, identifying him from a Polaroid photograph. His criminal record was non-existent and he was asthmatic and didn’t smoke cigarettes, while the description of the attacker was to be a chain-smoker. There was no physical evidence and several testified that Cole had been studying in his apartment during the time of the incident. In 1995, ten years into Cole’s sentence, a fellow inmate Jerry Wayne Johnson filed a confession that was met with no action as the statute of limitations had run out. The aforementioned DNA evidence confirmed that Johnson was the rapist.
RUBIN “HURRICANE” CARTER
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The Hurricane was a professional middleweight boxer in the 1960s until he was arrested, alongside a man named John Artis, and convicted for a triple homicide in New Jersey. They
were sentenced to life, based on the testimony of two petty criminals. While in prison, Carter wrote the memoir The Sixteenth Round, and sent a copy to Bob Dylan, who helped put his case on the map. Still, Carter languished in prison for another 10 years until a judge ruled the convictions of Carter and Artis were based more on racism than reason. After almost two decades in prison, Carter was released and a few years later moved to Canada, where he lived with a group who had worked to help secure his release.
Tammy is an Ontario woman who spent 13-year in jail, convicted of killing her toddler, based upon evidence from now-disgraced pathologist Charles Smith. He opined that the cause of death was asphyxia, the result of suffocation whereas the evidence later found that her son died of an epileptic seizure. Due to the criminal charges, her two other sons were adopted through Children’s Aid. She is one of at least a dozen people prosecuted for killing children in Ontario for what later turned out to be tainted medical evidence.
He was 14-years-old when he was sentenced to be hanged for a schoolmate’s murder, becoming Canada’s youngest death-row inmate. After the conviction, he spent four months living in the shadows. His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, until he was paroled, a decade later. He decided to live anonymously in a southern Ontario town and was overturned in 2007, unanimously acquitted of the crime, declaring the case “a miscarriage of justice.” The Ontario government awarded him $6.5 million in compensation. The murder is still unsolved.