Derrick Jamison was 90 minutes away from being executed by the government for a crime he didn’t commit and he’s not the only one to which that has happened. Jamison was fortunate. He survived six death warrants during his two decades on Ohio’s death row, coming within 90 minutes of being executed. After he was exonerated, on the day he walked free, his best friend on death row was executed. His story, he writes in a July 11, 2020 op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, “illustrates everything that is wrong with the death penalty” and why it should be abolished.
Jamison (pictured) was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 for the murder of a Cincinnati bartender. His conviction hinged on the testimony of Charles Howell, a co-defendant who avoided the death penalty by falsely implicating Jamison. In a severe miscarriage of justice the prosecution withheld statements that contradicted Howell’s testimony, undermined the prosecution’s theory of how the murder occurred, and established that a prosecution witness had actually identified two other men as the murderers. In 2000, a federal district court judge overturned Jamison’s conviction, ruling that the police and prosecutorial misconduct had denied him a fair trial. It took almost five more years — until February 28, 2005 — before the charges against him were finally dismissed. It took fifteen more years before he was released. He is the 119th innocent person released from death row. That’s 119 mistakes that could have been fatal for the wrongly accused.