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Monday, July 22, 2013

Mistaken Identity... The Story of Damon Thibodeaux

Arrested in New Orleans in 1996 for the murder of his half cousin, 14 year old Crystal Champagne, Damon Thibodeaux had resided in Louisiana's Angola Prison on Death Row for 15 years for a crime he was later found to be innocent of.  Thanks to the DNA evidence uncovered by The Innocence Project, he became one of over 300 people who have been exonerated for crimes that they had been incarcerated for that they did not commit.
     While there is no mention as to the specific DNA tests that were performed, it is mentioned that there was a discrepancy between the evidence that had been collected and the evidence that was used in the trial.  After these discrepancies were discovered by Thibodeaux's lawyer, a group by the name of The Innocence Project was enlisted to help re-evaluate his conviction.   The Innocence Project’s first case was in 1989, when Gary Dotson became the first person to be exonerated in the United States through the use of DNA evidence.  In the years since Dotson's exoneration, new DNA evidence developed by the Innocence Project has exonerated over 280 individuals of crimes they did not commit. Seventeen of the exonerated persons had been convicted of first-degree murder and were subsequently sentenced to death.   Others were exonerated of violent crimes such as rape and assault as in the case of Damon Thibodeaux, who was both convicted of rape and sentenced to death (Thompson, 2012).     
     The Innocence Project has also been described as “a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice (Innocence Project. 2012)."