In March, when the legislature voted to repeal our state’s death penalty, I was given only three days to make what I knew was going to be one of the most difficult decisions of my career....I’ll never forget the story of Juan Melendez who spent 18 years on Florida’s death row before being exonerated for a murder he didn’t commit and who now calls New Mexico home....The fact is people continue to commit terrible crimes even in the face of the death penalty. And what no one can disagree on is the finality of the death penalty. No one understood that better than Juan Melendez and the 130 others like him who got a reprieve from death through exoneration. Ultimately my decision came down to the realization that our system is not perfect and is, in fact, inherently defective as these exonerations prove.
– Excerpt from (former) New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's speech at Death Penalty Focus Awards Dinner, May 2009
Witness to Innocence
Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization composed of, by, and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones. By engaging them in public education programs, direct action, and legislative and media work, we empower our exoneree members to be leaders in the stuggle to end the death penalty in the United States, and to actively challenge the public to grapple with the reality of a fatally flawed criminal justice system that sends innocent people to death row. We also provide peer support for death row exonerees, and campaign for federal compensation for them.
Founded in 2003 by Sister Helen Prejean, internationally renowned anti-death penalty activist, and Ray Krone, the 100th person exonerated from death row in the United States, Witness to Innocence (WTI) began as a project of the New Orleans-based Moratorium Campaign Education Fund. Two years later WTI moved to Philadelphia, PA, where the organization transformed itself into one of the most powerful and unique anti-death penalty organizations in the United States.
Our exoneree members have educated tens of thousands of Americans through speaking events at colleges, universities, professional associations, academic conferences, law schools, faith communities, K-12 schools, and civic groups. They have testified before state legislatures, met with government officials and world leaders, and reached tens of millions of people worldwide through the media. Witness to Innocence has shifted public opinion on the death penalty, playing an integral role in successful repeal campaigns in New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, and Maryland.
A country that joins 140 other nations in abolishing the death penalty. A country that grants fair and speedy compensation to the wrongfully convicted. A country that puts “justice” back into the criminal justice system.
We will never forget your courage, wisdom, and love for humanity.
Visit Delbert's poetry page here.
Read tributes to Delbert's life that appeared in publications around the world, from The New York Times to The Economist, here.
(Photo by Edwin Tse)
RIP, Greg Wilhoit 1954–2014
We will never forget your courage, humor, and resilience.
Read tributes to Greg's life that appeared here and here.
(Photo by Sofia Moro)
This video of Ray Krone, director of membership and training at Witness to Innocence, is courtesy of Atlantic Philanthropies, one of our generous funders:
We want to thank our funders for their generous support. We couldn't do it without them!
We are proud members of:
To learn more about our funders and membership organizations, browse our Links & Resources page here.
Witness to Innocence wants to thank the following people and organizations for so many of the awesome videos, photos, and artwork on our website: Ashlee O Shelton, Sofia Moro, Brian Bullock, George Gull, Marc Steinberg, Resurrection After Exoneration, Daniel Bolick, Scott Langley, Maria Telesco, David Sulewski, Talila Lewis – please let us know if we have left you out!
This website has been produced as part of Witness to Innocence's Eyes Wide Open Project, generously funded and supported by the European Union.The contents are the sole responsibility of Witness to Innocence, and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
Witness to Innocence | 1501 Cherry St. | Philadelphia, PA 19102 | 267.519.4584