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Derrick Jamison

Exoneree Name

State: Ohio

Convicted: 1985

Exonerated: 2005

Race: Black

DNA used in exoneration? No

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Perjury or false accusation

Police misconduct


Derrick's Wrongful Conviction

Derrick Jamison spent 20 years on Ohio's death row for a crime he did not commit. He now works for Witness to Innocence as a Peer Specialist, supporting his fellow exonerated death row survivors as they navigate life after exoneration and continue their fight for abolition. Derrick is devoted to the work of ending the death penalty, not only for the wrongfully incarcerated, but because he believes it is wrong to kill any human being. He understands the torture of existence on death row, and he knows first-hand of the impact of the death penalty on families and on society. The death penalty didn't kill me. But it killed my mom and my dad, my two aunts, my biggest support…because our family was really close, you know… Jesus was executed at the age of 33- why are we still executing human beings?

Derrick was in his apartment complex with 5 of his friends during the time of the murder for which he was wrongfully convicted, yet these friends who could attest to his alibi were not brought in to testify on his behalf. When an eyewitness to the killing of the Cincinnati bartender was shown photos of suspects by police, he identified two men. Neither of them was Derrick Jamison. This information, along with 35 pieces of evidence, was withheld from Derrick’s trial, and his co-defendant was promised a reduced sentence in exchange for implicating Derrick. Based on this false testimony, Derrick was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to death. He always knew he was innocent and believed he would eventually be freed, but he endured 20 years on death row as an innocent man before his exoneration. 20 years of missed milestones, celebrations, loves and losses. Both his parents and other loved ones died while he was there, unable to comfort his family members or grieve alongside them.

I got sentenced to die October the 25th of 1985 and that became the worst day of my life. I walked out death row October 25th, 2005. So, the worst day of my life also became the best day of my life.

Derrick was raised to see the good inside all people. He sees the humanity in everyone and believes we are all capable of change, and that extended to the people he grew to know in prison. In describing his fellow inmates when was first taken to death row, Derrick says some of them looked like babies…that's how young we were. I guess I would look the real young too- I was 23 then, you know. I looked at it as they were some young people that made some really awful mistakes and they shouldn't have had to pay for them with their lives. The mistake they made when they were young cost them their lives.

Like other death row inmates, Derrick experienced profound isolation, the fear of impending execution and the grief of watching those he grew to know be taken to their executions. In the process of being on death row, waiting for my freedom, I watched 18 of my friends get executed.... The day they planned for my release from death row, they were planning to execute my friend in a cell right across from me. He was executed in the late morning hours. Even knowing some were guilty of horrible crimes, it still hurt to see your friends that you grow up with on death row be executed. Cause you ain't got nobody but them…all y'all got is one another. Then they killed them, so you don't have nobody.

Despite his own suffering Derrick looked upon his fellow inmates with compassion, as he does to this day with his fellow exonerated death row survivors at Witness to Innocence. He worried about those who had no friends or family visiting. Looking out for one another often meant talking through the walls and vents, because as on most death rows, they were isolated. Never be able to hug. Never be the able to hug your mom and brothers and sisters again, before you get executed.

Derrick was scheduled to be executed six times but received a stay from the Governor each time. The last stay came just 90 minutes before he was set to be executed. A federal judge ordered a new trial for Derick in 2000 because prosecutors withheld key evidence. Even then, he remained wrongfully incarcerated on death row for another five years. Finally, in February 2005, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus dismissed all charges against Derrick, three years after his conviction was overturned.

Derrick's Work Today

These days, Derrick lives in Florida where he maintains a practice of expressing gratitude for his release and works along with his fellow death-row exonerees to advocate for reform of the cruel and flawed criminal justice system. Derrick shares his story throughout the US and the world as part of Witness to Innocence’s effort to abolish the death penalty. Of this work, Derrick says, saving human lives is the most important thing I can do on this earth. While he has not been able to face going back “inside” to visit the place where he spent 20 years of his life, he maintains a connection and advocates on behalf of death row prisoners everywhere. He wants people to know there is a double standard when it comes our judicial system, especially with wrongful conviction. If you are a minority or a low-income citizen, the pursuit of justice can be an elusive one.

 As to how he survived, Derrick says … it had a lot to do with my faith. You know, my mom always taught me…every time she’d say baby when things get hard, pray. And I did, and they worked. I did a lot of praying for me and my friends and my family, you know, and it worked. It actually worked.

But of all the loss, the time away from loved ones, the death of his parents and family members while he was unjustly imprisoned, it hurts so bad, it still hurts like yesterday…The death penalty destroys people—it makes more and more victims.


  • "The book is based on interviews with 10 Americans who have all been affected by wrongful convictions and the death penalty."

  • Includes interviews from Kwame Ajamu, Derrick Jamison, Damon Thibodeaux, and Herman Lindsey.

  • First-hand account of Keith LaMar's experiences surrounding the Lucasville Prison Uprising of 1993

  • Features WTI member Derrick Jamison

In The Media:

10.21.19 Exonerated from Death Row, men will ask Gov. DeSantis to cancel scheduled execution

10.22.19 Death row exonerees deliver letter to governor's office to block execution of Vietnam vet

10.22.19 Death row exonerees ask DeSantis to spare James Dailey's life

10.22.19 Death row exonerees ask governor to spare James Dailey

10.22.19 Group pushing Gov. DeSantis to keep veteran off death row

10.23.19 Lograron salir del corredor de la muerte. Ahora abogan por condenado a la pena capital en Florida

10.23.19 Sunrise Podcast

10.23.19 Survivors of Florida's Death Row Deliver Message to DeSantis: 'Don’t Kill James Dailey'

10.23.19 Death row exonerees ask DeSantis to halt execution​

8.21.20 Art of Innocence: The People's Struggle to Abolish the Death Penalty

5.23.21 Amnesty International - Get on the Bus for Human Rights 2021

#ImLivingProof... that we send the innocent to die.


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