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ACLU: My Journey From Death Row to Becoming an Advocate for Justice

Witness to Innocence Executive Director Herman Lindsey published a commentary article on the ACLU website about what he has dedicated his life to doing since his exoneration.

"In 2006, I was sentenced to death for a crime I didn’t commit. The jury in my case was split 8-4 about the death sentence. Eight people thought I should be executed, and four people thought I should not be. Despite the divided jury, I was sentenced to death.

At the time in Florida, it was possible for a person to be sentenced to death by a non-unanimous jury. Only in 2017 did the law change to require a unanimous jury. But this year, Florida took a step backwards, reinstating non-unanimous juries for the death penalty.

Florida is one of two states that still sends people to death row even if the jury is split. It’s no surprise that Florida also has more wrongfully convicted people exonerated from death row than any other state — in almost every case, the exonerated person was sentenced to death by a non-unanimous jury.

When I was sent to death row, I was afraid. Like many people, I believed the people on death row were monsters, the worst of the worst. As soon as I got there, each one of the guys asked me my name and what county I was from. They passed around a pillowcase and each person shared a little something — food, cigarettes, coffee — so I could have something for my first days on the row. I saw the real human part of the guys, and those people are not monsters.

I was on death row for three years until 2009, when the Florida Supreme Court vacated my conviction. In a unanimous decision, the justices said the government didn’t have enough evidence and I shouldn’t have been convicted. I’m the 23rd person to be exonerated from Florida’s death row."


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