Damon Thibodeaux

Exoneree Name

State: Louisiana

Convicted: 1997

Exonerated: 2012

Race: Caucasian

DNA used in exoneration? Yes

Reasons for wrongful conviction:

Mistaken witness identification

False confession

Police misconduct

Damon's Wrongful Conviction

Damon Thibodeaux spent 15 years in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, on death row at Louisiana’s Angola prison farm, for a crime he did not commit. Mistaken witness identification, false confession, and police misconduct were all reasons why he was wrongfully convicted in the 1996 murder and rape of 14-year-old cousin, Crystal Champagne.

Damon admitted to the crime because of 36 hours with no sleep and a brutal nine-hour interrogation by police, telling them what they wanted to hear because of their threats to kill Damon by lethal injection if he didn’t confess, although he immediately recanted. But he was convicted and sent to death row anyway, despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime and blatant contradictions between his “confession” and the facts of the crime scene.

In an unusual joint investigation between the District Attorney Paul Connick of Jefferson Parish and defense attorneys, it was discovered that the victim had in fact not been raped, and the only DNA evidence left at the crime scene was not tied to Damon. Connick then vacated his conviction, and Damon was a free man. He was the 300th person to be exonerated from prison because of DNA, and the 18th from death row.

Damon's Work Today

Upon his release, Damon moved to Minneapolis to start a new life, but he initially found it hard to adjust to society. “Right now, I’m adjusting to not being behind bars, and not being told where to go, what time to go. Getting used to not having chains on. That’s a novelty for me.”

He since earned his high school equivalency diploma and became a long-haul trucker. Damon also speaks about his case and wrongful convictions, sharing his story with religious groups, business leaders, lawyers, judges and even the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Join Damon's Fight >>


The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row

  • "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.

In The Media:

10.1.12 Damon Thibodeaux's death row stint shows what happens when innocents confess

2.26.14 Exonerated Angola death row inmate tells Senate about 'horrors' of solitary confinement

2.28.14 ‘I Spent 15 Years In Solitary Confinement For A Crime I Didn’t Commit’

3.27.14 CBS' '48 Hours' to focus on Damon Thibodeaux exoneration

3.31.14 ‘Torture’ of solitary confinement draws pressure for reform in U.S.

7.18.14 For compensation, former Death Row inmate Damon Thibodeaux must prove innocence, state reiterates

12.6.14 Last Chance

8.2.15 Life After Death Row: The resurrection of Damon Thibodeaux

8.5.15 Coerced confessions and jailhouse snitches: why the death penalty is so flawed

11.15.15 Top reasons people are falsely imprisoned

2.8.16 Sleep deprivation linked to false confession in milestone study

5.28.16 Proof of innocence a hard road for many freed Louisiana inmates seeking state compensation

5.2.17 Ten Questions You Always Wanted to Ask Someone Wrongfully Put on Death Row

10.25.17 Louisiana tests relaxed restrictions on death row inmates

3.7.18 Documentary features Louisiana death row exoneree

3.12.18 The Penalty for the wrongfully accused

2.11.19 The quest to do away with Louisiana’s death penalty

12.16.19 El infierno de los inocentes encarcelados en Estados Unidos

5.27.20 Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom - Damon Thibodeaux