Witness to Innocence Launches The Irving & Phyllis Millstein Companion Animal Program for Death Row

Witness to Innocence

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2022


Witness to Innocence is honored to have received a $36,500 grant from the Irving and Phyllis Millstein Foundation for Animal Welfare to launch a new exoneree support program, The Irving & Phyllis Millstein Companion Animal Program for Death Row Exonerees. This program will provide support, resources, and financial assistance for death row exonerees in caring for their companion animals.


The mission of the Irving and Phyllis Millstein Foundation for Animal Welfare is to protect, care for and support, vulnerable, at-risk animals and to address animal-related human conditions, connections, and bonds. We share this sentiment and are grateful to be able to launch this program with the support of the Foundation. Phillip Randell, the Foundation’s Vice President, shared that “Irving and Phyllis Millstein were keenly aware of how the human-animal bond could alleviate the effects of trauma. At the Foundation, we are glad to assist Witness to Innocence in their mission by providing financial support for exonerees’ pets and therapeutic animals.”


Alabama death row exoneree Randall Padgett works as an older adult peer specialist for Witness to Innocence. He knows from his work that many exonerees suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of wrongful conviction and lengthy incarceration on death row and can benefit from the bond of a companion animal. This program has assisted Randall in caring for his goats, about which he shares, “I am so thankful for the new pet program. It has helped me provide the proper nutrition for my pet goats.”


This program will be used to provide exonerees with food, litter, and basic needs for their companion animals, along with routine grooming, veterinary care, and emergency pet needs. Many Witness to Innocence exonerees already have companion animals that they cherish as members of their family. Arizona death row exoneree and Witness to Innocence staff member Debra Milke has had her Golden Retriever, Cairo, for over a year. She shared, “I am extremely grateful for the pet grant. As it is with everything else, dog food is expensive and it is a blessing to have some help. I would go hungry myself first in order to feed my dog, Cairo. The pet grant is wonderful on so many levels!”


There are also exonerees who have expressed a desire to adopt a companion animal but have been reluctant due to financial hardship. This program will allow us to cover the cost of adopting an animal from a local shelter for each exoneree who previously could not afford to do so.


Witness to Innocence is so excited to be able to provide this support and companionship to death row exonerees and grateful to the Irving and Phyllis Millstein Foundation for Animal Welfare for funding this program.



Ohio death row exoneree Derrick Jamison with his Pomerarian, Lucky.

Arizona death row exoneree Debra Milke with her dog Cairo.

Alabama death row exoneree Randall Padgett with one of his pet goats.