John Thompson spent 14 years on death row for crimes he did not commit.
Convicted of killing New Orleans hotel executive Ray Liuzza, and for a carjacking weeks later, he was preparing to be sent to his death at the notorious Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana – the largest maximum security prison in the United States.
After six execution dates, John had exhausted all his appeals. His seventh date – 22 May 1999 – was to be his last.
In one final twist, a new investigator uncovered some previously lost evidence. After a retrial, John was freed in 2003.
It was the start of another struggle – surviving in the outside world. It was a struggle which has led John to found a new charity helping former death row inmates: Resurrection After Exoneration.
He told BBC World Service’s Outlook programme his story.
“I was glad to be coming home. I was overwhelmed with the thought of me having my freedom, but at the same time I was scared to death because I didn’t know what I was coming in to. I didn’t know where I was going.
“I only had a mother. My two sons had grown. I was coming into a world where I had no future – I didn’t know what to expect.”
Yet, unusually for a death row inmate, John was surrounded by people willing to help him get his life back on track.
The article is a nice read. It starts a decade ago and that can seem like short time for someone who’s been on Death Row.
I go on sometimes about good cops and bad cops, criminals and guys finally cleared by science, proven not to be criminals. The experience of doing hard time changes you – regardless.
It says something extra about a system of jurisprudence that you have the context for an organization dedicated to those who have been exonerated from wrongful conviction. And, oh yeah, there ain’t nothing makes up for time in Sugarland – the Louisiana state prison in Angola.