Judge Throws Out 1991 Murder Conviction, Death Sentence

Prosecutors were left stunned in the case of Jermaine Marlow Wright, who had been on death row for 21 years.

Posted: 01/05/2012 11:29 AM EST
Judge Throws Out 1991 Murder Conviction, Death Sentence

A Delaware man who has been on death row for 21 years has had his murder conviction overturned.

Jermaine Marlow Wright, 39, may soon be released on bail after a hearing that left prosecutors speechless. On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge John A. Parkins said that he had “no confidence” in the evidence against Wright and in response he overthrew Wright’s murder conviction. Parkins plans to hold a hearing next week that appears likely to release the defendant on bail.

In 1991, Wright was sentenced to death twice for the fatal shooting of a 66-year-old liquor store clerk during a store robbery. Although Parkins called the death of the clerk, a 66-year-old amputee who was filling in for his brother, the owner, “brutal and senseless,” he says that the chief investigating police officer “did not advise the prosecutors of evidence” which may have shown that Wright was innocent.

“…The court stands as a guardian of the constitutional rights of every citizen, including those of the defendant,” Parkins said, “and that is what this court has done today.”

Wright isn’t the only one who has been wrongly convicted, however. A study by Ohio State University suggests about 10,000 people in the U.S. may be wrongly convicted of serious crimes each year. Additionally, since 1989, when the first DNA exoneration took place, there have been 281 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the nation, according to the Innocence Project.

The news of Wright’s release comes just months after Philadelphia’s district attorney decided to stop seeking the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, and amidst news that Illinois signed into law a legislation abolishing death sentences in its state.

Perhaps the controversial death of Troy Davis and others is making those in the legal system think twice about punishing prisoners to death.

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