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Jesse Johnson: 194th Person Exonerated While on Death Row

by Jordan Arizmendi

Twenty-five years after Jesse Johnson, 62, was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death, in September, he became the 194th person to be exonerated while on Death Row.

In 1998, Harriet Thompson was stabbed to death at her home in Oregon. Patricia Hubbard, a witness across the street, at 3:45 a.m., heard a fight at Thompson’s house and then saw a white man leave. A short time later, Thompson saw a Black man leave. The Hubbard tried to tell police what she saw, but she was repeatedly ignored. In fact, one police officer responded to her tips by saying, “A nigger got murdered, and a nigger is going to pay for it.”

Despite a lack of DNA evidence, Johnson was arrested for the murder. His trial lawyers spent just a few hours canvassing the area and never even spoke with Hubbard. The Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Johnson received inadequate legal representation and overturned his conviction. Had Hubbard’s testimony been heard at trial, the outcome would have undoubtedly been different. In addition, the court found Hubbard’s testimony “included evidence of racial bias in the police investigation of the murder, and a failure to properly investigate.”  


Source: Equal Justice Initiative

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