When James Suggs, an eyewitness to the robbery and murder of a Cincinnati bartender, was shown photo arrays of suspects by police, he identified two men—but neither of them was Derrick Jamison. There were also multiple contradictions between physical descriptions of the perpetrators given by witnesses and Derrick’s actual appearance. This information was withheld from Jamison’s trial, and as a result, an innocent man spent nearly 20 years on Ohio’s death row for a crime he did not commit. In February 2005, Ohio Common Pleas Judge Richard Niehaus dismissed all charges against Derrick after his conviction was overturned three years earlier. Jamison was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985 based largely on the testimony of Charles Howell, a co-defendant whose own sentence was reduced in exchange for testimony against Derrick. Statements were withheld that contradicted Howell’s testimony, undermined the prosecution’s explanation for the death, and ultimately would have incriminated other suspects for the murder. Two federal courts ruled that the prosecution's actions denied Derrick a fair trial. Today, Derrick is fully aware of the inequality of the criminal justice system. “There is a double standard when it comes to justice in our judicial system, especially with wrongful conviction,” he says. “If you are a minority or a low-income citizen, the pursuit of justice can be an elusive one. But if you are rich it happens overnight.” Although his resentment towards the system is subsiding, Derrick continues to express anger about how the 17 years he spent on death row impacted his life and the lives of his family members. At the time of sentencing, he was incredibly troubled because of his unjust imprisonment. “I was very angry, furious and distraught. . . all the emotions that stir up anguish. It made me feel it was over for me. Not only did that sentence affect me, it was the demise of my mother and father.” Derrick expresses daily gratitude for his release. “In the 21 years I experienced ‘dead man walking’ I never had anything to smile about,” he says, “but on that day, I felt the smile come from within my heart. The sun shone down on me that day.”The annual march is organized by several Texas and national anti-death penalty organizations, including Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Texas Death Penalty Education and Resource Center, Kids Against the Death Penalty, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Amnesty International at the University of Texas, S.H.A.P.E Community Center, the Journey of Hope ... from Violence to Healing, and Witness to Innocence.
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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