Inmates found innocent after decades including 14-year-old boy cruelly executed

For most of us, spending decades locked up in a cell for a stomach-churning crime you know you didn’t commit is an unthinkable nightmare.

But for some, it has been an insufferable reality.

Dontae Sharpe was recently granted a full pardon after spending 24 years in prison for a murder that had nothing to do with him.

He was just 19 when he was sentenced for the shooting of 33-year-old George Radcliffe in 1995.

Sharpe was sent away after a teenage girl, then 15, claimed she saw him do it, despite later admitting she wasn’t present.

But he was released in 2019 and the pardon now means he is eligible for compensation up to $750,000 (£560,000).

Speaking afterwards, he said: “My family’s name has been cleared. It’s a burden off my shoulders and my family’s shoulders.”

Here, the Daily Star takes a look at some other injustices involving innocent people who had their freedoms ruthlessly stripped away.

Boy wrongly executed

George Stinney Jr was 14 when he was executed for a double murder in one of America’s gravest miscarriages of justice.

The trembling boy was strapped into an electric chair in June 1944 for murdering two girls – despite no evidence linking him to their deaths.

The victims were Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, eight, who were bludgeoned to death with a railroad spike in South Carolina in March 1944.

Cops pinned the blame on George as a black teenager who saw the white girls a day earlier.

But in 2014 – 70 years after his execution – a judge overturned his murder conviction.

The harrowing and tragic story of George was told in the 1991 film, Carolina Skeletons.

Central Park Five

The harrowing story of the boys who became known as the Central Park Five was told in a brutal Netflix drama called When They See Us.

It depicted a jaw-dropping case sparked by the violent rape and assault of a 28-year-old jogger in Central Park, New York in 1989.

Five boys were framed for the vile crime – Korey Wise, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Raymond Santana.

The friends were wrongly jailed and spent their formative adult years inside where they each served between five and 12 years.

In 2002 their convictions were overturned and the traumatised “exonerated five” were awarded a $41million settlement.

Four decades injustice

Ricky Jackson served what was believed to be the longest sentence of any US inmate found to be innocent after spending almost four decades in prison.

He was convicted of murder alongside brothers Wiley Bridgeman and Kwame Ajamu.

The man they were accused of killing was money order collector Harold Franks who was shot dead in 1975 in Cleveland.

The trio were eventually cleared in November 2014 before a settlement of $18million was agreed. They were released after a key witness confessed to lying.

Afterwards, an emotional Jackson said: “I can’t believe this is over.”

Bridgeman died earlier this year aged 66 after spending half his life in prison.

M25 Three

You may recognise Raphael Rowe for his Netflix show Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons.

The journalist and TV host spent 12 years behind bars himself for a crime he was not responsible for.

He was just 19 when he was convicted of murder and a series of robberies in a case dubbed the M25 Three.

The trio, made up of Rowe and his co-defendants Michael Goerge Davis and Randolph Egbert Johnson, were accused of murdering hairdresser Peter Hurburgh in December 1988.

But they were acquitted after the convictions were ruled “unsafe” before being released in July 2000.

Speaking about the injustice, Rowe said: “Being charged for a crime you didn’t commit was tough, being stood on trial and being accused of doing things you didn’t do and people telling lies was tough, being convicted and sentenced for the worst of all crimes – murder – and sentenced to life in prison ie ‘you will never be released until we deem you fit to be released is terrifying’.”

Church Murder

Dennis Perry spent more than 20 years of his life locked up for a grisly double murder before new DNA evidence finally cleared his name.

He was believed to have killed Harold and Thelma Swain inside a Baptist Church in 1985 in Georgia, US.

Police arrested him in 2000 before he was convicted of killing the church deacon and his wife three years later.

And he was serving two life sentences for the murders when new DNA evidence from the crime scene matched an alternate suspect.

All charges against Dennis were recently dropped after his conviction was overturned last year.

On his release he said he hoped the real killer was found and said he prayed for Harold and Thelma Swain every day.

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