4 Prisoners Facing Executions or Serving Extreme Jail Sentences Who Very Well May Be Innocent
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Of all of the teenagers, Paredes was the youngest, the first 15-year-old defendant in the county ever to be tried as an adult. He was also the only one who refused tp plead guilty. "If they said they would release me tomorrow if I would plead guilty, I wouldn't do it," he said. He was given three life sentences, with no possibility of parole, a virtual in-house death sentence.
(Later it was discovered that the jury had been overwhelmingly in favor of acquitting Paredes, but the jury foreman, a man named Brian Marsh, argued forcefully for him to be found guilty. Marsh, it turned out, was a co-worker of a relative of Rick Tetzlaff.)
For the past two decades, activists led by Paredes's family have been fighting for a re-examination of his case. In December 2008, he was granted a public hearing by the Michigan Parole and Commutation Board; nearly 200 people attended.
Paredes is now 36 years old. After the U.S.Supreme Court declined to hear his case, a commutation request on his behalf was sent to Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. This past April, members of the Parole Board sent their recommendation on the case to Granholm's office. They will not publicly announce what the recommendation was. "Now the Governor will issue a final decision which could be rendered any day now," Paredes's mother says. In an article in the Detroit Free Press, Jeff Gerritt wrote that Paredes is "probably innocent." But, like other innocent prisoners who refuse to express remorse for a crime they did not commit, this lack of remorse could convince the Board to deny his commutation request.
"Granholm should seriously consider the recommendations of the Parole Board, but the power of commutation is hers alone," wrote Gerritt. "In the Paredes case and others, the Parole Board should not keep her from doing the right thing."
To learn more about this case, and to sign a petition on behalf of Paredes, go here.
On Christmas night, 1997, Timothy McKinney was one of hundreds of revelers at a comedy club in Memphis, Tennessee, when an off-duty police officer moonlighting as a security guard was shot, later dying from his injuries.
McKinney had argued with the officer, a man named Donald Williams, earlier that night -- he was upset because he could not find his car and he thought it had been stolen or towed -- but upon being accused of the murder, he swore he was innocent.
He had a case: According to an official police statement by Williams' colleague, Frank Lee, who heard the gunshot and ran after the shooter, the assailant was an African American male wearing a "black t-shirt, black pants, orange or gold hushpuppy like shoes, orange bandana around his mouth, no hat."
This hardly matched the outfit McKinney had on that night, an outfit described by Lee himself, in the same statement, as a "multi-color sweater" with "circular designs around the arm, and around the body of the shirt -- they were gold, yellow, red," and "a gold sleeveless leather vest." McKinney’s pants were described as "black or navy blue trousers." The one similarity were his shows, hushpuppies described as "orange or orange gold."
This contradiction -- within the same police document, no less -- didn't seem to faze the cops. Neither did a different description of the shooter from another eyewitness, a 24-year-old woman named Joyce Jeltz, who was leaving the club when Williams was shot. In her initial statement to police, she described the killer as wearing "a dark color knit turtle neck sweater pulled over his nose and mouth" and "brown pants." She also described his hair -- no mention of a hat -- as "dark brown," with a "low fade hair cut."