This is an intriguing documentary series about three men held for lengthy periods in US prison who were later presumed innocent. Two of the former inmates are African American, and one a Scottish immigrant.
Episode One features Otis Johnson, a 73 year old African American imprisoned for 40 years for attempted murder (of a cop) – because he wore a tan jacket similar to that of the suspect. At the time of his arrest, he was a hospital worker with no criminal record and no history of alcohol or drug abuse. He also had a clear alibi at the time of the shooting.
Although his behavior in prison was impeccable, his failure to show remorse for a crime he didn’t commit led to nine unsuccessful parole applications. The parole board released him on his tenth application.
Episode two concerns Jerome Morgan who, at 17, was sentence to Angola Prison for 20 years for a murder occurring a brawl at a sweet sixteen party. The New Orleans Innocence Project began trying to establish his innocence in 2001. However his case was significantly delayed after many of his legal files were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Morgan’s Project Innocence attorney won his release by establishing that the police lied at trial by alleging the friends who supported his testimony were gang members and by obtaining affidavits from two other witnesses who the police forced to change their testimony.
Episode three concerns Scottish immigrant Kenny Ritchie, who spent 21 years on death row for allegedly starting a fire that killed a two-year-old child died. Unlike the other two ex-inmates, Ritchie obtained his release after a prosecutor allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of child endangerment. This enabled prison authorities to release him on time served in 2007. This unusual plea bargain came about as a result of an extensive international campaign, in which U2, the Proclaimers, Sean Connery, Ian McGregor, Amnesty International UK, Reprieve UK, and Pope Jean Paul II all lobbied against his execution. It helped that two witnesses officially retracted evidence they had given against him.
Ritcihie, who continues to have major problems with alcohol and drug abuse, currently lives in a tent in Ohio. His ex-wife claims he once confessed to setting the fire while drunk. She also claims to be in communication with Ritchie’s dead father and the dead child.