Death Penalty

DNA Evidence Frees 300th Inmate; Sleepiness and Hunger Spurred Confession

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A death-row inmate released from a Louisiana prison on Friday is the 300th inmate to be freed nationwide based on DNA evidence.

Damon Thibodeaux had served 15 years in prison after confessing to the 1996 rape and murder of his step-cousin, report the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. He later claimed he was coerced into giving the confession after a nine-hour interrogation.

The Washington Post quotes a police transcript of the confession. “I didn’t know that I had done it,” Thibodeaux said at one point. “But I done it.” In an interview after his release, he explained to the Post why he confessed.

“I was tired,” Thibodeaux said. “I was hungry. All I wanted to do was sleep, and I was willing to tell them anything they wanted me to tell them if it would get me out of that interrogation room.”

DNA tests later showed the victim had not been raped and blood found on a wire used to strangle the victim did not match Thibodeaux’s genetic profile, the stories say. The tests were conducted as part of an unusual five-year joint investigation by prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“The inquiry found glaring contradictions between the confession and physical evidence,” the Post reports. “New DNA testing conducted on clothing worn by Thibodeaux on the night of the killing and virtually every other piece of evidence established no links to the crime.”

Thibodeaux spent 23 hours a day in solitary confinement on death row. He is the 18th prisoner on death row to be freed because of DNA.

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