LOUISIANA (USA): THIBODEAUX FREED FROM DEATH ROW
September 28, 2012: Damon Thibodeaux, 38, white, was freed from death row through DNA after 15 years.
Today a Jefferson Parish judge overturned the conviction and ordered Thibodeaux released from death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola, at 12:35 p.m. Central Time, a corrections spokeswoman told The Times.
Thibodeaux was convicted in October 1997 and sentenced to death after he confessed to the July 19, 1996, rape and murder of his 14-year-old step-cousin, Crystal Champagne. He at first confessed to the attack after a nine-hour interrogation by detectives. He recanted a few hours later and claimed his confession was coerced.
In 2007, Thibodeaux's legal team persuaded Jefferson County Dist. Atty. Paul Connick to reinvestigate the case, and DNA testing showed that Thibodeaux was not the murderer and that the victim had not been raped. Connick, who was elected in 1996, said he supports Thibodeaux's release and would continue to search for Crystal Champagne's killer. Thibodeaux is the 141st person to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973, and the 18th person released through DNA evidence.
The Innocence Project in New York, which worked on his case for years, counts Thibodeaux as the 300th exoneration achieved through DNA testing in the U.S. (capital and non-capital cases). (Source: Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, 28/09/2012)