VIRGINIA (USA): JOSEPH GIARRATANO LEAVES THE PRISON
December 20, 2017:
Joseph Giarratano left the prison today, 38 years after having been sentenced to death for a rape and double murder that lawyers and supporters have long said he did not commit. On November 20 the Virginia State Parole Board voted to grant him parole. (Source: DPIC, 20/12/2017)
Giarratano, 59, White, was convicted in May 1979 of the Feb. 4, 1979, rape and capital murder of Michelle Kline, 15, and the murder of her mother, Toni Kline, 44. Giarratano was later sentenced to death. After several confessions he later said he had no recollection of what happened in their apartment. He said he woke, discovered the bodies, assumed he was guilty and fled to Florida, where he turned himself in to a sheriff and confessed to the murders. Over the course of time, Giarratano gave five confessions, which were inconsistent with one another and conflicted with the evidence at the crime scene. Footprints, fingerprints, and pubic hairs were recovered at the crime scene and did not match either Giarratano or the victims.
Experts indicated that the killer was right-handed, but Giarratano is left-handed. Giarratano's confessions were so inconsistent that detectives told him they did not believe him and, he said, provided him with detailed information that he then parroted back to them in his fifth confession. In 1991, 2 days before his scheduled execution, Gov. L. Douglas Wilder commuted Giarratano's sentence to life after his case won national and international attention from celebrities, liberal and conservative commentators, religious and political figures and others who raised questions about his guilt. His was apparently the only death sentence commuted to life in Virginia in modern times allowing for the possibility of parole. While on death row, Giarratano became an advocate for other condemned prisoners, assisting in the exoneration of Earl Washington, a wrongfully convicted intellectually disabled man who came within eight days of execution. Giarranto was also the named party in a U.S. Supreme Court case, Murray v. Giarratano, in which Giarratano and others challenged Virginia's failure to provide post-conviction attorneys for condemned prisoners.
The Court ruled 5-4 against the prisoners. Following his transfer off death row to the Augusta Correctional Center, Giarratano helped found the Center for Teaching Peace, a peace education program for prisoners. The state parole board's decision marked the first time in modern Virginia history that a defendant whose death sentence was commuted is granted parole. Giarratano was approved for release on Nov. 20.
In recent years, Giarratano lost a leg to diabetes and was housed at the Deerfield Correctional Center in Capron where many aged and ill inmates are held. He has a blog, freejoeg.com in which, among other things, he took the Department of Corrections to task for allegedly failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.