Innocent man who spent 15 years on Death Row over murder charge dies of Covid

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A man who spent a decade and a half on death row after being wrongly convicted for his step-cousin's rape and murder has died of Covid.

Damon Thibodeaux died of Covid-related complications on August 31.

He spent the near-decade since his exoneration and release in 2012 campaigning for the rights of falsely accused inmates.

Thibodeaux spent the entire 15-year jail sentence in solitary confinement.

Social justice charity the Innocence Project released the news and added Damon was a "kind and gentle" person.

They tweeted: "The Innocence Project mourns the loss of Damon Thibodeaux, an incredibly kind and gentle person, who spent 16 years wrongly imprisoned in Louisiana.

"He was the 142nd person exonerated from death row and was never compensated for his lost freedom."

Thibodeaux was also the subject of hit Netflix documentary The Penalty (2017).

One of the people who appeared in the doc told BuzzFeed his death was a "tragedy".

Will Francome said: "It's just an absolutely tragedy that someone was wrongfully put on death row for so long, and [it took] so much resilience and so much effort on so many people's parts to get him off death row.

"It's just such a tragedy that he's taken from us before his time."

Damon was a 22-year-old deckhand on a barge when he was arrested for the 1996 rape and murder of step-cousin Crystal Champagne.

Her body was found with a red extension wire wrapped round her neck.

Thibodeaux was immediately suspected due to his family relationship and, though he denied any involvement in the vicious murder, failed a lie detector test.

His obituary in local paper the Times-Picayune reported Damon's 9h interrogation was only partly recorded, with less than an hour written down by cops.

At that point Thibodeaux reportedly said: "I didn't know that I had done it, but I done it."

A 2007 investigation by the district attorney's office and the Innocence Project found "Thibodeaux's confession was false in every significant aspect."

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DNA samples found no evidence of his presence at the murder location and he was released in 2012.

A compensation claim for the 15-year wrongful prison term was pending at the time of his death.

  • Crime
  • Coronavirus
  • Death Row

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