5 of the Worst Wrongful Convictions

It's frustrating to be wrongfully accused of anything, but I can't imagine sitting on trial, hearing the judge read a guilty verdict, knowing all the while that you're innocent. With sayings like “Justice prevails” and “The truth will set you free,” it's a total letdown of the system when someone is wrongfully convicted—especially when that conviction carries with it a life-altering sentence. 

However, thanks to DNA and the tireless work of organizations like The Innocence Project, some of those wrongfully convicted have been set free. While it won't return the years lost, freedom and the understanding that you are innocent are at least small consolation to the tortures endured. We're all familiar with cases like Amanda Knox—recently featured in a new Netflix documentary—and the West Memphis Three, but below are 5 other notable examples of wrongful convictions that were eventually overturned. The scariest part of reading through these is the idea that it could happen to anyone. 

James Richardson

It’s tough to lose a child. It’s even tougher to lose a child to murder. It must be unbearable to lose seven children to murder … and then be wrongfully convicted of that crime. In 1968, James Joseph Richardson and his wife had gone to work the orange groves about 16 miles away from their home in Arcadia, FL—leaving a neighbor, Bessie Reece, to babysit the children. After eating lunch at home, the three school-aged children returned to class, where teachers noticed they looked ill. Upon sending them to the hospital, someone from the school went to check on the other kids and found them sick as well. Eventually, all seven kids would die—cause of death: poison. 

Despite no physical evidence tying James to the murder, he was convicted of all seven deaths and sentenced to die. Throughout the years, Bessie Reece confessed to the murders several times; the inmate who claimed Richardson confessed recanted his story, claiming he had been offered a lighter sentence to corroborate; and attorney and author Mark Lane took up the case and presented compelling evidence to his client’s innocence. Despite all of this, it took nearly 22 years to get the case retried—but Richardson was finally freed at age 53.

James Woodard

Tragedy + time ≠ comedy—James Lee Woodard can attest to that. On New Year’s Eve, 1980, Woodard’s then girlfriend Beverly Ann Jones was sexually assaulted and strangled to death. The next day, the 26-year-old Woodard was charged with her death. 

Despite the prosecution’s key witness—a neighbor who claimed to have seen him arguing with Jones the night of the murder at 3:30 a.m. from a few hundred feet away—being unreliable, at best, and Woodard having several alibi witnesses testifying to his whereabouts that night, James was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He maintained his innocence from day one, continuously writing letters for help, requesting appeals, and filing applications to reopen evidence. Eventually, 26 years later, his pleas were heard—the Innocence Project of Texas, in cooperation with the Dallas DA’s new Conviction Integrity Unit, took his case. Woodard was released in 2008, after serving almost 28 years in prison. 

Darryl Hunt

In 1984, then 19-year-old Darryl Hunt was arrested and convicted of the rape and murder of Deborah Sykes on the outskirts of Winston-Salem, NC. Hunt’s girlfriend provided an alibi, but when she was arrested on outstanding larceny charges, she later told police that he had confessed to killing her. Despite recanting this false information before the trial, the prosecution used it anyway, ultimately securing a conviction. 

On appeal, the conviction was overturned due to the wrongful admission of the interrogation. Upon retrial, Hunt was offered a sentence of time served if he would admit guilt. Maintaining his innocence, he was retried and convicted again to life in prison.

However, in 1994, Hunt’s legal team filed for DNA testing. The sample from the victim’s body did not match Hunt’s DNA. Unfortunately, Hunt’s appeals would be denied for 10 years under the claims that the new evidence did not prove innocence. Finally, in 2004, 19 years after being wrongfully convicted and 10 years after DNA proved it, that same DNA profile matched another convicted murderer who later confessed to the crime. Hunt was set free in 2005 and went on to found the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice. 

Kirk Bloodsworth

Kirk Bloodsworth’s case is important because he was the first person ever to be sent to death row and later exonerated. After a 9-year-old girl had been found strangled, sexually assaulted, and beaten with a rock, Bloodsworth was arrested and charged with the murder, despite the witnesses being unable to identify him in a lineup and looking nothing like the original description of the perpetrator. With no physical evidence tying him to the crime, he was still convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death.

Due to misinformation and a failure to provide the defense with the information that there might've been a second witness, Bloodsworth’s conviction was overturned and he was retried and sentenced to two life terms. DNA evidence later exonerated him and he was released in 1993, after 9 years served. 

Thomas Kennedy

Kids say the darnedest things—that is, unless you’re Cassandra Ann Kennedy, the 11-year-old who falsely accused her father of sexually abusing her on three separate occasions. A product of divorce, Cassandra decided—allegedly after hearing about a friend’s step-father going to jail for sex crimes—that she wanted to make her father “go away” because “he was drinking and smoking marijuana.” She testified and gave detailed descriptions of being sexually assaulted in the bathroom, using stuffed animals to describe what had happened. 

However, 11 years later, Cassandra apparently had a change of heart and told police that her claims of rape were false. Her new testimony was deemed credible, and a new trial acquitted the wronged father of all charges. He was released and taken off the sexual predators list. As of now, Cassandra has not been prosecuted for her false claims leading to the wrongful imprisonment of her father. 


  1. amanda ortiz

    my boyfriend was found guilty on a crime he did not commit can you please help him before he gets sentenced March 21 my cell phone is 7739689345 javon jackson is his name n inmate number is 20170415020 he is in cook county jail

    • Jake Foley

      Fuck no

    • M

      He’s most likely lying to you and is guilty

    • Matthew Babs

      Who tf would help ur boyfriend. Maybe I can help if you tell me the crime he committed.

    • Tammi Ramirez

      amanda, people do not care if someone is wrongfully convicted… Until it happens to them. I looked it up and read a little… Your last name happens to be the victims mother last name as well. Sounds about right…. People blame others all the time and get away with it. I hope one day soon, we all get justice.

  2. Nerissa Naidoo


  3. Cuddy

    George stinney jr was the first juvenile sentenced to death row and later being exonerated.

    • Tammi Ramirez

      But he was EXECUTED. his was exonerated over 60 years after his execution.

  4. Cuddy

    You cant forget about emmit til

    • nig maker


  5. Tammi Tatum

    Who helps to PREVENT “another” wrongful conviction from happening? Need help, have a lawyer but i do not believe he knows the extent of the fight he is in for….

  6. Chris Handy

    Wrongful convictions is real. I don’t know about her boyfriend but I do know for a fact in the case of CR201000100- Inmate 34153. He is factually innocent and was judged based on the color of his skin and sentenced to 16 yrs flat time with no possibility of parole. The criminal justice system is a mockery of blind Justice. It is so sad that the short time it take to lock them up based on the law, that same law is misused and abused once again to take too many years long to set them free. It’s a low down dirty shame.

  7. Chayeon

    It almost escaped my attention how three of the five mentioned were black people who, coincidentally, also served much, much longer time in prison that the others. Almost.
    Imagine losing your children to murder and then instead of given sympathy and justice, spending more than 20 yrs in prison wrongfully convicted. I am … amazed, to say the least.

  8. Tyson Omeara


    • Child Beater

      I’m gonna beat the children on the bus.

  9. Child Beater

    I’m gonna beat the children on the bus.

  10. Claire Masters

    It’s insightful to learn about different wrongful conviction cases especially a father who has been convicted of sexually assaulting his daughter which was retracted by the complainant herself 11 years after. I would understand all these cases can be very complicated. This is why you need a talented attorney to make strong criminal appeals.

    • Trishall Dear

      yes it is and the truth is it happens a lot and i got a daughter who is lock up and is wait to go back to court and they want her to take the plea knowing that she didn’t do what they said but because she is a prior she did it and so if she don’t take the plea they say straight out the gate she’ll do every bit of 20 years, the plea is 30 months

  11. Henry Killingsworth

    It was really interesting when you mentioned that DNA has helped set free people that have been wrongfully convicted. If someone believes that they are wrongfully convicted, it would probably be a good idea for them to find a lawyer to work with. I would imagine that there are lawyers that specialize in finding evidence that can help wrongfully convicted people.

  12. Patricia Darnes

    Good afternoon. I am not sure what to ask, but I have a loved one who has been imprisoned for over twenty year for a crime that was not a crime. To keep him locked away I finally got a look at his records and there are two other convictions on his record that never happened to make it appear he has three strikes. You may not be able to help me, but please if you can point to anyone or organization that will assist me my email is below. Thank you.

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