Nationally in our criminal justice system, over 100 prisoners have been freed from death row since 1976 -- nearly all after DNA evidence proved their innocence. The state of Florida has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in wrongful death sentences. Several years ago, the St. Petersburg Times ran an article in order to dig a little deeper into what happened in the lives of 20 of these death row inmates after they were released from prison.
Here's what happened to Florida's wrongly condemned: one is dead -- murdered on the streets of Medellin, Colombia, a few years after his release; two never left state custody, and are serving out sentences for other crimes; and four got a taste of freedom, but are back behind bars for offenses they committed after they were released. The remaining 13 are back in society, many living on its edge -- modestly and anonymously -- fearful that word of their past will get out. They all struggle to get back some of what they lost: marriages, self-respect, jobs, health, and mental stability. Outwardly, some of the survivors even seem normal, with families, nice homes and good jobs. But every day, they must deal with the memories -- the bitterness, anger, and fear.
Think about it for a minute: Three of the 20 came within 16 hours of the electric chair. Their last meals had been ordered, their $150 burial suits were tailored and waiting. Rarely does death become so real and so close. Then miraculously the conviction was overturned and they were set free.