I cannot properly contain my frustration and anger over cases like William Dillon‘s, a man who has been imprisoned for nearly 30 years for a crime authorities only now realize he never committed. On August 26, 1981, Dillon was arrested for the beating death of Floridian James Dvorak. It wasn’t until 2008 that DNA evidence proved Dillon had absolutely nothing to do with the murder.
“It hurts me down deep in my soul,” Dillon told CNN, “because I have been dealing with this for 30 years.
What’s more infuriating than cases like Dillon’s are the innocent who have been wrongly put to death for crimes they had no hand in. Frances Newton, for instance, was executed by lethal injection in Texas on September 14, 2005 for the murder of her husband, son and daughter allegedly for insurance money. Newton maintained her innocence throughout her imprisonment from 1987 until her death. Despite evidence raised mere days before her execution that cast doubt on her being involved in the murders, Texas went through with her execution.
There are more names to include in a post about the wrongfully accused than I’d like to believe. Like Greg Wilhoit of Tulsa, Oklahoma who spent five years on death row before being exonerated for the murder of his wife in 1985. There is also strong evidence to suggest the following men were wrongfully put to death: Carlos DeLuna (Texas, 1989), Ruben Cantu (Texas, 1993), Larry Griffin (Missouri, 1995), Joseph O’Dell (Virginia, 1997), David Spence (Texas, 1997), Leo Jones (Florida, 1998), Garry Graham (Texas, 2000), Claude Jones (Texas, 2000), Cameron Willingham (Texas, 2004).
You might realize that the majority of these inmates were put to death in Texas, a state notorious for wrongful convictions, shoddy lawyering and a lack of overall justice. In fact, I put that theory to the test two and a half years ago when I went searching for a prisoner to write to online.
After going through several profiles on WriteAPrisoner.com, I came across the photo of one of the few white women listed on the site: Elizabeth Burke.
While Burke’s profile did not tell me much, other than she maintained her innocence after being convicted of murder, I decided I wanted to know more about her and her case. I wrote her an email through the site and waited for a letter in the mail. I only waited a couple of days before recieving one from her. Over the next several months, we wrote each other twice a week and learned all about one another.
I became very educated about Burke’s case. She had been arrested in 2002 under suspicion of smothering her seven-week-old son to death. She was convicted of his murder the following year and sentenced to 77 years in prison. That was only the very tip of the iceberg, however. See, Burke’s son, Ian, had a condition known as pyloric stenosis, which caused him to projectile vomit and not keep down any food. Ian had surgery to correct the condition a week prior to his death. The medical examiner who performed his autopsy, however, didn’t notice the scars Ian had from the surgery, or the fact that there was a “brown fluid” in his stomach that was most likely blood.
The more research I’ve done on Burke’s case, the more I’ve come to realize her true innocence, leading me to help her get out of her situation in any way I possibly can. The sad truth is, there are many, many more people like Burke, Dillon and Newton nationwide, the majority of whom are getting no help to change their fates.