Race, Innocence, and the End of the Death Penalty

Speakers Series, Spring 2022
All events are free, open to the public, and include audience Q&A.
Mondays, 5:30-7:00pm, Genome Sciences Building Auditorium G100, UNC-Chapel Hill

Zoom link for those not able to attend in person (no interactive capabilities): https://unc.zoom.us/j/98439431543, pw: Innocent

Jan 24, Chris Turner. Mr. Turner was one of 17 young people in Washington DC to be charged in a brutal killing, in what became known as the “8th and H” case. The 1984 crime occurred in a busy area of the city in broad daylight and yet there were no witnesses; eight young men were convicted of the same crime. Mr. Turner served 26 years in maximum security prisons throughout the federal system.

See this NPR profile of Chris. See another one from The Guardian. Link to The Confession Tapes, where Season 1, episode 8 is "8th and H"; on Netflix.

Feb 7, Jerome Morgan. Mr. Morgan was sentenced, at age 17, to Life in Prison without Parole for a murder at a New Orleans sweet sixteen party. After 20 years in the plantation-like Louisiana State Prison at Angola, he was released thanks to the efforts of the Innocence Project - New Orleans. He devotes his time to working with young people in his native New Orleans.

See this profile of Jerome from the Innocence Project New Orleans. Link to the Free Dem Foundations, where Jerome is a leader. Read this published article written by Jerome, Education Is Improvisation. See this video concerning his case.

Mar 7, Kristine Bunch. Ms. Bunch, from rural Indiana, was convicted of murder by arson and served more than 17 years before she was able to demonstrate that the fire that had killed her young son in a trailer home they shared in 1995 had in fact been accidental. At the time of her arrest, she was pregnant with a son, who was taken from her and raised by her family during her wrongful incarceration. She later founded a non-profit, www.justis4justus.org, working with other exonerees after their release from prison. 

See this profile of Kristine from the Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions. See this profile from CBS 17 news, from May 2021.

Mar 21, Gary Griffin and Ken Rose. Mr. Griffin served five years on Mississippi’s death row before his death sentence was overturned. He was released from prison after 23 years in 2009 and later worked as an investigator in capital trials and post-conviction death penalty appeals in Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Rose, formerly the Executive Director of the Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation, has been a capital litigator for 40 years, and was Mr. Griffin’s appellate lawyer and supporter.

See this review of Gary's previous visit to our campus in 2020; see this profile of Gary from 2013. See this story about attorney Ken Rose. See a book about one of his cases, The Last Lawyer.

Mar 28, Dontae Sharpe and Ronnie Long, with Duke Innocence Project attorneys Theresa Newman and Jamie Lau. Mr. Sharpe was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a Greenville NC murder he did not commit. He served 24 years in prison before he was released in August 2019 based on recanted witness testimony and autopsy evidence showing that the original testimony could not have been true. Mr. Long was wrongfully convicted in Cabarrus County in 1976 and served until 2020: 44 years. Theresa Newman is Professor Emerita and Jamie Lau is Associate Clinical Professor at the Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic; they served as attorneys for Sharpe and Long, respectively, working to overturn their convictions.

See this story from January 2022 about innocence in North Carolina from Indy Week, featuring our panelists.

Apr 4, David Boyce. Mr. Boyce was wrongfully convicted of capital murder and robbery at age 20 after his roomate was found stabbed and killed in a motel in Newport News, VA; he served 23 years for a crime he did not commit. His conviction was partly the result of a scent-tracing dog and a prison “snitch” who later recanted his testimony. David now lives with his wife in Virginia, where he operates an electrical/HVAC services contracting company.

***David Boyce lecture cancelled because of the national championship game. David will be speaking during the regular class time, Monday at 1:25pm in Hamilton Hall 100. Anyone is welcome to this class.***

See this profile of David from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, and this one from the National Registry of Exonerations.

Apr 18, Chris Ochoa. Mr. Ochoa was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1989 in Austin TX. He was exonerated in 2001 after the actual perpetrator confessed to the crime and DNA showed Mr. Ochoa’s innocence. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2006 and is currently the Director of legal affairs for a private company in Aztec, NM.

See information about Chris and his case at this post from the Innocence Project.

Apr 25, Andrea Harrison and Katie Monroe. Andrea Harrison’s mother was murdered in New Jersey when Andrea was a young child in the 1980s. When the original conviction was overturned after almost two decades, the state declared the case to be “cold;” not only did the state punish the wrong person, but it has yet to reinvestigate the original case to catch the actual perpetrator.  Ms. Harrison believes that victims and their families should stand up in bravery, speak out against injustice, and fight back to change the narrative of violent crime victimization and re-victimization in cases of exoneration. Katie Monroe, the daughter of an exoneree, is the Executive Director of Healing Justice, which provides services and support to those affected by wrongful convictions.

See this profile of Andrea from the Wall Street Journal. Link to Healing Justice Project, where Katie is the Executive Director.

Series sponsor and organizer: Prof. Frank R. Baumgartner, Frankb@unc.edu.
Additional Sponsors: UNC Department of Political Science; UNC Criminal Justices, Abolition, and Anti-racism; UNC Office of the Chancellor; Institute of African American Research-SLATE; Duke University Law School Wrongful Convictions Clinic; NCCU Law School; Campbell University Law School; Center for Death Penalty Litigation; Forward Justice

Note: the Genome Sciences Building is located at 250 Belltower Road, on the UNC Campus. Free parking is available after 5pm in the Bell Tower parking lot, which is adjacent to the lecture hall.

Click here to see the poster announcing this speaker series.

page last updated April 3, 2022