Six Americans tell the heartbreaking and dramatic stories of how they ended up on death row for crimes they never committed. In some cases they were minutes away from being executed despite their innocence.
The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row provides a rare insight into life on death row.
Through compelling interviews the book describes how innocent mothers and fathers suddenly become victims of meaningless violence in a vicious prison environment where their survival often depends on becoming just as brutal as the killers in the cells next to them.
However, the book is also a life-affirming tale of how humans can survive even the greatest injustice, and how the innocent death row inmates, after their exoneration, have managed to transform a life in solitary confinement into a life full of love, hope and faith. But despite leaving death row today, death row will never leave them.
Derrick Jamison, exonerated after 20 years:
When Derrick’s execution was announced, he had already spent more than 15 years on death row living in despair, but as he now sat alone in the cell knowing that his ordeal was about to come to an end, he found no comfort for himself.
When he ate his last meal, he had one more wish—that his execution would be quick and painless. Not all of the 18 men who had been executed prior to Derrick were that lucky.
“They were forced out of their cells, strapped down on a gurney, and had poison shot into their blood. Many suffered physically when killed. They had to have injections again and again. Knowing that death could be painful really scared me,” Derrick shares.
Sunny Jacobs, exonerated after 16 years:
“The guards were not allowed to talk to me because if they started seeing me as a human being, they might not be able to participate in taking my life. Therefore, they had to treat me as less than a human being,” Sunny says.
For the same reasons, she was never referred to by her name. Only her inmate number.
That is your inventory number till they decide you must die.
Kwame Ajamu, exonerated after 38 years:
Old Sparky was the electric chair and Kwame had only been in the death house for a few minutes when the guards introduced him to what was going to be his final destination in life.
It mortified me. Imagine what that kind of cruelness does to a 17-year-old boy who knows he is innocent. It broke me down and gave me mental scars for life. I will never be able to shake off that experience. When other people do not care if you are dead or alive, you lose faith in humanity. I will remember those horrifying minutes until the day I die.
Nick Yarris, exonerated after 22 years:
“Normally, I would just hurt myself. I would knock my head into the wall until I tasted the blood. Because when I felt the pain, I would start to feel alive and be reminded that I was still human. But when that was not enough, I tried to commit suicide,” Nick says, telling that one of the reasons why he probably never succeeded in killing himself was because he could not disappoint his parents. He felt that he owed it to them to prove his innocence because they had already lost so much in life.
Damon Thibodeaux, exonerated after 15 years:
“Till I sat in that interrogation room, I was always convinced that a person would never confess to a crime they had not done. I was the person who did. Until you are put in the position I was in, you will never understand why. But investigators are allowed to manipulate and force you to get a confession. At some point, everyone will break. When I did, it got the real killer off the hook. Today, we all know he is still out there,” Damon says.
Herman Lindsey: exonerated after 3 years:
“By putting me on death row, God gave me a voice. We cannot be sure we are not killing innocent people. I am an example of that myself. And it changes people’s views when I tell my story. God knew I had to go to death row to get that voice,” Herman says.
I chose to read this book after receiving a free e-copy. All opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased.
The Deprived: Innocent on Death Row really touched me. I know there are many innocent people in prison and that more and more prisoners are being exonerated because of DNA. To read these stories, though, made it real. They were all heartbreaking but at the same time I was encourage by the way these people could forgive the injustice so that they could move on with their lives.
The story of Sunny especially tugged at my heartstrings. She has been through so much in her lifetime. The fact that she can stay so positive after all that she’s been through makes her a hero in my eyes.
Everyone should read this book because Hou has made this issue personal and real. I’ve always thought that death sentences should be abolished for two reasons: it seems that a sentence to life in prison is worse for the guilty rather than escaping through death and they can’t seem to get the executions right. I’ve heard horror stories about every method that’s used. Now, the innocent people on death row is the best reason of all to abolish the death sentence.
About the Author
I am a Danish author and filmmaker. As a true crime author I have written about topics such as innocent Americans on death row, human trafficking, and the white supremacy movement. Moms of the Missing: Living the Nightmare is my third book. In the book I investigate ten abductions cases through interviews with the parents searching for their missing children.
Besides writing books and making documentary movies, I also produces “The Deprived Podcast”, which looks into various American crime stories, always with the intent of giving the victims a voice.