At age 19, Ryan Matthews was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Due mostly to faulty eyewitness identification, Matthews spent five years on death row before being exonerated on August 8, 2004—making him the 14th person proven innocent by DNA after serving time on death row. Tomorrow marks the fourth anniversary of his exoneration.
Matthews was convicted with his friend, Travis Hayes, who falsely confessed to the pair’s involvement in the crime after hours of interrogation. Hayes was finally exonerated in 2007.
Like Matthews and Hayes, many exonerees who missed out on young adulthood had to start their lives almost from scratch. Because one-third of exonerees in the United States were between the ages of 14 and 22 when they were arrested, many never got a college education or job experience. These exonerees served a combined 947 years in the prime of their lives for crimes they didn’t commit.
The Innocence Project is working with youth leaders and youth groups around the country to raise awareness about wrongful convictions and take action to prevent future injustice.
Visit our “947 Years: In Their Prime. In Prison. Innocent,” campaign to get involved today