Former Death Row Inmate Says She Lived Life Portrayed In “Orange Is the New Black”

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Sabrina Butler was placed on death row for killing her son even though she did not.

Sabrina Butler

Reported by April Taylor

Statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center show that at least four percent of all defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent.  This amounts to hundreds of people who have died or are facing death for crimes they did not commit. Time recently highlighted the story of one of these individuals, Sabrina Butler.

Butler shares her story in her own words, and begins by stating, “The new season of Orange is the New Black will be available on Netflix starting next weekend. I won’t be watching it. I lived it.”

At 17, Butler was wrongfully convicted of capital murder in the death of her 9-month-old son Walter.  Walter had been diagnosed with a heart murmur, and Butler discovered him not breathing in his crib one night.  She rushed him to a neighbor’s house where she was shown how to perform CPR on the infant.  Butler performed CPR on her son while en route to the hospital, but he could not be resuscitated. Her attempts to perform CPR had left bruising on Walter’s chest.

Butler was arrested the next day for child abuse.  The detective who initially questioned her, accused her of stepping on Walter and proceeded to yell at her for three hours.  She was held and not even allowed to attend her own son’s funeral.

Butler was sentenced to death and was unable to prove her innocence until attorneys Rob McDuff and Clive Stafford Smith decided to represent her free of charge.  They were able to get Butler an appellate trial where she was exonerated in 1995 and finally released.  Butler is currently the only woman in the United States to ever be exonerated and freed from death row. The District Attorney who wrongfully convicted her is still in office.

While Butler may be the only woman with this distinction, more than 140 people have been exonerated and freed from death row since 1973.  These people were completely innocent of any crime. The fact that statistics prove that one out of ever 25 people sentenced to death are actually innocent is unacceptable.  We can not say we live in a free and just society when innocent people face death for crimes they did not commit.