Archive for Innocent?

28 January 1953 – Derek Bentley

Posted in Hanged with tags , , , , , , , on January 28 by Old Sparky

Derek Bentley

Scapegoat Derek Bentley infamously took the flack for a minor’s actions on this day in 1953.

Derek William Bentley was hanged at the age of 19 for a murder committed by a mate. He was in the midst of breaking into a warehouse in Croydon with ringleader 16-year-old Christopher Craig, when the police were called to the scene.

Bentley had already been apprehended when Craig fired the lethal shot that killed PC Sidney Miles. But Craig was just 16, so he couldn’t take the rap for the crime. So the prosecution turned to the only other suspect available.

Let him have it

Despite only having a mental age of 11, Bentley was 19 and legally old enough to be fitted up with the crime. Fellow police officers asserted that he goaded Craig by saying ‘Let him have it’, upon which the prosecution hanged their entire accusation.

However, Bentley’s defence asserted that he was appealing to Craig to let the policeman have his gun and Derek’s sister Iris always maintained he didn’t even say the fateful sentence. But his defence failed to sway the jurors and Bentley was found guilty of murder. He was sentenced to be hanged at Wandsworth Prison.

Not guilty

Bentley was granted a posthumous pardon following a 45-year campaign by his parents – which Iris took on after their deaths – to prove his innocence, in which scientific evidence emerged suggesting that the police had lied under oath. But, of course, that didn’t change the fact that it was too late – Bentley had already paid the ultimate price.

Christopher Eccleston puts in a stellar performance as Bentley in the 1991 film Let Him Have It and this is well worth checking out but you will need to be careful. I bought it in Woolworths for £2.99 and it came as a twin pack with Al’s Lads which, despite having Marc Warren in, is crap.

Also on this day

28 January 1829 – William Burke

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30th October 2008 – Gregory Wright

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , on October 30 by Old Sparky

Gregory Wright

Gregory Wright

Update (11pm GMT): according to Michael Graczyk of Associated Press, Wright’s appeal was rejected less than an hour before he was due to be executed.


At 6.20pm Texan time, Gregory Wright was pronounced dead. Even as he lay strapped to his killer gurney, he professed his innocence, actually denying any involvement with the crime. Instead, Wright said that by choosing not to shop his mate, he had ultimately forfeited his life.

With a stack of evidence gathered by his wife that supposedly proves Gregory Wright’s innocence that she’s published on his website, is the state of Texas about to execute an innocent man?

Wright has been sat on death row awaiting his fate since 1997 and time is nearly up.

True he was granted a stay of execution recently while DNA was being re-examined, but that stay is due to expire at 6pm Texan local time.

Wright or wrong?

This is a truly poignant case where two homeless men attacked a would-be benefactor – 52-year-old widow Donna Duncan Vick. She was stabbed after she allowed Wright alongside accomplice John Wade Adams into her home for a bite to eat, money and some welcome respite from the elements.

Not content with this show of kindly hospitality, the two men wanted more and killed her before grabbing stuff they could sell for a stash of crack.

As Wright stands poised to do the dead man’s walk later today, his case is shrouded in uncertainty. Did he kill Vick or did Adams?

Wasn’t Wright?

Adams seems to be unequivocal in his certainty. ‘I want the record clear that Greg Wright is innocent of the crime he’s here on death row for.’

Indeed, Wright has always maintained his innocence, and while he admits to have been there at the time, he was not responsible for the slaughter. In a piece by Associated Press reporter Michael Graczyk, Wright states simply that ‘[Adams] blamed everything on me. I’m very upset. It’s a nightmare.’

And there’s the rub. Wright’s on death row for murder. And while the original case was founded on the basis of two killers, Adams’ new statement has thrown that into disarray.

There is definitely DNA evidence to prove Wright sold on some of the booty, but the DNA in question is that which links him to the actual murder.

According to ‘’, ‘Wright’s attorney has sought a delay so additional DNA testing could be conducted on Wright’s clothing, which prosecutors used at the trial to tie him to the woman’s slaying’.

The only problem is the time limit on that delay expires today.

Adams’ values

So why did Adams choose to come forward as the killer so late, having spent most of his time inside asserting it was Wright?


While on death row, Adams found religion and it was his newly found faith that spurred him to retract his original statement as he did not want Wright’s blood on his hands too.

Only time will tell if Adams has done enough in time. Watch this space for an update on whether 42-year-old Wright’s wrongs lead to the lethal injection or not. Remember, we’re six hours ahead, so we’ll hopefully update this post tomorrow based on the outcome in Texas.

As for his mate, in case you were wondering, Adams is also in residence on death row, but has not been given an end date…yet.

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31 August 1995 – Barry Lee Fairchild

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , on August 31 by Last Writes

Barry Lee Fairchild

Barry Lee Fairchild

Controversy shrouds today’s main man – Barry Lee Fairchild, whose life sharply hit the skids in Arkansas today in 1995.

Indeed his execution was so controversial that the Arkansas board voting on whether to commute his sentence were to face ‘their closest vote on record’ – the penalty ended up being just one vote away from being overturned, according to Michael Kroll from the Death Penalty Information Center.

Fairchild, along with his brother, had been caught in a car of a recent victim. This victim was 22-year-old Marjorie ‘Greta’ Mason, who had been raped, robbed and shot twice in the head.

Chomping at his bits

A number of sources state categorically that a confession was coerced out of Fairchild. He is said to have been tortured into a confession – on his arrest a dog was unleashed, who promptly proceeded to tear chunks out of the beleaguered suspect.

Following a spell in hospital to recover from his wounds and once Fairchild was back in custody, the sheriff is said to have set upon him with the barrel of a shotgun, while Major Larry Dill placed a well-aimed boot in the poor bloke’s stomach.

Type cast

But on what evidence did they accuse him? Semen proved the suspect was blood type ‘O’, but Fairchild was an ‘A’ type. It appears that maybe Fairchild was an easy target – he was black, mentally retarded and unable to write.

He’d confessed to being part of the attack, but not to the actual killing. But that appeared to be enough to fit him up with the murder.

The 41-year old opted for the lethal injection over the electrifying alternative, yet the controversy failed to die with him.

Also on this day

31 August 1593 – Pierre Barrière

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28 July 1976 – Christian Ranucci

Posted in Death penalty, Guillotine with tags , , , on July 28 by Last Writes

Christian Ranucci

Christian Ranucci

One of the last executions in France was reserved for Christian Ranucci.

Many have said the convicted killer may not have been guilty, but there was no denying Ranucci’s last words: ‘rehabilitate me’.

Maybe they were an admission of remorse, or perhaps a plea to live, but the then president of France, Valery Giscard D’Estaing flatly refused to reprieve him.

For the crime was cold-hearted. A young girl was abducted and murdered in the south of France.

Ranucci was found guilty and lost his head in Marseille, courtesy of Madame Guillotine, when he was aged just 22.

Since then, speculators have suggested that a serial killer may have been responsible for the death – Michel Fourninet has been touted as the real culprit by the likes of Robert Badinter. But as yet, the sentence still stands.

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26 July 1815 – Eliza Fenning

Posted in Death penalty, Hanged with tags , , , on July 26 by Last Writes

Eliza Fenning

Eliza Fenning

A tantalising little package marked ‘arsenic, deadly poison’; alluring if you’re attempting a murder, but a little obvious don’t you think?

Similarly, when it comes to poisoned food, it’s just too convenient to blame the cook, but that may have been what happen. Eliza Fenning may well have been fitted up for a murder, which she paid for in full today in 1815.

Making a meal of it

The 22-year-old cook’s murderous meals comprised beef and dumplings and it was the latter of which is said to have contained the potent poison.

It was bound for the inhabitants of a house in Chancery Lane. Olibar Turner, along with his son and daughter ate the meal and as a result of the killer ingredient, they were very poorly.

Of course as the maker of the deathly dumplings, Fenning’s fate was pretty well sewn up, despite the fact that she’d eaten it too and fallen ill.

Food for thought

The prosecution cooked up a damning case against the young hired help, but it turned out that there could have been other suspects – another maid perhaps or even the wife. Mrs Turner, for example, inspected Fenning’s food, mixed a sauce ‘and left it for her to make’, according to the Newgate Calendar.

Turner then went out that fateful night, so she didn’t partake of the arsenic-laced accompaniments. Nevertheless, Fenning as key suspect was never in doubt, so the blame fell squarely on her young shoulders.


Despite her entreaties of innocence to her dying day, Fenning carried the can for the macabre attempted murders.

However, the prosecution was shot to pieces by one pioneer of the day, who fought hard to get Fenning off the hook.

Sadly, he failed to save her, but William Hone was able to provide evidence that may have absolved her posthumously. Indeed, he set the standards for investigative journalism according to Wikipedia.

There was much public backing for her freedom, but it never came, and we will never know if she was innocent or not for none of the others were tried. As a result, Fenning hanged on this day in 1815, following her trial at the Old Bailey. Around 10,000 people showed their support by turning up for the poor girl’s funeral a few days later.

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28 June 2006 – Sedley Alley

Posted in Death penalty, Lethal injection with tags , , , , on June 28 by Last Writes

Sedley Alley The sheer animal violence of our next crime is enough to make you heave. Sedley Alley was executed in Tennessee for kidnap, rape and murder of the most depraved kind. But did he do it?

Frenzied attack

The crime was evil incarnate – not only was the 19-year-old victim beaten viciously, but she was struck about the head with a screwdriver, strangled and raped.

A tree branch was used to violate her again, which tore upwards into her abdomen, even reaching and puncturing her lung.

While it was the screwdriver injuries that killed young army girl Suzanne Marie Collins, in a report of one of the appeals, Pathologist Dr James Bell reckoned that the Marine Lance Corporal was alive when the excruciating, tree-branch damage was inflicted.

Kin pan Alley

Apparently, Alley handed himself in the very next day, admitting to the crime in detail, even taking the police to the scene of the gruesome events. But things started to change as the trial drew nearer. Alley began to assert that he was schizophrenic and, as a result, could not be held accountable for his actions.

Despite his protestations, a jury found against him and he was sentenced to be executed for the crime. Even members of his own family became estranged, choosing to shun him for a while. His daughter wouldn’t visit him for much of his incarceration on death row.

DNA drama

However, Alley was to maintain this insanity stance for some time, before he started to profess his innocence. Indeed, he vowed there was compelling DNA evidence, which the authorities wilfully chose not to follow up on, despite all the new advancements in techniques at their disposal.

Not only that, but Collins’s own boyfriend had been with her that same night also and fitted the description of an eyewitness who saw the abduction.

Let’s face it, DNA would have given the definitive answer, so why were the authorities so adamant not to run the tests?

We’ll never know as Alley was executed on this day via a lethal injection, aged 50 – 21 years after the crimes were committed. His last words were not ones of remorse reserved for the family of his victim, but to his own kin, including his once-estranged daughter. He told his family to stay strong and with that he succumbed to the flow of toxins.

Also on this day

28 June 1497 – Lord Audley
28 June 1928 – Walter Brooks

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