Wrongly convicted man who escaped death row dies of COVID-19

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A man who escaped the death penalty in Louisiana in 2012, cleared of DNA evidence for a murder he did not commit, has died of COVID-19.

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The death of Damon Thibodaux earlier this month was “so unfair,” according to a Minneapolis attorney who, after pleading guilty in the 1996 death of his 14-year-old, stepped in to free Thibodaux after 16 years of bars. In which 15 were on death row. -cousin brother.

“I’m struggling to make peace with it, but you can’t,” said Steve Kaplan, the now retired attorney who helped clean up Thibodaux and help him move to Minnesota to restart his life. assisted them.

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Thibodaux, who eventually settled with his family in Texas, was a long-haul truck that landed at a Jacksonville Florida hospital with the coronavirus in early August. It is a matter of days after he got his first vaccine against the virus. After three weeks in intensive care, Thibodaux, 47, was hoping to come home.

On the evening of September 2 he told his younger brother David Thibodaux, “Brother, I am ready to get out of this place and come home.” A few hours later, David’s phone rang again and a doctor asked for permission. To prevent resuscitation after Damon suffered a lung failure and heart failure, the Star Tribune reported.

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“My heart sank,” David said in an interview with the newspaper last week. “I was just being told not to let my brother go. You’re asking me to let my best friend go.”

Growing up, the brothers suffered abuse from their mother’s ex-husband. Damon was also sexually abused by that man and later by another relative, a neighbor, and eventually his grandfather. “We shared a lot of difficulties together,” said David.

Damon Thibodaux was a 22-year-old deckhand on the banks of the Mississippi River in July 1996 when his 14-year-old step-cousin went missing while Thibodaux was at his family’s apartment. After the girl’s body is discovered by the river, Thibodaux is subjected to a gruesome interrogation, which leads her to admit to a crime she had not committed. A year later he was sentenced to death.

Kaplan and others at the Minneapolis law firm Fredrickson and Byron helped prove Thibodaux’s innocence, noting that his confession did not match the physical evidence, witness statements were inconsistent and that DNA tests showed no link between him and the murder. not shown. The district attorney’s own expert concluded that Thibodaux had falsely confessed to the crime.

The sentence was overturned and he was released in September 2012.

Lawyers who worked on his release said that instead of being angry and bitter about his path, Thibodaux carried an easy smile with optimism, kindness and grace.

“He had an influence on everyone he had the privilege of knowing,” Kaplan said.

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Steve Kaplan

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