Sabrina Butler- Smith
DNA used in exoneration? No
Reasons for wrongful conviction:
False or misleading forensic evidence
Sabrina's Wrongful Conviction
Sabrina Butler-Smith was a Mississippi teenager who was convicted of murder and child abuse in the death of her nine-month-old son, Walter. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing. She is one of only two women in the United States exonerated from death row.
On April 12, 1989, teenage mother Sabrina rushed Walter to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors had attempted to resuscitate the child for thirty minutes, but failed, and Sabrina's baby died the next day. The very day of her son's death, Sabrina was arrested for child abuse due to the bruises left by her resuscitation attempts.
Sabrina's murder trial commenced in March 1990. At the trial, prosecutors sought to prove that Sabrina's account of the events leading to her son's death were false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. Sabrina did not testify at her trial, and was convicted of both murder and child abuse, becoming the only woman on Mississippi's Death Row at the time.
Following her conviction, Sabrina filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Mississippi. The courts reversed and remanded her convictions in August 1992, declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident.
In 1995, Sabrina's case went to retrial. At the trial, one of Sabrina's neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated her account that the injuries to her son occurred during an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. In addition, the medical examiner changed his opinion about Walter's cause of death, which he now believed occurred due to a kidney malady. On December 17, 1995, Sabrina was exonerated after spending more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row.
Sabrina's Work Today
Sabrina now lives in Memphis, is blessed with three thriving children, and previously served on the board of Witness to Innocence. She has been speaking since 2005 to the public and media about her heartbreaking and moving story, and she works with Accuracy & Justice a series working with law enforcement officials and prosecutors across the country. She also works with state governments to hopefully change legislation regarding the death penalty in U.S. She has also played a role in the repeal of the death penalty in Nebraska, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, and New Jersey.
Wistfully, she believes that innocent people whose lives were stolen and forced to endure in humane treatment on death row for crimes they never committed can and will make a change.
Sabrina Butler- Smith