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


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

MINNEAPOLIS — 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.

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 his life in Minnesota to restart. helped him to go.

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’s lungs collapsed and his heart stopped, the Star Tribune reported.

“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 go of my best friend.”

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 confess 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 impact on everyone he had the privilege of knowing,” Kaplan said.

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