The Exonerated Face Excitement, Grim Realities


Known as the “Snaggletooth Killer” on Arizona’s death row, after DNA cleared him Ray Krone has addressed the United Nations, toured Europe to protest the death penalty, mingled with celebrities, and attracted his own groupies, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Nick Yarris, released from Pennsylvania’s death row last year after DNA exonerated him in a 1981 rape and murder, has been on a similar odyssey, speaking at college campuses, and telling his story on TV programs and in an award-winning documentary.

For the exonerated, the exciting travels and high-profile invitations are a distraction from the grim realities of life after prison. Longtime inmates have lost jobs, homes, and, often, their families. They carry the emotional scars of prison and the trip through the court system as well as the stresses of returning to society. Some revert to past problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. “Emotionally and psychologically, it’s a roller-coaster ride,” said James McCloskey of Centurion Ministries, a Princeton organization whose efforts have led to the exoneration of 36 people. “It’s like they’re a Martian coming down to Earth.” About 19 states have laws to compensate for the lost years. Ernest Duff of the California-based Life After Exoneration Program, started in 2003 to help the growing number of people cleared of crimes, said that the newly exonerated often suffer from depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress. Yarris said he felt as if he had been stuck in a “time warp” and emerged from prison feeling much like the 20-year-old he was when he entered.


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