Sabrina Smith was only 17 when a predominately White Mississippi jury convicted her in 1989 for fatally beating her 9-month-old son.
Eyewitness testimony and medical evidence that was produced during the first trial would later reveal that Smith’s baby died from kidney disease.
Still, Smith served six years in prison, including nearly three years on death row. Clive Strafford Smith, an attorney and a co-founder of Reprieve, a nonprofit legal organization, was able to get her conviction overturned and, after a second trial, she was acquitted of all charges. “State-sanctioned murder is not justice, and the death penalty, which kills Black and brown people disproportionately, has absolutely no place in our society,” Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley said in a January letter to then attorney general nominee Merrick Garland. “Ending the federal death penalty — which is as cruel as it is ineffective in deterring crime — is a racial justice issue. It’s time to truly move our country in the direction of justice and healing. “Legal experts and advocates say Smith’s case is emblematic of the larger issues that plague the criminal justice system, especially for Black and brown people. In Smith’s case, she was sitting on death row before she was granted a new trial to clear her name close dialog.
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The DPIC announced in February that since the 1970s, 185 people, who received death sentences, were wrongfully convicted. Among them are: 66 White men and one White woman, 16 Latinos, one Native American or Alaska Native, two identified as other and 97 Black men and one Black woman — Smith. Former death row inmates, who were convicted of crimes they did not commit, have been using their voices to reform the justice system. They’ve joined hundreds of lawmakers to call on President Joe Biden to reform the justice system and abolish the controversial death penalty. Smith, now 50, has dedicated her life to that cause.