“I did not want to live like an animal . . .,” death row exonoree tells U.S. Congress

Death Penalty
Damon Thibodeaux and his attorney, Steve Kaplan, and The Advocates’ Rosalyn Park and attorney John Getsinger

At one point, Damon Thibodeaux, on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, wanted to be executed instead of live in solitary confinement.

“I did not want to live like an animal in a cage for years on end, only to lose my case and then have the state kill me anyway,” Thibodeaux told the U.S Senate Judiciary Committee during its hearing on the practice of long-term solitary confinement. “I thought it would be better to end my life as soon as I could and avoid the agony of life in solitary.”

Eating rotten vegetables, enduring 100+ degree temperatures in the summer, and being put on display like an animal during prison tours was part of his life on death row, he told the committee.

“I saw men lose their minds, and some screamed at all hours of the night,” he recalled in the written portion of his testimony.

Thibodeaux lived for almost 15 years locked in an 8 by 10 cell 23 hours a day and in near-isolation at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary. Released in 2012, he was the 300th person nationwide and the 18th on death row to be exonerated by DNA evidence. His legal team included attorneys from the Minnesota law firm of Fredrikson & Byron, a firm that volunteers with The Advocates for Human Rights.

The Advocates has submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, detailing how the death penalty in the U.S. violates basic human rights, including the right to an effective remedy for those exonerated from death row. The shadow report was prepared for the United Nations’ review of the U.S.’s human rights record in March.

On the steering committee of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, The Advocates presented at the 2013 5th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, held in June in Madrid, Spain and coordinated the 2013 World Day Against the Death Penalty campaign.

Read more about Thibodeaux and his testimony in an article that appeared in the Star Tribune and in an interview on Huffington Post.


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