Damon Thibodeaux

Damon Thibodeaux spent fifteen years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

“My name is Damon Thibodeaux. I spent fifteen years on Louisiana’s death row. You’re asked to go through something and you’re like, well, how can I get through this, you know? They’re trying to kill me. I thought about my son every day. He’s growing up without me. He was there the day I was released, he was there. He’s a good man. He grew up to be a good man. The sad part is, for me, the sad part is I had nothing to do with that. I missed that completely. I had no part in him becoming the man he is. They stole that from me. I can’t get that back.  I was exonerated in 2012. The same judge who sent me to death row with the same district attorney in office, was the same judge, same district attorney, that released me. I walked away from death row. I walked away from that prison.”

Upon his release, Damon moved to Minneapolis to start a new life, but he initially found it hard to adjust to society. “Right now, I’m adjusting to not being behind bars, and not being told where to go, what time to go. Getting used to not having chains on. That’s a novelty for me.”

He earned his high school equivalency diploma and became a long-haul trucker. As an active member of Witness to Innocence, Damon spoke about his case and wrongful convictions, sharing his story with religious groups, business leaders, lawyers, judges and even the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Damon tragically passed away from Covid-19 complications in 2020.  He was beloved by the Witness to Innocence community and all those around him. 

© 2024 Martin Schoeller
Death Row Exonerees

︎Moving Portraits
︎Short Documentaries

Through partnership with Witness to Innocence, Martin photographed, interviewed, and filmed death row exonerees, recording and sharing their stories of how they were sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit.* 

I have been living in the US for 25 years and, as a German national raised in the shadow of the Nazi regime, remain appalled by state-sponsored murder. In this series I partnered with Witness to Innocence, the organization founded by activist Sister Helen Prejan and death row exoneree, Ray Krone.  As they fight to abolish the death penalty in the U.S. and to shine a harsh light on the profound, damning flaws in the ways these laws are applied, 189 women and men that were sentenced to die have been exonerated.

I wanted to present viewers with a harrowing, interactive account of the stories of innocent people forced to endure government-sanctioned horror.  These women and men bear dignified witness to the unacceptable costs of a misguided system of laws in desperate need of revision and a prison system that focuses on retaliation and rehabilitation.
– Martin Schoeller

*individual texts courtesy of Witness to Innocence

2020, Death Row Exonerees, Fotografiska, New York, New York, USA
2020, Works, NRW Forum, Berlin, Germany

Selected Press
Sentenced to death, but innocent: These are stories of justice gone wrong, National Geographic, USA
Martin Schoeller: Moving Portraits, Witness to Innocence, USA
Martin Schoeller: Death Row Exonerees, Air Mail Arts Intel, USA
Death Row Exonerees, ArtForum, USA
Martin Schoeller/Death Row Exonerees, Flaunt Magazine, USA
Interview: Martin Schoeller at Fotografiska New York Re-Opening, Musée Magazine, USA
Death Row Exonerees: behind a powerful photo project on injustice, The Guardian, USA
Martin Schoeller: ‘I am trying to show a humanity I think we all share’, TimeOut Shanghai, China
Death Row Exonerees Exhibit Featured in the Guardian, Witness to Innocence, USA