Derrick Jamison

Derrick Jamison spent twenty years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

“The worst day of my life on death row was December the 9th, 1997, so that’s around Christmas time. I was sitting on my bed on death row listening to Christmas music singing and making the best of a bad situation. And I look up and I see all these guards. And the guards in the back, they know me, and they are crying. That morning they came and told me that my mom had passed away. I’m sitting on my bed waiting on my mom to come visit. They are taking my mom to the morgue. That still hurts to this day man, you know. The death penalty didn’t kill me, but it killed my mom and my dad. I got sent to die on October the 25th. I walked off of death row October the 25th, twenty years later. The homicide detectives and the prosecutor withheld 35 pieces of evidence. They withheld 35 pieces of evidence that pointed to everybody but me. I had six stays of execution while I was on death row. They came to kill me six times, man.”

Derrick is now a Peer Specialist for Witness to Innocence, supporting his fellow exonerated death row survivors as they navigate life after exoneration and continue their fight for abolition.

Derrick’s parents and other loved ones died in the decades he was on death row. Despite his ordeal, he believes all people are capable of change. He grieved for the 18 people executed during his incarceration and worried about those who had no friends or family visiting. Derrick was scheduled to be executed six times but received a stay each time. The last stay came just 90 minutes before he was to be executed. Finally, all charges against Derrick were dismissed. “I got sentenced to die October the 25th of 1985 and that became the worst day of my life. I walked out death row October 25th, 2005. So, the worst day of my life also became the best day of my life.”

Derrick lives in Florida where he expresses gratitude daily for his release and works along with his fellow death-row exonerees to advocate for reform of the cruel and flawed criminal justice system. Of this work, Derrick says, “saving human lives is the most important thing I can do on this earth. …The death penalty destroys people—it makes more and more victims.”

© 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