Ray Krone

Ray Krone spent ten years in prison, three years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

“In 1996, DNA was new. It’s been used in a few cases. Been talked about. It was very difficult to describe and for people to understand, for juries to understand, even for prosecutors. The experts in the field had testified that this was not my DNA, the prosecutors tried to confuse the jury. And the jury just said guilty and everything just froze. My vision just kind of came into a tunnel, to a small little hole that I’m looking down through, and I see the jurors and they are wiping tears from their eyes. And I see the judge with his head down. I’m looking around, everything is just little small photographs, it’s just like little pictures blinking. It’s all slowed down, and my attorney hanging on me said, ‘Oh my God, Ray. How did they not see the truth? I don’t - I can’t understand their decision.’ And I look over at the prosecution’s side and the victim’s family’s side and they’re jumping up and down and celebrating. I’m, I’m stunned, I’m shocked, I’m frozen. It’s like no, backup, rewind. This can’t be happening. It’s were - this isn’t, this isn’t real. And I’ve snapped back to reality pretty quick ‘cause within just a few moments I heard the most horrible scream. This wail from my mom, and my little sister also. Not even five feet behind me sitting. And I turn around to see the look on their face. They’re crying, they’re screaming. ‘Mom, don’t cry. Amy, it’s all right. I’ll be okay. Don’t worry.’ They weren’t just doing this to me, they were diong it to my family.”

In 2002, Ray Krone, Co-founder of Witness to Innocence, became the 100th person exonerated from death row since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States in 1976.

Ray never gave up his fight for exoneration. While incarcerated, he educated himself about the law and supported other inmates in doing the same, helping them in any way he could. He facilitated correspondence for another incarcerated man, who could not read or write, and discovered that the man had signed a confession.

In 2002, Ray and his attorney convinced an appeals court that DNA found at the murder scene implicated another man, and Ray was finally exonerated.

Ray quickly became a key leader in the abolition movement, founding Witness to Innocence with Sister Helen Prejean in 2003. He now lives in Tennessee with his partner, Cheryl Naill, and his pursuit of justice continues to this day. His testimony has influenced criminal justice reforms including death penalty abolition in a number of states. Asked why he thinks God would have put him through his ordeal of wrongful incarceration, Ray says, “maybe it wasn’t about those ten years, but about the years after that and what I can do with them…I'm a survivor. I went through hardship, but I'm stronger now. I'm better now.”

© 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