Shujaa Graham

Shujaa Graham spent five years in prison, three years on death row for a crime he did not commit.

“It was hard for me to fully forgive. ‘Cause if I don’t fully forgive, I can never fully love. So the degree in which I forgive will determine the degree in which I can love again. I just sometimes wish everybody could really understand the depth of the pain. I wish I could turn back the hands of time, but I can't. All I can do is do the best I can in the final days that I have left. And that's to do good. I'm not a religious person, but I got one goal in mind, that's to do good. I'm not perfect, but that's my goal. It is a battle each and every day, but that's why they call it the struggle, you know?”

Shujaa now lives in Takoma Park, Maryland with his partner, Phyllis Prentice, and both are active members of Witness to Innocence. Shujaa serves as WTI's Peer Organizer, providing guidance and support to other exonerees, and was previously Vice Chair. He travels the country giving impassioned lectures on the death penalty, the criminal justice system, racism, and gang violence to people around the world.

© 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