Top 10 Innocents That Were Executed

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Ever since human life has existed, it’s safe to say that innocent people have been executed. Whether due to a faulty justice system, human error, discrimination, or some other reason, it’s a fact that innocent people do die. Throughout the history of the world, there have been many people who have been killed that were innocent, whether they were known to be at that time or not. In today’s world it seems that more and more innocent people placed on Death’s doorstep are somehow coming to the light and their innocence is being acknowledged.

Though not the happiest Top Tenz list you’ll ever read, the list is definitely interesting. It’s sure to make you step back and rethink death and execution itself; maybe even capital punishment will rattle throughout your head. Here is a list of the top 10 innocent people who didn’t avoid execution.

10. Saints Cosmas and Damian

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Twins born in Arabia, the two boys focused their lives on practicing the art of healing. The pair focused their practices in the seaport of Aegea as well as in the Gulf of Issus. Neither one of them accepted payment for their healing, and were often called “anargyroi” or, the silverless. Many believed that they were doing their healing practices in the name of Christinary. However, the two were soon arrested due to the Prefect of Cilicia. This was issued by Diocletian and the boys were tortured and told to recant. Refusing to recant, they were hanged to a cross, stoned, shot, and then beheaded on September 27, probably in the year 287. Today the boys are saints and are patrons of physicians and surgeons.

9. William Marion

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William Marion is one of the many men who have been posthumously pardoned. Marion was with another man named John Cameron in May 1872 when the two went on a trip to Kansas to visit Marion’s in-laws. However, after a few days, Marion returned home alone in Nebraska. Eleven years passed and a boy was found that was said to be wearing clothing identified as Cameron’s. Marion was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to be executed for murder. Though he was given a new trial due to lack of sentencing by a jury, a new jury convicted him as well and he was killed on March 25, 1887 by firing squad. However, four years after the execution, Cameron turned up alive and explained that he had ran-away to Mexico to avoid a shotgun wedding. In 1987, Marion was pardoned.

8. Joan of Arc

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Known for being a peasant girl from eastern France that was able to lead a successful French army during the Hundred Years’ War, Joan of Arc was a woman of her time. She told many that she had seen visions from God telling her to recover and help her homeland as the English began to dominate the war. She made herself look like a man, cutting her hair and wearing male clothing as well as armor to defend her country. However, Joan was soon captured by the Burgundians and then sold to the English. The English tried her in an ecclesiastical court, and found her guilty of heresy. She was eventually burned at the stake, asking to have a cross held before her. Her ashes were burned more than once as no one wanted her to be claimed. Many also say that she was sexually assaulted while imprisoned.

7. Jesse Tafero

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In May 1990, Jesse Tafero was executed by electric chair in Florida after being convicted as a rapist, drug dealer, and murderer. It was said that he murdered Florida Highway Patrol officer Phillip Black and his friend, Donald Irwin. After doing a routine check, Phillip Black realized that Tafero and his friend Walter Rhodes were sleeping in a car with guns. After approaching the car and waking the men up, Black was shot as well as Irwin. The men then stole the police car, abandoned it, and were arrested. Both were convicted, but only Tafero received the death penalty and was executed. During his execution, the chair malfunctioned as the wrong type of sponge was used, flames shot out of his body, and he didn’t die instantly. Many claim that it took about 13 minutes for Tafero to die, after three jolts were given. Today, it is said that his partner, Rhodes, was actually the one who shot the two men.

6. John Southworth

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John Southworth came from a very religious family that lived in Lancashire. Instead of giving up their Catholic belief, his family resorted to paying extremely heavy fines in order to still be able to practice the Catholic faith. He was ordained as a priest and was soon imprisoned and sentenced to death for professing the Catholic faith. Instead of being executed he was deported to France were he helped many heal during a plague. He was soon arrested again under the Interregnum. He pleaded guilty to exercising the priesthood and was to be hanged then drawn and quartered. He was executed in 1654 but was only hanged. In 1929 He was beatified and then canonized in 1970 as a martyr of England and Wales.

5. Cameron Willingham

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Cameron Willingham was executed on February 17, 2004 for murder due to arson. It is said that he set the house on fire with his three children inside, which occurred on December 23, 1991. It is said that Willingham confessed to the killings, but today that is highly doubted. He was given a plea to plead guilty, but refused to do so, remaining his innocence up until his death. Today, many investigators question whether or not the arson theories are true. Many are also commenting on the arson investigator, stating that there is no clear evidence that arson took place. It has been stated that the fire may have been pure accidental.

4.  Jan Huss (John Huss/Hus)

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Before the Reformation ever came, there was Jan Huss and John Wycliffe. Both of these men were 15th century reformers who were looking to change religion. He spoke out about the abuses by the priests especially indulgences, as well as the many flaws of the church hierarchy. He wrote plenty of books expressing his beliefs, usually under different pseudonyms. On July 6, 1415, Huss was condemned to be an arch-heretic by the Council of Constance and was then given to the state for execution. Before being executed, he was asked many times to recant his ideas as well as his faith in Wycliffe’s beliefs. Huss was burned at the stake as he died singing a hymn. He stated that 100 years later a man sent from God would call for reform without being suppressed. One-hundred two years later Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis.

3. The Salem Witches

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Between February 1692 through May 1693, over 150 people and even a dog, deemed to be witches or practitioners of witchcraft were imprisoned. Nineteen of the 150 accused were sentenced to death by hanging. Fourteen women and five men were killed during the time of the witch trials. The trials took place in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex, all of which were colonies in Massachusetts. One of the most famously known innocents was Giles Corey, who refused to enter a plea and was crushed to death by heavy rocks. Today, there still isn’t one motive as to why the Salem Witch Trials took place. Some say it’s because of scapegoating while others blame it on religious fanaticism.

2.  Socrates

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Socrates lived during a time when Athens was looking to re-stabilize after being defeated by Sparta. During this time, the public and many others doubted democracy, but Socrates was a clear critic of it. Many see his death as political infighting. Socrates sought to change Athens, looking to reform the justice system and get rid of all of the injustices. Socrates didn’t accept the status quo, and spoke out with his ideas and thoughts. He became known as a gadfly, making some of the most prominent in Athens look like fools. In the end, Socrates was arrested and charged with corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens. He was sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing hemlock. He died after famously asking, “I drank what?”

1. Jesus Christ

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Probably one of the most controversial figures in religion, Jesus Christ is said to be the son of God. He had many ministries in which he taught Christianity to others and spoke of miracles in near by locations. It is said that he spoke much about praying and morality and the importance of both in life. He believed in self-sacrifice, humility, and love for God as well as every person. After having Passover meal with his disciples, they all went to the Garden of Gethsemane, after telling them that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples and would be killed. Jesus was arrested at night by temple guards on the orders of the Sanhedrin. He would soon be crucified for aspiring to be king of the Jews, though he is said to be resurrected and ascended.


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50 Comments

  1. God that angers me when people think it makes things better when they pardon someone after their death. They're dead. You freaking killed them. Pardoning them after death does absolutely nothing for they're gone now.

    This is why I hate the death penalty. It's so easy to get it wrong and kill an innocent person. Then their innocent death is on the souls of everyone in the state/country that supports the death penalty.

    • they pardon them for the family, like Samuel Mudd was a supposed helper in the lincoln assassination, by fixing john wilkes booth leg. It was later proven he provided no help in the assassination and was just a result of bad timing. Jimmy Carter pardoned Samuel Mudd so that the family didnt have to deal with all the hatred that was aimed at the mudd family.

  2. Jay,

    I completely agree with what you said! It's so easy to make a mistake when it comes to killing someone who just may be innocent. Keep in mind a lot of these executions took place during times when a justice and court system weren't the most stable and refined.

    I'm not against the death penalty at all, but it is clear that mistakes are sometimes made. Hopefully one day clearer guidelines and efforts will be made to ensure an innocent person isn't put to death.

  3. Let's not get innocent confused with "not guilty" especially with the more modern cases. For Example, Cameron Willingham was executed for murder and arson, but by your own wording, "the fire may have been pure accidental." This means it could still have been arson and does not make Willingham innocent. He should have been acquitted and certainly not executed because there was no evidence, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was guilty. Juriess NEVER declare a man innocent, only "guilty" or "not guilty"

  4. The entry of Christ is weird. 'Is said'? Just take a quick look at the Four Gospels(Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to see what happened immediately after Christ was crucified, it will blow the mind of even the most jaded religion reader. The Jewish leaders (Sanhedrin) hated what Jesus was doing and swore vengeance on him, and it was all predicted many hundreds of years before it happened, just take a look at some of the major prophetic books of the Old Testament.

  5. Allen Falfa on

    while you are mentioning Jesus, you should also mention that the Easter Bunny, the Wicked witch of he west and Santa Clause and all good fairies from the land of OZ.

    Look buddy, other than the bible there is no evidence of Jesus ever existing. There is more evidence that the Easter Bunny existed than of Jesus.

    • Allen – I would be very interested in seeing this evidence you speak of for the Easter Bunny. 😉

      I am a Christian so I'm sure you will find my opinion biased and as a matter of faith I believe Christ lived and died as described in the Bible. But there are other sources where Christ is mentioned besides the Bible. Here is a link that mentions some of them. http://sonic.net/sentinel/naij3.html

      As usual, I ask the all people to have respect for the beliefs and opinions of others who comment on this blog. Free speech does not give you the right to be rude. I'll leave your comment, but try to be more empathetic in the future.

      • So your source for the existence of Jesus is a single reference on a pro-Christian site? Nice try! This is a man who supposedly healed the sick, walked on water, turned water into wine, fed 5000 people with 2 loaves and 5 fish (or the other way around, I forget) and yet there is only one non-religious reference to him? And you're convinced by this? lol, that's quite funny. You people will believe anything. Jesus' life, as recorded in the bible, is more or less based on thatof Joseph from the old testament (he's sort of the proto-jesus) and before that on Horus from Egyptian mythology and the book of the dead. Horus was born of a Virgin, was the son of God, had 12 followers, died and then was resurrected 3 days later… sound familiar? It's all a retelling of the same, fictional, story.

        • Just because I only give one source doesn't mean there aren't others. I'm not a theologian and never claimed to be. This is what I believe. If you don't that is your choice. You might show a little more respect for the views of others as I'm sure you would want the same.

          Horus does not have a similar story to Jesus. More sources (http://www.kingdavid8.com/Copycat/JesusHorus.html) were debunking this than proving it, which only points to the inaccuracy of this information. Regardless, you can pull facts you find and I can pull facts I find. The only real proof will be found after we leave this mortal coil. I am secure in my knowledge where I will be and for me, that is enough.

    • Clairevoyagerfan on

      Actually you are quite wrong in saying that there is no evidence of the existence of Jesus. It is widely accepted by historians that a man, Jesus of Nazareth, lived at the same time that Jesus Christ is said to have lived, whether or not he was the son of God. He was believed to be a prophet.

      I assume you're not a Latin scholar or you would be familiar with Tacitus' account of his life, so I'll include a source: http://www.tektonics.org/jesusexist/tacitus.html.
      Likewise at that time lived Josephus Flavius a Jew who also reported on Jesus' life and death:
      <a href="http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:UhowBIGZgzsJ :www.livius.org/jo-jz/josephus/josephus.htm+josephus+flavius+jesus&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk” target=”_blank”>http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:UhowBIGZgzsJ…” target=”_blank”>:www.livius.org/jo-jz/josephus/josephus.htm+josephus+flavius+jesus&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

      Now, you may not accept, or question Jesus' relationship with God but you must accept that he did live.

    • I like he fact that no one commented on this list as a whole. I like it, even if the topic is a bit gloomy. I also like that there are still ignorant atheists, even here, trying to give the rest of us a bad name. Just because you don't believe in it, doesn't mean you should be ignorant to others beliefs.

    • If you are bothered by the fact that we are Christians, then don’t bother going to the religious countdowns, trying to insult us is not gonna make us not believe.

  6. eh socrates was more important than jesus, i dont wanna hear bitching he changed the way the world thought and without him philosophy wouldnt be the same. i dont wanna hear someone bitch and complain about how jesus changed the world because at the end of the day it was really constantine and many kings that formed christianity into what it is today. socrates lessons will remain timeless

  7. Knowledge – I think your comment should be changed to read, "I think Socrates was more important than Jesus."

    After all, that is your opinion. As a Christian I can tell you that no other person is as important to me than Jesus. Of course that is my personal opinion too, which I hope can be respected by other commenters on this site. Jesus was the catalyst for change to a Christian belief system and for that reason he is the most influential innocent to be executed on this list.

    • The other 9 all, undoubtedly, existed. Funny how there's less evidence for the existence of the son of god than for all the others!

      • Yes, it is funny it works that way. I'm sure you will mock me for saying this, but faith is a big part of Christianity and I believe it was done this way on purpose for many reasons. I choose to exercise my faith and belief in a loving God, why does that bother so many others who choose not to believe? What I find funny is that so many people who don't believe in God are so angry at those of us who do. Why? Why should it matter to you that I believe. My personal beliefs do not infringe on you, yet you feel the need to correct me when my belief causes you no pain but gives me hope and strength. Why would you want to take that from me or anyone. Answer that, and maybe you will not like what you come up with.

        Regardless, you have your view, which is to belittle those who choose to believe, and I have mine. You can't change my mind and only God can change yours.

  8. Common Sense on

    You do realize that not all of them are "innocent" depending on the different perspectives right? For example, Joan of Arc was fighting against England therefore making her their enemy, meaning that they had every right to execute her. I'm not saying that it's right, just that you should consider different point of views. There is no definitive "good" or "evil" in this world.

    On a side note, this stories on the list seem to be quite one-sided and religiously biased…

    • It is that exact thought,"their is no definitive good or evil", that allows evil to exist and be perprestrated. Trust me, there is evil in this world, definitive total evil, I hope that you never have to experience that yourself. I would rather you remain ignorant than to discover how real evil is in your own life.

  9. I'm with you, TopTenz Master.

    For those who are not believers, you might want to read "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey.

    I think the character Jesus was too "original" to be created by man. And why the disciples and all the early christians (if you said that there are no evidence about the existence of Jesus, I believe you could not deny the evidences of the existence of christians on that period of time) were willing to give themselves to torture and death (without even fighting back) to defend the character that never existed? And talking about tortures of that time. Crucifixion. Burnt. Boiled. Whipped. Thrown to lions. Why doing this for a person that was crucified and dead? It was easier to be tortured and killed by Romans, but why they were willing to be regarded as insane and "traitors" by their own people ? It was easier to follow somebody that was a country patriot than to die for some religious person that taught them to give the right cheek to people who hit the left cheek. and to love the enemies. (And these people are Jews) For what ? For something that they will enjoy only in the afterlife ?

    It is not logical to conclude that such Jesus figure did not exist.

  10. BE careful what you say about our God…I agree to the one who created this…

    if jesus is not real then who's pure heart, perfect person could ever teach like jesus christ.. even the most intelligent person, could never posses such teachings.. cos human are imperfect…

    no perfect human with a perfect heart could ever say teachings…

    to those who against respect… your brains are not perfect to comment like this…

    be perfect in all aspects before u judge anything…

    christ is true..you don't believe cos' hearts covered by evilness…

    I pray to GOD to open ur heart and minds…

    only christ ever existed in this world that gave perfect teachings and love that ordinary geniuses human could never do.. and its doesn't required scientific and logical studies…

  11. hmmm…if there is no such thing as good or evil..then you call to those who kill and those who love???

    then y killing, lying etc called evil while loving, caring is good?

    which of these 2 u will choose… so for those who non-believers of Go better sit on the corner and think… God teach all good things and bec. human are imperfect, human are sinners..

    just bec u can't see such evidence it's not real..

  12. why Galileo Galilei doesn't in this list?

    he founded the first telescope that used to see strars and galaxy was suspected by people at that time as wizard, because they don't understand what he found, they decided to punished him to death. Long years after his death the people realized that they're wrong to punished scientist…

  13. There's actually no proof that Jesus or Socrates ever existed. At this point their stories are merely folk tales to spread lessons.

  14. Ok, here comes a whush of hot air . . .

    You people are unbelievable. This guy created us, and gave us a world to live on. He could have made us obediant to his every will, but he didn't because he wanted us to be happy, no matter what road we took, even though the only source of real happiness is He himself. Adam and Eve outraged Him, but He forgave them because he loved them. People betray God every day, they dis Him, they take His name in vain, they don't follow His rule, and He forgives them anyways, because He wants them to be happy. He could wipe us right off the face of the earth this very moment, but he won't because He loves US-Sick, immoral,unfaithful pathetic creatures like us. He even became a pain bearing human and was whipped, stabbed, humiliated, and nailed to a cross, just so WE could have a chance at getting to Heaven. To pay for all the debts that WE owe, so we don't have to suffer what we truly deserve. And after all He did for us, pathetic cowards like you are still trying to say none of that is real, to just turn your back on like and act as if this wonderful God Beyond Gods never existed. You just can't accept Him, can you? You should be ashamed of yourselves. Do you know WHY the only evidence God left us with was the Bible? Because, if God could just tell us all we needed to know about everything and literally just came right to town and said, "Here I am", then we wouldn't need faith. We wouldn't need to rely on Him for anything. You're supposed to just accept it and belive what you see, read it and weep, because it's all true. Our loving Father is still waiting for you with open arms, and all you have to do is ask him into your heart. But if you still can't even try to accept Him, then just shut your mouth and let us Christians do our thing. Because the last thing we need is to waste our time listening to your silly nonsense! Now, if you don't believe in God, that's just fine, but how about you get a life and stop constantly reminding us what you think, . Because to tell you the truth, WE REALLY DON'T CARE. 😀

  15. Agree with Chase.

    Justin, we SO don't care too, so shut the HELL up.

    I believe in God, not the same as you. Think about it.

    • Alright, Lola, who DO you believe in then? You know what I'd love to do? I would LOVE to really tell you what I think of you. And if I didn't know God, you're darn right I would, too! But then that would make me a monster, like you. I know you don't know what you're doing when you talk to people the way you do, and I forgive you, because OUR God loves us and forgives us all, and want me to do the same. I love all of God's children, no matter what they do or say to me, and I only hope that someday you'll learn to do the same. God bless you, poor ignorant soul,

      • What’s wrong with u ppl? Attacking each other’s beliefs and opinions lyk crazy ppl.
        Why cant u just respect each other like normal grown ups. Afterall, it doesnt show conformity if u don’t agree.
        I’m most disappointed in those of u calling yourselves Christians. Don’t u kno that Christianity is founded on free will? The ppl that don’t agree with u are also merely expressing their beliefs, RESPECT THEM.
        @JUSTIN: “I would LOVE to really tell you what I think of you. And if I didn’t know God, you’re darn right I would, too! But then that would make me a monster, like you.” U CALLED LOLA A MONSTER, HOW DOES THIS MAKE U BETA THAN HER? FYI, SHE’S FAR MUCH BETA THAN U ARE. U CAN’T EXPECT EVRYONE TO CONFORM TO YO BELIEFS.

    • A lot of lists go that route on this site. Unfortunately any time you mention Christianity, some of those who are not Christians feel the need to attack the list and focus on that one topic.

      • I agree with you!…and @Soni…instead of teaching Christians what their belief demands of them…you should first look at what started the debate…its only people like you .and other who follow some other religion get a sense of insecurity at the slightest mention of Jesus and believe you should get all your weapons be it in words or real weapons to attach Christians and their beliefs …you are only pleased when either the Christians are killed or you convince them that they are wrong…get a life!…there is no difference in people who executed Christians and killed them and You.

  16. Why is a fictional character put at #1 on the list?

    The list should be about real people and injustices, not fairy tales.

        • I guess the bottom line is this. The author wrote this list with her belief system and it is my site and I also believe this. You can keep writing that you don’t believe but it won’t change the minds of those who do. Best to move on from this list and find another to debate. This isn’t changing.

    • To P Smith. Whether you believe Joshua Ben Joseph of Nazareth (aka Jesus of Nazareth) was the son of God or not, there is non Biblical evidence he existed. There are at least 3 references to him in non Christian sources from the first or second centuries.
      If you continue to deny he lived then which of the other persons mentioned only once by Tacitis et al are you also going to say are fictional. Then I would like to hear your arguments as to why you say each of those persons were figments of the author’s imagination.
      Even if God didn’t exist that doesn’t mean Joshua didn’t exist.

  17. Sorry, but your information on the Salem Witch Trials is all kinds of wrong.
    They started arresting people for witchcraft in April of 1692. They started hanging people in June of that year. The last execution happened in September. In total, 24 people died during that short span of time. Nineteen were hanged, four died in prison, and one was pressed to death (Giles Corey).
    I live in Salem, and I give tours on this information.

  18. it is not only x-tians but the 1.5 billion muslims also believe in Jesus. Infact Jesus along with Abraham is the most beloved of all the prophets. But there is one big difference: According to the Quran, Jesus was not the son of God but a prophet only and also he was not crucified..but raised to the heavens alive by God before he was about to be crucified. Also muslims believe that Jesus will come back near the doomsday times………

  19. It’s just a list to satisfy the minds of the curious… can religion actually be left out of any debate….? People calm down… 🙂 this isn’t meant to cause arguments

  20. Dave in Milwaukee on

    Thank you for a very interesting list. No. 9, William Marion, is a relatively unusual case in that he actually was proved innocent after his execution. One historical correction: Marion was executed by hanging, not by firing squad. Nebraska, where the trial and execution occurred, has never used the firing squad as its method of execution. (See, e.g., Wikipedia article and supporting citations).

    As to No. 7, I strongly disagree that Jesse Tafero was innocent. His case drew a large amount of attention mostly because of his “botched” execution. The fact that he was sentenced to death, and his co-defendant Rhodes was not, does not prove that Tafero was innocent. It simply means that Rhodes copped a better plea deal, which is hardly unusual.

    Also, not to get overly technical, but the photo that accompanies Tafero’s entry shows the old Texas electric chair that was last used in 1964. Tafero’s execution took place in Florida’s electric chair.

  21. Joan of Arc was put on trial and burned by Frenchmen. The French church and nobility were happy to be rid of a political rival.

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