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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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.
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
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.