After being released from prison 16 days earlier, Joshua Kezer spoke at MU about what it was like to be wrongly incarcerated for the same number of years.
Kezer and Dennis Fritz, who served 12 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of murder, described their experiences to students at a lecture in the Arts and Sciences Building Wednesday night.
Fritz's case was recounted by novelist John Grisham in the non-fiction book "The Innocent Man."
The combined 28 years the two men served in prison have given them resolve to raise awareness about other innocent people who may still be behind bars.
"The reality is that there are men in prison right now that have stories to tell, that have claims of innocence, many of which I know personally," Kezer said.
"I was fortunate to not be on death row, but I could've ended up there," Kezer said. "The purpose of this is to remember that if there's innocent people who've spent years in prison standing before you now, talking about how their cases were overturned, then there are innocent people on death row."
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973, the total number of death row inmates in the U.S. exonerated through the use of new testimony or evidence has risen to 130. There have been three in Missouri.
"When you experience it first hand there is no way that you can condone the death penalty," Ferguson said. "I mean it has been proven that innocent people have been executed and it's found out after their execution they were innocent, and that should never happen. It's a scary thing. If Ryan, or Dennis, or Josh can get convicted of a crime it can happen to anybody, it can happen to you."
Kezer said he hopes the legislation passes, so that other innocent people wrongfully incarcerated could also get a second chance.
"Let's pray that something is done, to give people the opportunity to tell their story before they're dead and they just become some kind of history, some remembered name, some memorial," Kezer said. "I'd rather see them out here living a productive life, teaching us, learning from them, than just wasting away with nothing to look forward but liquids running through their veins."
* * Correction:
In the March 5 report "Exonerated former prisoners speak at MU", the reason for Joshua Keser's exoneration was inaccurate. Keser was exonerated because of the discovery of new evidence for the case. The Maneater regrets the error.
(Added 3:55 p.m., March 12, 2009)
Source By Will Guldin
Published March 5, 2009