Four of the Scottsboro boys with Attorney Samuel Leibowitz.

High Profile Cases Of Black People Exonerated After Decades In Prison

Rodney Reed, a death row inmate in Livingston, Texas, who was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, had his execution stayed by the Texas Court of Appeals for 120 days after new evidence was found by the Innocence Project. The court also ruled to consider the newfound evidence.

Reed has been on death row for the past 21 years. In 1996, he was convicted of the rape and murder of Stacy Stites, a woman he was having a sexual relationship with in Bishop, Texas.

According to the Innocence Project, Texas is on the "verge of executing an innocent man.” The Innocence Project cited contradicting confessions and evidence that suggests Stites' fiancé, Jimmy Fennell who was a local police officer, is the prime suspect in her murder.

The Innocence Project, along with Reed's attorneys, filed an application for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Oct. 30 after witness Arthur Snow signed an affidavit.

Snow, who’s a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood and prison mate of Fennell at the Stevenson Unit in Cuero in 2010, claims the officer admitted to killing his fiancée.

The affidavit also states that Fennell came to Snow to ask for protection from the white supremacist prison gang.

Snow said Fennell frequently spoke of his fiancée with "a lot of hatred and resentment" because she was having an affair with a black man before later confessing, "I had to kill my ni**erloving fiancée."

Fennell was serving time for rape at the Texas prison when he allegedly made the confession.

Another sworn affidavit from former fellow Bastrop Sheriff's Officer Charles Wayne Fletcher claims that Fennell said he believed Stites was "f**king a ni**er." Fletcher also described that Fennell acted"cold, empty and emotionless" at Stites' funeral. "I was so disturbed by his behavior that it caused me to question whether he was involved in Stacey's death," Fletcher said.

Family and supporters of Reed have worked hard to attain his freedom. A petition asking to halt the execution garnered more than 100,000 signatures. Supporters also protested outside the Capitol building in Austin, Texas, asking Gov. Greg Abbott to show clemency for Reed, who many believe is innocent.

Abbott also faced pressure from entertainers to halt Reed's execution. Kim Kardashian, who has become an advocate for prison reform,tweeted to her 62 million followers: "Please @GovAbbott How can you execute a man when since his trial, substantial evidence that would exonerate Rodney Reed has come forward and even implicates the other person of interest. I URGE YOU TO DO THE RIGHT THING."

Also, artists such as Busta Rhymes, T.I., Meek Mill, Questlove, Rihanna and LL Cool J have shown support for Reed.

If Reed is granted a new trial and found not guilty, he’ll join a growing list of minorities wrongly convicted of heinous crimes including the exonerated Central Park Five, and Walter McMillian, whose story is being depicted in the forthcoming film, Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.

VIBE compiled a list of black men and women wrongly convicted of crimes, and later exonerated.


Ed Johnson
In 1906, Ed Johnson was arrested and convicted of assaulting a white woman in Chattanooga, Tenn. According to the Ed Johnson Project, the woman was knocked unconscious with a leather strap. After a witness claimed that he saw Johnson carrying a leather strap, Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death. When the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution, a white mob broke through the jail and murdered Johnson by hanging him. In Feb. 2000, Johnson’s case was posthumously overturned.

The Scottsboro Boys
Many scholars argue that the Scottsboro Boys sparked the Civil Rights movement. In 1931, a fight broke out on a Scottsboro, Ala., train between black and white boys. After the melee, police arrested the nine black boys, who ranged from 12 to 19 years old. Two white girls later alleged that they were raped on the train.

After four separate trials, each lasting one day, eight of the nine black boys were convicted of rape and sentened to death. It took 20 years for the men to get a retrial. One of the rape victims testifed that the rape was fabricated, however an all-white jury returned guilty verdicts. After multiple re-trials, all of the Scottsboro Boys had their convictions dropped or were sentenced to lesser charges. Then in 2013, the Alabama legislature introduced a bill that posthumously exonerated the Scottsboro Boys.

Ed Brown, Arthur Ellington, and Henry Shields: Brown Vs. Mississippi
In 1934 Kemper County, Miss.,, a white farmer was killed. Three black sharecroppers were arrested for the crime. After being beaten and tortured into confessing, an all-white jury convicted Brown, Ellington and Shields and sentenced them to death.

In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned their convictions, stating that coerced confessions cannot hold-up in court. This historic ruling led the way to the Miranda rulings that came decades later. However, Brown, Ellington and Shields were never fully exonerated because they took short plea deals out of fear of facing another trial.

Lena Baker
In 1945, the state of Georgia executed Lena Baker for killing a white man who kidnapped and assaulted her. Baker claimed that she shot the white man in self-defense, however, Baker was convicted and became the only woman to ever be executed by electrocution in Georgia.

In 2005, Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Baker a pardon saying that the state made a grievous error.

The Trenton Six
Known as the Scottsboro Boys of the North, the Trenton Six were arrested in 1948 for the killing of a white furniture store owner in Trenton, NJ. Witnesses described the culprits as “two to four black men” to “two to four light-skinned teenagers.”

The six black men who were arrested did not match the descriptions. Five of the Trenton Six signed inconsistent confessions, which they maintained at trial were coerced. Despite solid alibis, the six men were convicted and sentenced to death.

On appeal, their convictions were overturned due to perjury of the medical examiner. After several re-trials, four of the Trenton Six were acquitted, and two were found guilty of lesser charges.

Geronimo Pratt
The late Black Panther Party member, Geronimo Pratt, was sentenced in 1970 for allegedly murdering a 27-year-old elementary school teacher. Pratt spent 27 years behind bars, and maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration.

His sentence was eventually vacated on June 10, 1997, after lawyers discovered that the prosecution had concealed evidence that might have exonerated Pratt.

Henry McCollum and Leon Brown
In 1984, a then 19-year-old Henry McCollum and his then-15-year-old brother, Leon Brown were sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie.

In Robeson County, North Carolina, McCollum and Brown, who were both intellectually disabled, confessed to the murder after being pressured by police. There was no physical evidence tying the brothers to the crime.

In 2010, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission agreed to investigate the case. They found that the DNA from a cigarette butt found at the scene of the crime belonged to Roscoe Artis, who was currently serving a death sentence for raping and killing an 18-year-old woman.

After serving 31 years in prison, McCollum and Brown were exonerated in 2014. In 2015, the brothers were pardoned by the governor of North Carolina and received $750,000 each in compensation from the state.

Glenn Ford
In 2014, Glenn Ford was exonerated after spending 30 years on death row in Louisiana.

Ford’s lawyers discovered that the state’s witnesses’ statements were false and misleading. Lawyers also found that police lied to the jury about what Ford said to them. All of this was made evident after hidden police reports included tips from informants that implicated other suspects, where one of the suspects admitted to being the killer.

In 1984, Ford was convicted and sentenced to die for the Nov. 5, 1983 death of Shreveport, La., jeweler Isadore Rozeman.

Marty Stroud III, who served as the lead prosecutor in Ford’s trial, wrote a letter apologizing for his role in Ford’s conviction. Stroud also called for the abolition of the death penalty.

“In 1984, I was 33 years old. I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning,” Stroud wrote in a letter that went viral. Ford died less than 16 months after his conviction was overturned. He was only 65.

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Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans during The 2004 Teen Choice Awards - Backstage and Audience at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California, United States.

10 Most Memorable Episodes Of 'The Wayans Bros.'

If you're a product of hip-hop, the '90s was a glorious time for television, with a plethora of shows being introduced to the public that helped inform and reflect the culture, from music to fashion and every aspect in between. One program that embodied the raw essence of hip-hop was The Wayans Bros., which made its debut as the first sitcom to air on the newly launched network, The WB, on January 11, 1995. Created by Marlon and Shawn Wayans, Leslie Ray, and David Steven Simon, The Wayans Bros. put the focus on the two youngest brothers in the Wayans clan, both of whom had tasted fame alongside their elder brothers when their appearances on In Living Color and in films like Mo’ Money putting them on the radar. Set in Harlem, the show revolves around the Williams brothers' ill-advised attempts at turning a quick buck, maintaining their romantic relationships, helping out their father, Pops Williams (John Witherspoon), and assisting friends and family in their own times of need.

While Lela Rochon (Lisa Saunders), Paula Jai Parker (Monique), and Jill Tasker (Lou Malino) were all main cast members at some point during the show's first two seasons, the core cast was comprised of both Wayans brothers, Witherspoon, and Anna Maria Horsford as Deirdre "Dee" Baxter, the latter of whom made her debut appearance midway through the show's second season. Recurring characters included Thelonious "T.C." Capricornio (played by Phil Lewis), White Mike (Mitch Mullany), Dupree (Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins), and Grandma Ellington (Ja'net Dubois), all of who left their own imprint and were instrumental in some of the show's most memorable moments. In addition to the core cast, The Wayans Bros. also presented additional star power in the form of cameos, with athletes (John Starks, Kenny Lofton, Hector Camacho) actors (Bernie Mac, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Elise Neal, Shari Headley, Gary Coleman, Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Monica Calhoun, Garrett Morris, Garcelle Beauvais, Richard Roundtree, etc) and musicians (Busta Rhymes, Keith Sweat, En Vogue, Missy Elliott, Paula Abdul) all appearing on the show, as well.

The Wayans Bros. show's run would be cut short after five seasons, with its final episode airing on May 20, 1999, marking the end of an era. However, the show has continued to entertain a new generation of viewers through syndication and is one of the definitive television shows from the '90s that spoke to and for the culture. In celebration of the show's 25th anniversary, VIBE looks back at ten of the most hilarious and entertaining episodes of The Wayans Bros. Show that made it one of the most beloved sitcoms of the hip-hop generation.

Season 1, Episode 1 "Goop-Hair-It-Is"

Our introduction to the zany hijinks of The Wayans Bros. came via the show's pilot episode, which found Shawn and Marlon attempting to cash in on a half-baked foray into the world of cosmetics. After accepting a proposition to become the manufacturers of a new hair product called Goop, Hair It Is, Marlon creates a homemade concoction that appears to work wonders for his follicles, prompting Shawn to create a scheme to sell it via an infomercial. Enlisting the help of Gary Coleman, the brothers and their new pitch man go live on air to wax poetic about the goop, but their presentation goes awry when Coleman's new hairdo goes ablaze, resulting in an impromptu fire drill that gives "Stop, Drop & Roll" a whole new meaning.

Season 2, Episode 4 "Two Men and a Baby"

Brotherhood may be second nature to Shawn and Marlon, but fatherhood is a whole different story, which we find out during the course of this classic from the show's second season. After discovering an abandoned baby that's supposedly Shawn or Marlon's kin outside of the front door of their apartment, the bros get into a heated rivalry over who's the biological father of the child. With little background information other than a note from the child's mother to go off of, the Williams' take matters into their own hands, stepping up to the plate to provide a nurturing environment for the newest member of the clan. The responsibility of parental duties prove to be too much for either brother to handle on their own, but they’re bailed out when the mother returns to recover the child after realizing a mix-up in her delivery process.

Season 2, Episode 5 "Loot"

The fortunes of the Williams family are on the brink of changing for the better after Shawn, Marlon, Pops and the rest of the gang discover a garbage bag filled with $100,000 in cash. A police report is filed, but the Williams' keep their fingers crossed that they'll be deemed the rightful owners of the money when the goes unclaimed. This doesn't stop the members of the family from counting their chickens before they hatch, as extravagant plans and pricey purchases are made in the ensuing days. Greed nearly causes the Williams' to turn on one another, but when an elderly woman shows up to recover her belongings, their dreams at a come-up are quickly dashed, putting the family back at square one.

Season 2, Episode 8 "Head of State"

During the second season of The Wayans Bros., Dee Baxter (Anna Maria Horsford) replaces Lou (Jill Tasker) as the Neidemeyer Building's security guard for the remainder of the series. When the President of the United States comes to Harlem during his campaign trail, Pops' Diner is designated as the location where the prez can relieve himself, which the family considers an honor. With Pops eager to reap the benefits of having the leader of the free world pass through his establishment, and Marlon determined to shake the President's hand, the visit is a pretty big deal to the family However, the Williams' world is flipped upside down when the Secret Service lock down the diner due to safety concerns, infringing on their privacy. In the end, Pops' gets an uptick in business, Marlon gets to shake the President's hand, and Dee gets to experience a bit of sexual tension in her debut appearance.

Season 3, Episode 1 "Grandma's in the Hiz-House"

When Grandma Ellington (Ja'net Dubois) stops in town, Shawn and Marlon are ecstatic to see the family matriarch, even making room for her to stay in their apartment. The decision is one that the brothers will quickly regret, as Grandma Ellington begins to infiltrate their life, from ruining their clothing to chasing away their dates. Shawn and Marlon decide to make things uncomfortable in hopes that she will leave, but the plan backfires, with Grandma Ellington’s discovery of the ruse putting a wedge between her and her grandsons. Realizing the error in their ways, the brothers attempt to win their grandmother back over and get back in her good graces.

Season 3, Episode 9 "The Return of the Temptones"

Pops gets a blast from the past when Shawn and Marlon decide to round up the members of his old group The Temptones for an epic reunion after thirty years. While the gesture is well-intended, things fall apart when the members let bad blood get into the mix, which puts The Temptones' upcoming performance in jeopardy. As Pops and the crew struggle to find common ground, Shawn and Marlon stand-in for the missing members, resulting in a hilariously horrendous rendition of The Temptones' hit, "Bang, Bang Bang." However, the original members of the group decide to put their differences to the side for the sake of the group's legacy, tearing down the stage in one of the more memorable moments in The Wayans Bros. history.

Season 4, Episode 9 "Can I Get a Witness?"

After finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marlon becomes an eyewitness to a bank robbery and identifies the criminal in a police line-up. This results in the Williams' being put in protective custody until the case is resolved, but when word gets out that the culprit's brother is on the hunt for them, it appears as if they cannot avoid meeting their eventual fate. However, the criminals' thirst for vengeance gets thwarted just in the nick of time, keeping Marlon, Shawn and Pops in the clear and out of danger.

Season 4, Episode 19 "Talk is Cheap"

Shawn and Marlon are summoned to The Jerry Springer Show to see just how close their relationship is, which leads to a few secrets between the two being revealed. When Marlon finds out that Shawn had paid his girlfriend a visit at her apartment, the two begin to bicker with one another in front of the studio audience, with Pops and Dee getting involved from the comfort of the crowd. As things get heated between the two, the bros resort to throwing blows, hurling insults and embarrassing one another. While the pair eventually come to their senses and patch things up, their dust-up and Jerry Springer's appearance made for classic television.

Season 5, Episode 7 "The Kiss"

Dee Baxter catches up with old friend Missy Elliott, who gives her a pair of tickets to her concert later that night. Deciding to take Shawn as a guest, the two enjoy one another's company to the point that they wind up kissing after a long night of drinking before passing out. Waking up half-naked and in the same bed with one another, it appears as if the two had slept together, making for a string of awkward encounters between the two. However, the potential lovebirds discover that they were victims of a prank by Marlon, which brings Shawn and Dee's friendship back to normal.

Season 5, Episode 18 "Hip Hop Pops"

Shawn and Marlon gather Pops' closest friends and throw him a surprise party to celebrate his 50th birthday. However, while the brothers' efforts were meant to put Pops in good spirits, they actually put him in a depressive and reflective state due to his age and fear of death. Looking to infuse a little fun into their father's life, Shawn and Marlon takes Pops out to the club to help make him feel young again, but the experience inspires Pops to change his wardrobe and slang in an attempt to hold onto his youth. From engaging in freestyle battles to donning iced-out chains, Pops' new style rubs Shawn and Marlon the wrong way, forcing them to cook up a plan to get him to revert back to the man they used to know.

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President Donald Trump holds up a memorandum that reinstates sanctions on Iran.
Chip Somodevilla

Everything You Need To Know About Tensions Between Iran And The U.S.

Tension between the U.S. and Iran came to a head on Friday (Jan. 3) after a U.S. drone killed the head of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militia organization, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

The strain between Iran and the U.S. date back to the 1953 overthrow of Iran's Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and has been ongoing, which resulted in Americans being held hostage at the U.S Embassy for 444 days by Tehran protestors.

In 2013, shortly after Iran's President Hassan Rouhani took office, former President Barack Obama extended an olive branch to Iran. After 30 years of tension, Iran and the U.S. agreed to have diplomatic relations with a long-term nuclear program. However, in 2018, President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear deal and reinstated sanctions against Iran, including countries that trade with the Western Asia country.

Over the past few months, the tension between Iran and the U.S. continued to escalate. Below is a timeline of events leading to the death of Qassem Soleimani.

BREAKING: Pentagon statement from Defense Secretary @EsperDoD on strike against #Iran’s Soleimani in #Iraq

— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) January 3, 2020


Saudi Arabia Oil Attack In September 2019, an oil facility in Saudi Arabia was attacked. Houthi rebels took responsibility for the charge while threatening more onslaught if the country fails to lift its blockade on Yemen.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack, and Trump instigated the situation by saying that the U.S. was "locked and loaded” and ready to respond with possible military action.

Saudi investigators said the weapons used in the attack came from Iran, but it remains unclear on where the weapons were launched from.

Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019

Iran and U.S. Spies The attacks on the Saudi oil facility came shortly after Iran arrested 17 spies, who were allegedly recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

According to several news reports, spies had been taken into custody, sentencing some to death. Trump, and Pompeo (a former CIA director), said Iran’s claims were false.

The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019

The Launch Of Airstrikes Iraqi leaders claimed that the U.S. violated Iraqi sovereignty by killing 24 people in retaliation for the death of an American contractor. The airstrikes also wounded 50 people in addition to the 24 people killed.

The U.S. said the strikes were a response to the more than 30 rockets launched against an Iraqi military base, killing one American and wounding four others.

“In response to repeated Kata'ib Hizbollah attacks on Iraqi bases that host @CJTFOIR forces, U.S. forces conducted precision defensive strikes against 5 KH facilities in Iraq & Syria [to] degrade KH's ability to conduct future attacks against @coalition forces.” [email protected]

— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) December 29, 2019



March on U.S. Embassy The airstrike came after Pro-Iranian militia members marched on the U.S. Embassy, holding American diplomats hostage for more than 24 hours. President Trump blamed Iran for the protest. The statement also said that "General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

"At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization," the statement reads.

Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019

Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more.

— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020

The Killing of Qassem Soleimani An American drone hit two cars carrying Qassem Suleimani and other officials backed by Iranian militias as they were leaving the Baghdad International Airport.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Soleimani's death in a statement by calling the murder "decisive defensive action." Trump tweeted a picture of the American flag, insinuating a victory for America.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020


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