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.

From the Web

More on Vibe

CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.


8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

Continue Reading

Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.


View this post on Instagram


We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

Continue Reading

Top Stories