Delbert Lee Tibbs always has been against the death penalty, but ever since he was forced to serve three years on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit, eliminating the death penalty has become his life’s mission.
“If you’re Black and grew up in America, you know nothing else has been applied fairly, so why would the death penalty be applied fairly?” he asked several dozen people gathered for a special poetry reading session in his honor. “I believe God has chosen me for this job and I will work (to eliminate executions) until it’s gone away.”(.....)
Statistics show that when given a choice, the American people prefer to give life in prison over death, Mr. Tibbs said. People who prefer the death penalty feel that by killing people they don’t have to be afraid anymore, but that also has been proven wrong, he said.(.....)
Mr. Tibbs was convicted in 1974 of murdering a 27-year-old White man and raping the man’s 17-year-old girlfriend, even though the girl’s description of the attacker did not match Mr. Tibbs, who also had an alibi.
The Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1977, but the state continued to threaten a retrial until 1982 when the original prosecutor said the case was so flawed that he would testify in Mr. Tibbs’ defense at a retrial.
Mr. Tibbs said bitterness and anger about his wrongful conviction sometimes arises, but he has learned to let it go. Dwelling on bitterness would destroy me, he said.(....)
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