- Nicholas Yarris
Nicholas Yarris was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for a murder in
Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The crime occurred on December 16, 1981. Shortly after he was imprisoned on an unrelated charge, the attempted murder of a police officer during a traffic stop, Yarris tried to obtain special treatment from police by claiming a former associate he thought was dead had kidnapped, raped, and killed Linda Mae Craig, a murder victim he read about in the newspaper. The former associate was a drug dealer who Yarris thought had overdosed. Yarris' plan went awry when the associate was located still alive with an airtight alibi—his brother had overdosed.
Police leaked to other inmates that Yarris was a snitch, and Yarris endured days of regular beatings and torture. In an effort to save himself, he asked police what would happen if he had participated in the crime, but was not the murderer. The beatings stopped, and Yarris was charged with capital murder. A fellow inmate made a deal with the DA and began exchanging false information about Yarris in exchange for conjugal visits and reduced sentencing. This inmate became one of the few witnesses to testify against Yarris at trial. Yarris' alleged motive was that he was angry with his ex-girlfriend, and the victim allegedly looked like her. Yarris' blood type also happened to be among the 25% of the population that matched the actual perpetrator's blood type. Yarris was convicted and sentenced to death.
Yarris was the first American to request DNA testing and he was the 140th American convict to be exonerated by DNA tests in part because the biological evidence was too small to test with early DNA technology. Yarris was released in
In 2008, Yarris won an award from the county which issued the original verdict. [Freed by DNA, paid by Delco. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20080110_Freed_by_DNA__paid_by_Delco.html] The murder remains unsolved as of Jan., 2008. The prosecutor states that the murder is an open case. The status of the investigation into whose DNA was found on the victim is not clear. Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA, had originally chosen not to use an updated DNA test when newly available, then chose not to pursue exoneration using results that illustrated that Yarris was not the source of the DNA found on the victim.
One possible explanation is that precedent-heavy legal procedure requires a petitioner to argue that the technology is proven, standard, and legally efficacious. Yarris could show that the new more specific DNA testing was effective scientifically, but prosecutors successfully argued at first that the test was too novel in law to allow.
Presumably, the prosecutor could now request that the true killer's DNA sample results be compared against a host of DNA databases in the US.
Nick Yarris moved to the UK in 2005 when he married his wife, Karen Karbritz. Their daughter, Lara Rebecca Yarris, was born 16th April 2006.
Nick's autobiography, 'Seven Days to Live', is being published by Harper Collins on 21st July 2008.
List of exonerated death row inmates
* [http://innocenceproject.org/case/display_profile.php?id=139 Innocence Project]
* [http://truthinjustice.org/yarris.htm Truth In Justice]
* [http://www.nickyarris.com/ Yarris Website]
Freed by DNA, paid by Delco. 1-10-2008. http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20080110_Freed_by_DNA__paid_by_Delco.html
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