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Jessica S. Henry
Jessica S. Henry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University. After serving as a public defender for nearly a decade, Professor Henry joined the Justice Studies faculty in 2005. Professor Henry teaches a wide range of courses, including Death Penalty Perspectives, Wrongful Convictions and Hate Crimes. Professor Henry appears as a frequent commentator on national television, radio, and in print media. Her areas of research include severe sentences (including the death penalty and life without parole), prisoner reentry and hate crimes.

Entries by Jessica S. Henry

On Death Row for a Murder that Wasn't?

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2016 | 12:08 AM

Originally posted on the Wrongful Convictions Blog

Rodricus Crawford sits on Louisiana's death row, awaiting execution for the murder of his one-year-old son, Roderius

But although Roderius (affectionately called "BoBo") is dead, he likely was not murdered - not by his father. Or by anyone...

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Don't Believe the Bite

(0) Comments | Posted May 10, 2016 | 2:52 PM

Originally posted to the Wrongful Convictions Blog on May 10, 2016

Eddie Lee Howard, Jr. has been on Mississippi's death row for nearly two decades, convicted of the 1992 grisly murder of an 84-year-old woman named Georgia Kemp.

Absent any real leads or suspects, the...

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The Cost of Lying: For One Lab Scientist Who Fabricated Evidence, Just Two Years in Prison

(2) Comments | Posted April 19, 2016 | 6:23 PM

Plenty of people who commit non-violent drug crimes are sentenced to years, if not decades, in prison. Policymakers have argued that severe sentences are necessary to deter offenders from committing future crimes.

But Annie Dookhan was recently paroled after serving just two years of a 3-5 year...

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Two Men Convicted for Drug Crimes That Never Happened

(2) Comments | Posted March 15, 2016 | 5:30 PM

Two different men. Two different states. Two drug convictions. Two prison sentences. Two exonerations.

On an October day in 2014, 60-year-old Joseph Crochon was arrested by Houston, Texas police for possession of cocaine. Like many other defendants facing low-level drug charges, Crochon pled guilty two days after...

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Cash, Killings and Secrets

(2) Comments | Posted February 16, 2016 | 11:52 AM

The State of Missouri paid its "confidential execution staff" in cash-stuffed envelopes, full of $100 bills. Yes, that's right, according to a recent Buzzfeed investigation, the people in Missouri responsible for actually executing death row inmates were paid, in total, over $250,000 in hard cold currency since 2013,...

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Wrongly Convicted: Arson or Accident?

(9) Comments | Posted January 30, 2016 | 4:08 PM

In December 2015, four men convicted of murder and arson in two completely unrelated cases were exonerated.

In Virginia, in 1989, Davey Reedy was convicted of deliberately setting his house on fire. His two children died in the fire. At his trial for murder and arson, fire...

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Too Long on Death Row to Die

(36) Comments | Posted January 19, 2016 | 12:34 PM

In 1979, Jimmy Carter was President. Pink Floyd released their bestselling album "The Wall." Denim overalls were in, Mork and Mindy was on TV, and news about the Iranian hostage crisis dominated every headline.

Some of you reading this weren't even alive in 1979.

But in 1979, another, perhaps...

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Top Five Holiday Wishes for People in Prison

(2) Comments | Posted December 17, 2015 | 10:19 AM

As I celebrate the holiday season surrounded by loving family and friends, my thoughts turn to the millions of incarcerated men and women surrounded by cold steel prison bars. In the holiday spirit of compassion, and with an ever-present eye toward public safety and correctional reform, I have compiled a...

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When An 8 Year Old Kills

(13) Comments | Posted November 22, 2015 | 10:01 AM

One late-October night in Alabama, sometime around 11:00pm, an 8 year old boy was left alone in an apartment with five younger children while the boy's mother - and the mother of the other children - went out to a club. When Kelci Lewis, a one-year-old girl, would not stop...

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Triple Déjà vu: Punishments Lacking Principles

(6) Comments | Posted October 2, 2015 | 4:33 PM

Three different states. Three arranged murders. Same unjustifiable death sentences.

Kelly Gissendaner was executed this week in Georgia for arranging to have her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, kill her husband. Owen, who committed the murder, agreed to testify against Gissendaner and received a life sentence. Owen will be eligible...

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Another Innocent Man About to Die?

(6) Comments | Posted September 16, 2015 | 12:33 PM

By the time you read this, Richard Glossip might be dead.

Glossip is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, September 15, 2015 - which is tomorrow on my calendar - for a crime he may not have committed.

In 1997, Glossip was convicted of murder-for-hire and was sentenced to...

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To All the Governors Out There, Follow the President's Lead on Clemency

(4) Comments | Posted July 16, 2015 | 4:49 PM

This week, President Obama granted clemency to 46 people serving life in federal prison for non-violent offenses. This is a welcome first step in correcting the impact of overly harsh federal prison sentences.

Unfortunately, even that first step is limited. President Obama can only consider clemency petitions...

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Is the Death Penalty Unconstitutional?

(4) Comments | Posted June 30, 2015 | 4:53 PM

Monday, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, suggested that the death penalty is unconstitutional.

They did so in dissent.

But what a powerful dissent it was.

The case in question was fairly straightforward. States with capital punishment wanted to...

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Hey South Carolina - Symbols Matter

(1) Comments | Posted June 22, 2015 | 8:42 AM

South Carolina flies the Confederate flag in its state capitol. To many, that flag is a symbol of a violent, racist past. A nostalgic celebration of a time when blacks were actively oppressed, enslaved, and brutalized while government officials looked the other away - or even actively participated.


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Keeping the Death Penalty Alive: It's a Texas Thing

(2) Comments | Posted June 11, 2015 | 5:59 PM

People like to say that the death penalty is for the "worst of the worst" offenders.

But they are wrong.

The death penalty depends on where people live. Particularly for the people who live in Texas.

Just look at the numbers: there have been 1146 executions in...

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Tsarnaev's Sentence: A Deeply American Choice

(22) Comments | Posted May 4, 2015 | 1:50 PM

Jurors in the Boston bombing trial have found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev guilty of murder and other horrific acts of violence. They now have to make the difficult choice of deciding which punishment is most appropriate for his crimes: the death penalty or life without parole (LWOP).

The sentencing decision would be...

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The Slender Man Stabbings: Is Everything About the Suspects Based on Fiction?

(14) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 11:44 AM

The tale of the Slender Man stabbings is a surreal one. For those of you not in the know, last May, in a small town in Wisconsin, two 12-year-old girls were accused of stabbing a fellow 12-year-old classmate 19 times. As the story goes, the two girls did so to...

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Another Innocent Black Man on Death Row

(7) Comments | Posted March 9, 2015 | 8:40 AM

As President Obama proclaimed at the Selma memorial march, race relations may have improved in the last fifty years, but there is still much work to be done.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Rodney Reed.

Reed, who is black, was convicted in Texas...

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For the Mentally Disabled, Some States Are Deadly

(1) Comments | Posted January 26, 2015 | 7:08 PM

One of the major problems that I have with the death penalty is its randomness. Geography, for instance, matters in ways that has nothing to do with the crime. A person who commits murder in a state without the death penalty will not be sentenced to death, while someone who...

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Top 10 Ways to Fix the Criminal Justice System

(14) Comments | Posted December 22, 2014 | 10:11 AM

It's that time of year when people are making lists and checking them twice. Here is my action list about ways to fix the criminal justice system, with suggestions for steps we all can take. What would be on your list?

10. Return to Community Policing. If the police...

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