Man Exonerated From Death Row Visits Charlottesville

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

October 27, 2005

It was a hot topic during the gubernatorial debate. The death penalty, which is legal in Virginia, affects thousands of people nationwide.

"I have a great life, and I have command of my life only because I've chosen not to be angry," said Nick Yarris, a man exonerated from Death Row.

Yarris never thought he'd be sitting here a free man. He was convicted and sentenced to death back in 1982 for allegedly murdering a woman he never even met.

After spending more than 20 years in prison, he's out and taking a stand.

"If the governor's mother was arrested for murder, she would never face the death penalty, but if she was murdered, the cry for blood would be an outrage. Until that value is there on both sides, we can't have the death penalty, it's that simple," he explained.

Yarris said his exoneration highlights a flaw in the justice system and believes a lot of innocent people go to jail.

Right here in Charlottesville, we saw a man arrested for rape only to find out days later he was innocent, thanks to DNA testing.

"Fifteen or 20 years ago Mr. Matthew would have stood trial for a crime he didn't commit," said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo.

Preventing that from happening to anyone else is Yarris' new mission in life.

"I fight valiantly to try and make changes for others who are suffering now, so that two years from now or five years from now when I finish this effort or whenever it is that I finish, I leave behind a changed system," said Yarris.

Yarris is in town to host a screening of a motion picture called "After Innocence" as part of the Virginia Film Festival.

Yarris was exonerated after 8,057 days on Death Row. He currently lives in the UK with his wife and is writing a book aimed at implementing prison reform and social programs.

Yarris hopes to make a serious difference in my world. For more information about his life, his articles and contact information, visit

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