For each of our exoneree interviews, we’re taking your questions that you want us to ask, and the answers will be able to be viewed in the online archive, which will contain the interviews in their entirety. However, we thought you might like to see the answers sooner than that, so we’re publishing them here on our blog after each one.

Delbert Tibbs spent 3 years on Florida's death row before being exonerated.

Delbert Tibbs spent 3 years on Florida’s death row before being exonerated.

Submit your questions for each of our exonerees on our Facebook, via Twitter by using the hashtag #oneforten or by emailing them to info@oneforten. Next up is Damon Thibodeaux, so get your questions in for him before Wednesday.

Here are Delbert’s answers to your questions:

From Andrew Wadsworth: How did you keep yourself going on death row when you knew you were innocent?

I was very much aware that these folks [on the outside] were fighting for my freedom and for my life and that helped to sustain me. There were benefits that they put on. Pete Seeger, who was the dean of American folk singers, did a concert for me to raise money. My good friend, who’s now deceased, Oscar Brown Jr., [who] is an icon of singers and entertainers and black folk storytellers, put on at least one or two concerts. My good friend Terry Conly, who’s now deceased, put on concerts to raise money for me and so on and so forth.

So I knew people were supporting me, that helped to keep me strong. People believed in me so I had to believe in myself, you know. It made all the difference in the world.

Philipp Mue: Do you feel like convictions have become more ‘reliable’ with DNA testing and such, which wasn’t the case at your trial in 1974?

Well, yeah when DNA is available, yes. But it’s not always available. So if it’s there then you, you know you got it. And even sometimes with that, they fiddle, you know. The state doesn’t want to do it and sometimes, in some rare cases, even then they make mistakes with DNA, it gets mixed up, it gets lost. No human enterprise is beyond that, you know.

Jim Misiano: What does Tibbs think of inmate Gibbs passing a lie detector test when Tibbs confessed to murder and rape to Gibbs in their jail cell?

Even if I had committed the crime, Sylvester Gibbs would have been the last person that I would have shared that with. He was a bully and he was hoping to get a break because he was charged with rape, I think he was a serial rapist in fact. He was facing some serious time and he was looking for a break for himself and so he went and told them that…. And also it got him, when he came to my trial, it got him back to the town of Fort Myers. He had been sent away for I guess maybe six months or something before my trial. They brought him back which meant that he would be in town for a while and his folks would come and see him and so forth. He was just a guy in my opinion of not much…didn’t have much character. Wasn’t the kind of guy that you would want to introduce your family to. Not at all.

Jim Misiano: Why did Mr. Tibbs lie about his alibi?  When Mr. Milroy lay on the ground after you shot him the first time pleading for his life, why did Mr. Tibbs shoot him again?

The interesting thing is, when I was convicted I only got one letter like that, and that’s it. And it said something like ‘you dirty bastard, you know you did it.’ And I almost laughed, you know. I got quite a few letters you know, people saying ‘we’re really sorry this happened to you’ and so forth and so on. But you know you have to be…you have to expect that from people. People are ugly man, we have ugly souls I think. And when they’re in pain we’re gonna see more of it. They hope they can hurt you. But generally, I’m beyond the reach of folks like that. I practiced a long time not to be there when they come calling, you know.

Nick O’Connell: Outside of hoping police and prosecutors always behave with virtue, what law enforcement/judicial policy/lies would have prevented your wrongful death sentence which also wouldn’t compromise law enforcements pursuit of actual criminals?

When the photograph [of Delbert] was sent back to Fort Myers, the cops took it and showed it to her and said ‘well is this the guy?’ Just three or four photographs of me. And she said yes, which was a change of her description…That’s one of the reasons why the Florida Supreme Court overturned my conviction. Because normally to identify someone you go through what we call a mug shot book, right. A book with a stack of photos in it, you go through until you find the person. But to take a photograph of 1 person to a witness is highly suggestive as they say. Which of course it is…

Well I think for them to have based their investigation and their indictment on the photograph…and not allowing the witness to choose the person, you know…I think they should not have done that. My photographs should have been mixed in with other photographs and given her the opportunity to choose them, rather than them suggesting that this is the person and do you agree. That’s what it amounted to, you know.

Bettina Reinisch: What supported you most when being in prison? Did receiving letters from family and friends make a big difference to you? 

All the difference in the world. All the difference in the world. I used to get stacks of mail every day, for five days a week. And it did [help], cause these folks believed in me…

But yeah, that was it man, the outside support, cause  you gain strength from that. Like I said, all of those people believed in me, so I had to believe in myself. You know, and most of the letters came from friends and relatives but some of them came from complete strangers. I still meet people. I did a ride called Delbert’s bike for life in 1998. I rode my bicycle from Springfield, Illinois to Chicago with 6 other people and I had–I think I have photographs of it here somewhere –with 6 other people and we stopped each night along the way for sort of like a town hall meeting, to speak to people at libraries, churches and stuff like that. And I’ll never forget a few years ago, this is like 8 or 10 years afterwards, I met somebody at a meeting and he says ‘Mr. Tibbs, you probably don’t remember me, but I was a student’ at some college down near  I don’t remember, ‘and when you came through and you spoke’, he says, ‘I went into public interest law. You inspired me greatly’ he says and that stuff happened a lot. So that’s always really really uplifting. It really makes me believe that the Great Spirit laid this trip on me so that I could bear witness of this terrible thing that we call the death penalty in the USA.

Sorcha Madews: Even though he knew he was innocent, did years of being treated otherwise make him start to doubt himself? I’m curious whether being in that position whether someone starts to internalize the lie/accusations as a truth/reality.

Absolutely. There have been times…when I’ve tried to figure out alternative possibililities, how I might have done this and didn’t know it. But I think that’s just my mind working like that, you know. I don’t know if you guys ever saw 1984, I’m sure you did, you read it. They define, they create reality, you know. Like, ‘how many fingers?’ ‘Five fingers.’ ‘No no it’s four.’ You know, after a while you gonna agree. Four fingers, okay you want four, it’s four, it’s not five. And it’s like I say, they helped they make reality. They had my body there, they had me locked up, they say they’re going to kill me. Obviously I’ve done something. Even thought I hadn’t done anything, but there must be a reason, an explanation for all of this stuff that’s happening to me. So yeah I asked myself, ‘did I maybe, did I somehow do this?’ But you know, no. It’s the fallibility of the insitution you know. Human beings who claim infallibility. They’re fallible but they claim infallibility. We don’t make mistakes here, you know, this is God speaking. But, but of course they do make mistakes because it ain’t God speaking. It’s man, human being, like you and I.