TIME ON DEATH ROW: 33 MONTHS
FILM FOCUSES ON: INCORRECT EXPERT WITNESS TESTIMONY
CONVICTED IN: COLUMBUS, MISSISSIPPI
LEGAL REVIEW: Read a legal review of Sabrina’s case
YOUR QUESTIONS: Check out Sabrina’s answers to the questions you submitted.
SABRINA’S STORY (thanks to Witness to Innocence)
Sabrina Butler was a Mississippi teenager who was convicted of murder and child abuse in the death of her nine month old son. She was later exonerated of all wrongdoing. She is the only woman in the United States to be exonerated from death row.
In April 12, 1989, teenage mother Sabrina rushed her nine-month-old son, Walter Dean Butler, to the hospital after he suddenly stopped breathing. Doctors had attempted to resuscitate the child for thirty minutes, but failed, and Sabrina’s baby died the next day. The very day of her son’s death, Sabrina was arrested for child abuse due to the bruises left by her resuscitation attempts.
Sabrina’s murder trial commenced in March 1990. At the trial, prosecutors sought to prove that Sabrina’s account of the events leading to her son’s death were false, and that she had inflicted the fatal wounds intentionally. Sabrina did not testify at her trial, and was convicted of both murder and child abuse, becoming the only woman on Mississippi’s death row at the time.
Following her conviction, Sabrina filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Mississippi. The courts reversed and remanded her convictions in August 1992, declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove that the incident was anything more than an accident.
In 1995, Sabrina’s case went to retrial. At the trial, one of Sabrina’s neighbors had come forward with evidence that corroborated her account that the injuries to her son occurred during the course of an unsuccessful attempt to administer CPR. In addition, the medical examiner changed his opinion about Walter’s cause of death, which he now believed occurred due to a kidney malady. On December 17, 1995, Sabrina was exonerated after spending more than five years in prison and 33 months on death row.
Today Sabrina still lives in the same town in which she was convicted, and speaks as often as she can to the public and media about her heartbreaking and moving story. She has recently published a memoir, The Sabrina Butler Story.