Published on: Thursday, February 18, 2021

Since 1973, more than 8,700 people in the U.S. have been sent to death row. At least 182 weren’t guilty—their lives upended by a system that nearly killed them.

For the first time in its history, National Geographic magazine tackled the subject of the death penalty. Sentenced to death, but innocent, a feature story in the March 2021 issue of the magazine, chronicles the stories of fifteen death-row exonerees and illuminates the pervasive issue of innocence and the death penalty in the United States (article available here).

Noting that the lives of death-row exonerees after their release “are every bit as daunting, terrifying, and confusing as the burden of innocence that once taunted them,” author Phillip Morris explains that “[t]he post-traumatic stress faced by a wrongly convicted person who has awaited execution by the government doesn’t dissipate simply because the state frees the inmate, apologizes, or even provides financial compensation—which often is not the case.”

The article includes portrait photographs and infographics on exonerations and the composition of death row, highlights the advocacy and post-exoneration lives of the exonerees.