Death row exoneree to speak to WFU Law School students on April 21

Sabrina Butler Porter, the only female death row exoneree in the country, will speak to the Wake Forest University School of Law about her ordeal of being an innocent woman on death row and the struggles she has endured since being released from prison.

Sponsored by the Wake Innocence Project and the Innocence and Justice Clinic, Porter’s talk is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 21, in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1309. The event is free and open to the public.

Porter was convicted of killing her 9-month-old child when she was 19 years old. She already had two other children by two men, was unmarried, was not well educated, was black, was on welfare, and lived in a very racially impacted small town in Mississippi, according Carol Turowski, co-director of the law school’s Innocence and Justice Clinic. Only a few months before the death of her child, Mississippi passed a new felony child abuse law that allowed prosecutors to pursue the death penalty for any child death that resulted from child abuse.

Porter was prosecuted by the office of Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood despite the fact there was no evidence of child abuse in her past and the child’s death was questionable at best, Turowski explained. According to Porter, she was not even present when the child began experiencing the initial distress, “but she was convicted by Allgood’s office without much of a battle,” Turowski said.

Porter was eventually acquitted at a retrial when the medical examiner changed his original opinion, stating that the child died of an internal kidney malady.

“Porter’s story is fascinating and will give students an inside look at how our criminal justice system operates and the need for reforms to prevent similar miscarriages of justice,” Turowski said.