News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 11, 2012

DePauw hosts man freed from Death Row

GREENCASTLE — A Chicago man who spent more than 10 years behind bars for rape and murder will talk about his experience on Florida’s Death Row during a two-day event at DePauw University in Greencastle.

Delbert Tibbs is an African-American who was exonerated and declared innocent in 1982. He was arrested in 1974 and convicted of murder and rape by an all-white jury and sentenced to death.

He will lecture on “From Death Row to Freedom: One Man’s Story of Wrongful Conviction, the Death Penalty, and American Justice” at 6 p.m. today at the Peeler Auditorium at DePauw.

According to information on his website (, Tibbs vehemently denied the charges. A mass movement was organized to fight for his life, spearheaded by his friends and family. Freedom fighters such as 1970s activist Angela Davis and others entered the fray. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction but did not order the lower court to cease and desist prosecution. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1982, the state’s attorney in Lee County, Fla., dropped the case as he stated that his witnesses’ credibility would be questionable to a jury.

The story of Tibbs’ clash with the criminal justice system has been told in the play “The Exonerated,” by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen.

Today’s public session is sponsored by the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw.

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