Man Who Was Wrongly Jailed For 30 Years Dies Just Months After Being Released

A man who was wrongly imprisoned for nearly 30 years has passed away - less than six months after he was released from prison.
credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy
In 1993, Claude Francis Garrett had been convicted of killing his 24-year-old girlfriend Lorie Lee Lance in what was suspected to be an arson attack.

After being sentenced to life in prison, Garrett maintained his innocence - but it took nearly three decades for the jury to reinvestigate his case, overturn his charges and eventually release him from prison.

In May, the falsely accused ex-convict experienced freedom for the first time in nearly 30 years at the age of 65.

But in a tragic turn of events, his friend and US criminal justice system journalist Liliana Segura took to Twitter to announce that he has died.

"There is no easy way to share this news. Claude Garrett died yesterday, less than 6 months after he was exonerated and released from prison. He appears to have died in his sleep. He was just short of his 66th birthday," Segura began.

"I don't have words yet; it's heartbreaking and deeply unfair. Claude spent 30 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. He fought so hard. He was patient, focused, and when the day finally came, careful not to exhale prematurely. Not until he knew the state wouldn't appeal," she continued.

"Since then, and over the past 5 months, Claude relished his freedom. He enjoyed every moment with his daughter, Deana, and especially his grandson, who he absolutely adored," the journalist added, sharing two pictures of Garrett with his grandson.

Segura also said that seeing Garrett leaving prison was "one of the most meaningful experiences" of her life and said she's angry "at the decades he lost, angry at the way incarceration & trauma cut his life short," adding, "he tried so hard to be healthy."

The journalist also revealed that the innocent inmate was hoping to hold the state accountable for his ordeal, writing: "Claude had plans. He wanted the state to be held accountable for his wrongful conviction."

"He wanted compensation. It is unfathomable to me that the people most responsible for stealing so much of his life will never have to confront what they did, that they will outlive him," she added.

The wrong verdict against Garrett was in connection to a fire that started in the living room of his and his girlfriend's home in Old Hickory on Feb. 24, 1992.

After the fire was eventually extinguished, firefighters later discovered Lorie's body in a utility room. She had died from smoke inhalation.

Investigators later alleged that scorch patterns at the death scene indicated that the fire was set purposely, therefore, a jury sentenced Garrett to life in prison after less than three days of deliberation.

However, after years of appeals, Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins ruled on May 6 that there was "clear and convincing" proof that the original evidence of arson had since been dismissed as "junk science".

"The court is satisfied that (the) petitioner has presented clear and convincing evidence showing that no reasonable jury would have convicted Claude Garrett of felony murder in light of the new scientific evidence," Judge Watkins concluded, per New York Post.

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