Wrongful Convictions

Raye of Hope



Press Releases

  • March for Freedom

    Washington, D.C. – March 21, 2009 - Footsteps echo across the nation from days past.  It was the spring of 1965 and the start of a five-day Freedom March began, focused on civil rights and segregation. Dr. Martin Luther King and the Freedom Marchers brought awareness to their cause as they flooded the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. Thousands of voices united as one as their cries for fair treatment and equality were heard around the world. Forty-four years later, with the election of our first black president, the Freedom Marchers from long ago have fulfilled their “dream.”

    Today, Freedom Marchers have a new agenda. It is awareness for wrongful convictions and an end to the archaic practice of putting our nation’s offenders to death. On June 27, 2009 at 10 am C.S.T., it is our dream to see every State Capitol in the nation filled with the cries of concerned citizens; a unified voice for freedom. The members of www.rayeofhope.org are organizing a nationwide March for Freedom http://marchforfreedom.org (http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://marchforfreedom.org) and to date, the response has been overwhelming. However, volunteers and coordinators are needed in every state in the nation to make this March for Freedom a success.

    Bringing awareness to wrongful convictions and abolishing the death penalty is a crucial topic today. Samuel R. Gross’s “Convicting the Innocent” quotes:

    • 2% of death sentences in America are based on false convictions

    • African American men are more likely to be falsely convicted of rape than innocent white men, especially if the victim is white

    • Innocent teenagers accused of murder are more likely to falsely confess than innocent adults

    • In the last three decades, over 200 innocent American defendants have been exonerated and freed by DNA tests

    • Over 200 others have been exonerated without the benefit of DNA evidence, including more than a hundred who had been sentenced to death

    • Through 2007, there were 210 DNA exonerations; all but a handful of the defendants were convicted of crimes that included rape, although a substantial number were also convicted of other crimes against the same victims ~ for example, murder

    • There were 126 death row exonerations from 1973 through 2007, 15 of which are also included among the DNA exonerations.

    • Death sentences represent less than 1/10 of 1% of prison sentences but they account for about 22% of known exonerations from 1979 through 2003, a disproportion of more than 250 to 1 (Gross & O’Brien 2008)

    • We know of 600 to 700 exonerations of all types, from across the country over a period of 35 years

    • The truth is that once we move beyond murder and rape cases, we know very little about any aspect of false convictions. Over 95% of the individual exonerations that we know about are in murder or rape cases, which together account for about 2% of all felony convictions, and a smaller proportion of all criminal convictions (Durose & Langan 2003).


    More Reasons to March:

    • Oklahoma imprisons more women than any other state in the nation

    • Only two states in our nation have turned away from the death penalty

    • There were a record 112,498 women in state and federal prison in 2006 (www.sentencingproject.org)

    • The number of women in prison has increased by 812% from the total of 12,331 in 1980, more than double the 380% increase for men during this period (www.sentencingproject.org).

    Shall we continue to lock away people who could possibly be innocent? Clearly, many of those who are in prison are mothers. How many children are being raised without a parent due to wrongful convictions? Shall we continue to put to death those who may have been wrongfully convicted? Nationwide coverage is needed to bring attention to this injustice. Ask yourself, as a society, are we to stand by, quietly thinking "someone else" will bring awareness to wrongful convictions? Join us at http://marchforfreedom.org.

    According to Bill and Gloria Newmiller, “Once someone you love is wrongly convicted, you never sleep the same again.” Their son, Todd Newmiller was, in their opinion, wrongfully convicted of murder (Colorado Appeals Case # 04CR5770) after a fight that left one man dead, and witnesses who stated the state’s star witness was the only man seen fighting with the victim. For more on Todd’s case, go to http://bearingfalsewitness.blogspot.com/.

    Gayla Smith believes her daughter, Raye Dawn Smith (Oklahoma Appeals Case # F-2007-1196), was wrongfully convicted in connection with the death of her two-year-old daughter, Kelsey Smith-Briggs, www.thetruthaboutkelsey.com. Gayla states, “Our family has been living in a nightmare since October 11, 2005.  Before my granddaughter’s death and wrongful conviction of Raye Dawn, I thought our justice system was fair. Unfortunately, our nightmare will not end until this injustice ends.”

    Do your part to effect change for a better America.  Please go to http://marchforfreedom.org and volunteer. Don’t let another innocent person’s blood be spilled or years of a life stolen by a justice system that continues to put political agendas above the lives of our nation’s people.

    Media contacts Sherri Heath oufan59@hotmail.com (405)308-6238 and William Newmiller bill@newmiller.com.


  • Wrongful Convictions - Stealing Lives One Person at a Time - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - May 23, 2008 - The recent release of wrongfully convicted Cynthia Sommer has brought awareness to the imprisonment of the innocent. The trend of crime lab mistakes, judicial errors, and incorrect eyewitness accounts is spreading nationwide. These contribute to years being stripped away from those who are mistakenly confined in a system that promises "Justice for all." Together, www.FreeKelseysMom.com and Raye-of-Hope.org is hoping to educate the public about wrongful convictions by holding a rally on June 21, 2008 in Harrah, Oklahoma at Heritage Park. Oklahoma's own "Innocent Man" Dennis Fritz and Tabitha Pollock who was exonerated in an Illinois Supreme Court after six years in prison are among scheduled guest speakers. Ultimately, we want to educate the public of this very real epidemic of wrongful convictions.

    To quote Sommer's website, "Putting an innocent person in jail is the legal equivalent of a plane crash." Unfortunately, these "plane crashes" are part of a trend that is being seen across the country. With high profile cases such as Sommer's making the nightly news, the public is now opening its eyes to the reality that wrongful imprisonment can happen to anyone. In Oklahoma, awareness of our "injustice" system has gone virtual with the websites www.FreeKelseysMom.com and www.TheTruthAboutKelsey.com. These sites are in support of a woman named Raye Dawn Smith. Free Kelsey's Mom members believe Smith has been wrongfully convicted by a one-sided media blitz that altered public opinion and led to an unfair trial. During the trial, Richard Smothermon, District Attorney for Lincoln County, Oklahoma, stated that he believed Smith's daughter, Kelsey Smith-Briggs, was sexually assaulted and murdered by Mike Porter, Smith's ex-husband and Kelsey's step-father. According to Smothermon, Smith "should have known" Porter abused Kelsey. (Oklahoma Case(s) CF-06-00033 & CF-07-00134)Smith now sits in an Oklahoma prison waiting for her appeal to the 27-year sentence she received for "should have known." Evidence of perjury, jury tainting, juror misconduct, timelines, the conspiratorial emails, and other documentation can be found on Smith's sites at www.TheTruthAboutKelsey.com. 

    Like Sommer's case, Smith's has gained local and now worldwide attention due to the YouTube videos and media blitz launched by Kelsey's paternal grandmother. Smith's site has members from as far away as Denmark, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the UK. These members believe that it was the media and Smith's silence that convicted Smith before her case went to trial on July 9, 2007. Oklahoma City based news channels reported 910 times on this case from October, 2005 to April, 2007. During that same time period, the Daily Oklahoman published 59 articles and the Shawnee News-Star published 62. With the media, billboards, buttons, bumper stickers, and Smith's side of the story silenced and ignored, Free Kelsey's Mom members believe Smith did not receive a fair trial. 

    On Tuesday, May 20, 2008, Smith's family members gathered at the State Capitol to deliver a letter from Smith to Oklahoma lawmakers. They also delivered evidence of Smith's alleged innocence, and two petitions; 664 signatures and sentiments have been gathered in support of a fair trial for Smith, and 505 signatures have been collected to release the records of Kelsey Smith-Briggs as Oklahoma's Title Ten calls for in the death of a child. Smith's family members were met by a local television crew that "scooped" the letter from a House of Representative's office after the family refused to turn over a copy of the letter. Before the family left the Capital, the letter was posted on the paternal family's website along with plenty of bashing of Smith. 

    Nationwide coverage is needed to bring attention to this the injustice that Raye Dawn Smith and her supporters allege. Read the evidence at www.TheTruthAboutKelsey.com and ask yourself - as a society, are we to stand by, quietly thinking "someone else" will bring awareness to wrongful convictions and report Raye Dawn's side of the story? Give Raye Dawn a voice. Tell her story so others will not suffer her fate. Visit www.TheTruthAboutKelsey.com and bring awareness to the truth and raise much needed funds for Smith's defense. (Oklahoma Appeals Case #: F-2007-1196)


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