A study published last year found that over 300 Americans sentenced to death since 1973 were wrongfully convicted—that’s 4.1 percent of all executed prisoners in that time frame. It’s a disturbing trend, but one that some are working tirelessly to change. One of those heroes is attorney Patrick Walsh. Earlier this year, Patrick saw his own wrongfully convicted client facing the death penalty, and he decided to do something about it: He confessed to the crime himself.
When Patrick took on Samuel Barnes as a client, he thought he had an ironclad case. Samuel had been accused of the grisly murder of Caroline Morgan based only on an unreliable eyewitness account and tire treads found at the scene that matched the year and make of his Volvo. No DNA evidence or murder weapon was recovered, and Samuel had no personal ties of any kind to the victim.
Despite this lack of hard evidence, the jury came back with a guilty verdict. That’s when the brilliant idea occurred to Patrick to admit to the crime himself.
“It’s not textbook, but I knew I had to think outside the box to acquit Samuel, who was clearly innocent,” Patrick told us from a maximum-security federal prison. “I wasn’t about to let Samuel become a casualty of the system, so I walked into the courtroom and said, ‘I did it.’”
Wow. Patrick’s fight for justice is an inspiration to us all. In a time with seemingly only bleak news on the criminal justice front, he’s one of the few bright spots.
“Patrick Walsh changed my life,” explained the newly free Samuel. “I was blessed to have a lawyer who was willing to stand up for the truth and challenge a broken system.”
Patrick Walsh is one person determined to combat a major problem in our modern justice system, and he’s inspiring us all to strive for what is right. Following his execution next year, he will be survived by his wife, Sheila, and his three children.