Falsely accused man does 21 years in prison, and then dies less than a year later
By Angela L. Braden
Sharrif Wilson, age 38, has died less than a year after being released from prison after serving 21-years for a crime that he did not commit.
In 1992, Sharrif Wilson and Antonio Yarbough were convicted for the triple homicide of Yarbrough’s mother, twelve-year-old sister, and twelve-year-old cousin. Wilson confessed to the crime and even testified against Yarbough. Wilson later admitted that he was coerced by police to confess to the gruesome crime. His recanted confession was strengthened when DNA evidence was uncovered in 1999 that linked someone else to the murders. It took another fifteen years to convince a New York judge to vacate the sentences of both Wilson and Yarbough.
According to the New York Daily News, Sharrif Wilson has died due to respiratory failure, a condition that developed and advanced while in prison. According to Wilson’s attorney, Wilson went to prison young and healthy, but returned home very unhealthy.
Wilson and Yarbough, who were both teenagers at the time of the murders, had gone to Coney Island for a night of fun. When Yarbough returned home, he found his mother, sister, and cousin dead. The three had been strangled and stabbed to death.
Yarbough was taken into the police precinct and the coercion began. Yarbough says that police tried to get him to sign a false confession, but he refused. Not knowing it, police were interrogating his friend, Wilson, and threatening him with life in prison if he didn’t confess. Wilson, being very afraid, signed the confession, sending both Wilson and Yarbough to prison. However, Yarbough was sentenced to 75 years to life, and Wilson was only sentenced to 9 years to life.
“I was scared, afraid; I was lied to, manipulated into believing that I was going to go home, if I do tell … what they said happened.” Wilson said in an interview on CNN after being released.
Wilson said that while in prison, he received a letter from Yarbough’s aunt, asking him if he and Yarbough had committed the murders. That is when Wilson came clean. He told the aunt that he lied.
“I was wrong for turning on him, but I was scared and pressured into it.” We’re innocent,” Wilson wrote in a letter to the aunt.
Wilson, who spent more than half his life in prison, said that he felt bad for giving the false confession.
“For many years I felt horrible that I had to do that and that I actually did it knowing that we weren’t guilty for a crime we didn’t commit,” Wilson said.
In 1999, DNA that matched samples taken from one of the murder victim’s nails matched DNA of a killer, who committed a homicide during the time Wilson and Yarbough were locked up in a maximum security prison. This ignited officials to launch a new investigation to free the two men.
In February of 2014, the life sentences for Wilson and Yarbough were vacated. The district attorney stated that he would not retry the men for the crime.
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