– I’m curious, what kinda
food did you eat in prison? – Oh my god, you don’t even wanna know. – What about the vegetarians? – Vegetarians? They don’t care nothin’ ’bout that, baby. (sighs) (off camera laughter) Once you go to prison, you are no longer, belong to yourself. (light hip hop music) – Hi, my name’s Lavali. – Hi, my name’s Sabrina. – My name is Jaelyn. Nice to meet you, Sabrina. – Nice to meet you too, darlin’. – So what are we here to talk about today? – We’re gonna talk about death row. The death penalty.
– Oh, okay. – Oh. – I don’t know what it is. – You don’t know what
the death penalty is? – Death, pen– Oh, so if you kill
someone, your punishment? – Well, they send you to jail,
and you possibly could die. – They would kill you? – [Sabrina] Right. – I mean, it’s not really a bad thing, but also not really a good thing. It’s kinda confusing, but
if someone’s done something really bad, then I guess
they should be killed. – Mm-hmm. If they die, what you
think that’s gonna solve? – Well, one, it would solve
them not killing anyone. – Mm-hmm. – Anyone else. – What do you think, I mean, that you think deserves the death penalty? – Probably murder, maybe rape, or like, really aggravated sexual assault. But I think it really
just depends on the case. – What do you think
about the death penalty? – Well actually, I’m
the first woman exoneree to be exonerated from death row in the United States for
a crime I didn’t commit. – [Girl] Oh. – Wait, what’s exonerated? – It means set free. – Oh, wow. – Okay. – Yeah. – You did something that you didn’t do, but they said you did? – Correct. They accused me of killing my child. – What happened to your baby, did they– – My son stopped breathing,
and I didn’t know how to apply CPR, and I applied CPR under
the toolage of someone else. Somebody else telling me
what to do, in other words. – Oh, okay, yeah. – Well, the way she told
me to do CPR was adult CPR, so I applied adult CPR to a nine month old all the way to the hospital. When they tried to revive
him, they couldn’t. – Oh my gosh. – Yeah, in a little town
called Columbus, Mississippi. – Oh, that’s so awful. – I was only 17 years old
when that happened to me. – Who accused you for killing your son? – Police. And so the police came to
the hospital where I was, and they took me to
the jail to talk to me. – So they thought that
the reason you went to the hospital was because
you did something to him. – Yeah, right. Have you ever heard of the, you have the right to remain silent? What do you think that means? – You get to be quiet,
you can’t say any words? – See, that’s exactly what I thought. Be quiet until spoken to. That is not what it means. You can be quiet, but if
you choose to say something, everything that comes out of your mouth, the police officer’s gonna
use that against you. Do you know what it’s like to
be interrogated, or you ever– – No. – Any of your friends,
anybody talked about it? – [Woman Off Camera] Have you ever seen it in a movie or something? – You ever see how it’s done? – In the movie, The Hate U Give, I saw. Like, they’re trying to
get you say what happened, even if it wasn’t what actually happened. – The lead investigator
in my case was jumping up, he was screaming, he was
yelling at me, and telling me, “No, you beat him, you stomped
him, this is what you did.” Acting like he was finna jump on me. So during that time, I was so scared, I just signed whatever
they told me to sign. So the statement that he wrote out is what they used to convict me
on in the very beginning. – I feel bad for saying this. Is it because racism? – I was waiting on you to say that. You are a very smart man. Gimme five. It’s sad, but it’s true. My case was racially motivated. I had an all white jury,
I had a district attorney who took the jury to a
picnic while they were supposed to be sequestered, meaning that they were not supposed to talk to anyone while they were under a court proceeding. – It’s crazy that you can treat someone, basically the same as you, but they’re a different color,
– Color. – And you treat them like
they’re worse than you. – How long were you in jail? – I did six and a half years. Two years nine months on death row. I’ve seen people get stabbed,
I’ve seen people die, I’ve seen people getting
beat up, I done seen it all. Jail ‘aint what you want, I’m telling you, it’s not what you want. – Did you have to share a room? – No, I was in a cell by
myself, no human contact. You can just imagine, that
can be hard for a person that actually committed a crime. But think of how it would be for a person that hadn’t committed a crime. – When you do do the death penalty, what do they do to kill you? – They have options. (laughs) – I thought that it was,
one was like a shot. – Mm-hmm, you right with the shot. – The electric chair? – Oh, yeah. – And a gas chamber. – Then Mississippi has
brought back the firing squad, where they can line you up against a wall, and put a headscarf on you, and shoot you. They brought back the hanging. – That’s just crazy
that they would do that. – Why did you not get killed? – Because I proved my case. I ended up with a new trial, new jury. I had to end up getting other attorneys to come in and prove that I
did not commit a crime at all. My son had heart problems,
he had kidney problems, and he had chronic bowel syndrome. He had stuff that I didn’t
have anything to do with. – They should have checked his
medical record before that. – That’s what I said. A eight year old can tell you
to check the medical records. Where was they? I just don’t have a clue. – I feel really bad for you. – Thank you. – For someone accusing you
for killing your own son. – In the moment when you figured out that you were exonerated,
what did that feel like? – That was the happiest moment
of my life because I was like, finally, somebody see
that I did not commit a crime. I was overjoyed. – Basically for like, the first
30 years were spent either in prison, or fighting to
have rights, and basic things. – There you go. Once you get in the system like that, it doesn’t just go away just because you see the person walk free. If they took away your life from you, for something you know that you didn’t do, and you get out and you don’t
have a way to do nothing, what do you think is fair? I mean, what do you think? What would you do? – I’d be horrified, I don’t know. I don’t know what I’d do. – [Sabrina] Yeah. – What did they do, and
what did you do after that? – Well, I walk around from
’95 to 2009 without a job. Nobody would even give me an opportunity. Then in 2009, Mississippi
passed a law for exonerees to receive compensation
for wrongful conviction. And they gave me what they
thought that it was worth. I got that first payment in 2012, so I still didn’t get it until 2012. That little money, I was able to get a place for myself, and do a little bit. – How often do these cases happen? – It’s a lot of cases like this. There is 169 death row exonerees, like me, who have been put in
prison for so many years for things that they didn’t do. That’s a lot of mistakes. It’s a lot of mistakes. What if you killed these people? That’s what we’re saying, this is wrong. Death penalty is wrong on so many levels. We need to get rid of it. – Now that you’re saying that,
it makes a lot more sense. – Yeah. – How do you cope with all
the stuff you’ve been through? – Well, at first I didn’t cope. You called me a murderer,
y’all make me out to be this creature, this person that didn’t love her child, and
did this, and did that. I wrestled with that for years, so I had to change that,
and channel that energy into something else, so I started writing. And I started writing everyday,
and I have a book out now, and that’s what got me through it. – If they make a movie about you, who do you want to play you? – Taraji P. Henson. Oh, I love her. (off screen laughter) She is awesome. I would love for her to do it, Lord Jesus. – What do you think we can do? – Get some of these legislators out here, the people that are making these laws, and start pounding their pavement, getting out there talking
to all the legislators and seeing what type of
people we have in office. Well, remember this, whatever
you believe, you can achieve. You just gotta believe it. And I’m gonna keep on fighting,
until I can’t fight no more. And I hope by talking
to children like you, that you guys will change this system. It is not right. The death penalty should not be here. – Well, you inspired me
with one conversation. (laughs) It was really good. – Wow, thank you. – Thank you. – Thank you. – Thank you. – Oh, darling. Oh, sweetie. Y’all get out there and whoop some butt. (laughter) ‘Cause y’all the ones gon’ change it. Now y’all gotta change this world. You gotta change it. Hi, I’m Sabrina Butler Smith. Thank you for listening to my story. To learn more about me, and the fight to end the death penalty,
check down below. Bye.

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