Since early April 2020, the Southern Center for Human Rights has assisted individuals who are advocating for their freedom due to a heightened risk of serious illness or death upon contracting COVID-19 while incarcerated.
We have celebrated the release of these individuals whose strength and resilience are nothing short of inspirational. We are honored to share their stories with you.
Sheila Denton, 53, spent 14 years in prison before her murder conviction, which was based on junk science about bitemarks, was overturned. Ms. Denton was released on April 8 pending re-trial, and she now lives with her son and grandchildren in Riverdale, GA. Ms. Denton is pictured with SCHR attorneys Katherine Moss and Mark Loudon-Brown.
Samuel Moore, 62, was sentenced to 20-years in prison for selling $40 worth of drugs. While he was in prison, Mr. Moore was treated for brain and lung cancer. After serving 15 years, on May 29, the Parole Board released him. Mr. Moore is pictured with SCHR attorney Atteeyah Hollie.
Roger King, 66, served 16 years of a 40-year sentence for drugs. In April, SCHR highlighted his case in a letter to the Parole Board urging the release of people at heightened risk of illness or death from COVID-19. The Board granted his early release on July 1. Mr. King is pictured with SCHR attorneys Ebony Brown and Katherine Moss.
Johnny Gates, 64, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in 1977. After 43 years in prison, including 26 on death row, his conviction was overturned due to exculpatory DNA evidence and profound race discrimination. Mr. Gates walked out of Court a free man on May 15. Mr. Gates is pictured with SCHR attorneys Patrick Mulvaney and Katherine Moss.
Carl Stephens, 63, received a 50-year sentence without parole in 1993 for possessing drug residue and stealing cigarettes from an empty store. SCHR began talks with the district attorney about resentencing before COVID, however, Mr. Stephens was released by the parole board in June, after serving 26 years in prison. Mr. Stephens is pictured with SCHR attorneys Atteeyah Hollie and Princeton Hynes.
Samuel Smart, 60, woke up on August 18 as the only person in Georgia serving life without the possibility of parole for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Later that day he walked free, the charges dismissed, after 22 years in prison. He is pictured with his longtime partner, Dorothy Ferrell.
Keith Coleman, 55, served 22 years of a 35 plus year sentence on federal drug charges. Mr. Coleman was granted home confinement release by the Federal Bureau of Prisons on June 24, 2020. He is pictured embracing his mother and surrounded by his family, with whom he now lives in Savannah.