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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Gary Beeman, Niagara Falls NY

Gary Beeman is the only person to have ever won exoneration at a second trial proceeding as his own attorney after being sentenced to death. A wrongfully convicted man, Gary spent three years on Ohio's death row.

Charged with aggravated murder in 1976, Gary always maintained that the prosecution's main witness, an escaped prisoner, was the actual killer. Refusing to accept a reduced plea of manslaughter, Gary was convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution.

On death row, Gary prepared his case. During the appellate process, he wrote the assignment of error that ultimately reversed conviction, and represented himself throughout the State's direct appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. On the day Gary was to be transported for the second trial, he refused to leave his typewriter and legal materials and was severely beaten by guards at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. Following an intensive investigation which involved the FBI, his legal materials were returned.

Gary represented himself through seven months of pretrial hearings, sometimes engaging in open court against the very lawyers once appointed to his assist in his defense. He was awarded several court orders allowing nightly access to the county law library, access to his own personal law books and legal materials, three additional cells to hold those materials, an outside phone line directly to his cell, access to an interview room in the Sheriff's Department's offices where he could conduct private interviews with his own witnesses, two private investigators who were given wide latitude, and reasonable expenses to conduct his defense.

Through the first two weeks of his five-week retrial, Gary personally cross-examined the state's chief witness. After the third straight day of testifying, the chief witness was dismissed. Later that night, the witness was arrested for intoxication and placed in a nearby city jail where he again confessed that he had committed the murder and framed Gary to gain his own release. After presenting testimony from the five additional witnesses who heard these admissions, and other key evidence which shed light on the state's chief witness's motivation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Gary Beeman now lives in New York where he is active in the movement against the death penalty. Recently a featured speaker at the Annual Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty at the US Supreme Court, Gary speaks to numerous universities, schools and other audiences about his experience as a survivor of death row.