INNOCENCE PROJECT: I was just 17 years old when I was wrongfully convicted

My home state of Oklahoma has the highest rate of female incarceration in the country, yet I’m one of two women to ever be exonerated in the state.

I was just 17 years old when I was wrongfully convicted of murdering my 15-week-old son, Travis. I found him stabbed to death in the kitchen of my home. The only supposed witness to the crime was a 14-year-old neighbor, who said he’d been peering through the blinds outside of our home and called 911 around 3 a.m. to report that Travis’ father and I were having an argument.

Police responded but left when no one answered the door. They testified that when they arrived, the front door was ajar and when they shined their lights on me, they didn’t see anything nor did they hear any disturbance. I woke up at 6 a.m. and that’s when I found Travis’ body and called 911 right away. I was in shock and completely devastated. The police immediately took me into the station and proceeded to interrogate me for eight hours without a guardian present — which is illegal because I was a minor at the time. One of the officers told me that the only way I’d be able to see my 2-year-old daughter was if I confessed to a crime I didn’t commit.

I spent 20 years behind bars, but with the help of the Innocence Project, I was finally exonerated and freed based on DNA evidence in 2014.

Now, I’m part of the Innocence Project’s Exoneree Advisory Council, which helps fellow exonerees when they finally get out of prison. A big part of this work includes our Exoneree Fund, which is used to help recently exonerated people get back on their feet.

In honor of the Innocence Project’s 29th birthday tomorrow, I’m asking you to donate to our Exoneree Fund right now — it helps make sure we have the resources to support exonerees rebuilding their lives.

Michelle Murphy
Michelle Murphy in New York City in 2019. (Image: Corey Chalumeau/Innocence Project)Doni, I know firsthand what it’s like to be incarcerated for a crime you didn’t commit. My whole world was ripped away from me — my soul was broken. When you’re in prison, it feels like you’re not allowed to fully breathe and feel your emotions. I wasn’t able to properly grieve the loss of my son.

Going into a maximum prison for grown women as a teenager was absolutely horrific. Not only had I lost my son, but I lost my 2-year-old daughter and the rest of my family as well.

Wrongful incarceration is something I’d never wish on anyone. When you finally get out of prison, you feel like you can exhale again for the first time in years, but it’s still a struggle.

In many states, there are either no compensation laws or grossly inadequate compensation laws. And if you’ve been behind bars for more than 20 years and don’t have that support from the state, it’s incredibly difficult to find work, start making money to support yourself, and find a place to live — but that’s where this community comes in.

It’s because of the Exoneree Fund that so many of us are able to start rebuilding our lives after wrongful incarceration, and that’s why sustaining it is so important. So please, help me wish the Innocence Project a happy 29th birthday by making a donation to the Exoneree Fund today.

Thank you so much,

Michelle Murphy
Exonerated in 2014
Exoneree Advisory Council


Started in 1992 as a legal clinic at Cardozo School of Law, the Innocence Project is now an independent nonprofit, affiliated with Cardozo, that exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

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