Related posts are in the activism category index.
On a Tuesday last March, the state of Mississippi executed Larry Matthew Puckett, a 35-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his boss’s wife, 28-year-old Rhonda Hatten Griffis, in 1995. Matt, as his family called him, was an Eagle Scout at the time; he had just graduated from high school and was days away from leaving for basic training with the Navy before he was arrested. From the beginning he insisted on his innocence, claiming that his former employer had killed his wife in a rage upon discovering her and Matt together in her mobile home. Although his story contained inconsistencies, there were red flags. Griffis was beaten to death with a club, yet her blood was nowhere to be found on Puckett’s clothes, just on her husband’s. Nor was Puckett’s semen found on her body.
The Mississippi Innocence Project reviewed his case in 2008, primarily due to concerns over the role of one of two now-famously discredited medical examiners whose testimony had sent innocent men to death row. But neither man was central to his case. Nor was there DNA to test. No further inquiry went forward. The courts upheld his conviction.
But Puckett’s family continued to believe him, particularly his mother, Mary. When his lawyers pushed to fight for his sentence to be commuted to life without parole, she recalls, “We always protested and said no, that’s not what we want for him. We want him to come home.”