"Delbert Tibbs, Who Left Death Row and Fought Against It, Dies at 74," is by Bruce Weber. Here's the beginning:
It is not easy:
you stand waiting for a train
or a bus that may never come
no friend drives by to catch a ride
call yourself a poet
but work all day mopping floors and looking out for thieves.
Those lines, describing the experience of an innocent man on death row, are from a poem by Delbert Tibbs, who in 1974 was convicted in Florida of a rape and a murder that he had nothing to do with, it was later found. He spent nearly three years in prison before the State Supreme Court reversed his convictions, vacated his death sentence and freed him.
Mr. Tibbs then campaigned for the abolishment of capital punishment and became one of six people whose stories of wrongful conviction and near execution were told in “The Exonerated,” a play by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, who assembled their script from court documents, testimony, depositions and letters.
First presented in 2002 in Los Angeles and New York with celebrity-studded casts, the play went on to help reshape the national debate about the death penalty, reaching audiences in productions across the country and then on television in a filmed adaptation starring Susan Sarandon, Brian Dennehy, Aidan Quinn, Danny Glover and, as Mr. Tibbs, Delroy Lindo.
“People who once argued about the morality of executing the guilty now discuss whether the capital justice system can be trusted to separate those deserving death from the wholly innocent,” Adam Liptak wrote in The New York Times in 2005 in assessing the play’s impact.
Mr. Tibbs, whose poetic bent led Ms. Blank and Mr. Jensen to use his character as a kind of Greek chorus, introducing and closing the play and appearing intermittently throughout as a sagelike figure, died on Nov. 23 at his home in Chicago. He was 74.
Earlier coverage of Delbert Tibbs begins at the link.