After serving 63 years for a crime he claims he did not commit, a Pennsylvania man is turning down the opportunity to be paroled from prison on principle. He claims he is innocent and should never have been convicted in the first place.
Convicted for the 1953 murders of two people at the age of 15, the man has maintained his innocence for more than half a century. You have to hear his story.
Seventy nine year old Joseph Ligon, was fifteen years old when he was tried and convicted for the stabbing deaths of Charles Pitts and Jackson Hamm. Five other youths were also charged.
The deaths were the result of a gang brawl. Developmentally disabled, he admitted he had been part of the melee, but did not stab the two youths who were killed, and he has maintained his innocence throughout his ordeal.
All of the other defendants in the case have either passed away or have been released from prison already.
In 2010, Ligon spoke with local papers about his life behind bars, saying “I’ve been able to deal with this situation because, in my mind and in my heart, I didn’t kill somebody. If I had, that would have worried me to death. There’s no way I could have done that and survived in here.”
The opportunity for parole has been presented to him due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling at the beginning of this year that sentencing juveniles to life in prison was unconstitutional and that they should have the possibility of parole. Some 300 prisoners in Pennsylvania are eligible for resentencing now and many are being given a second chance, however Ligon and three other men have refused agreement that would immediately make them eligible for parole.
Speaking before the court last week, Bradley Bridge of the Defender Association of Philadelphia said “His view is, he’s been in long enough. He doesn’t want to be on probation or parole. He just wants to be released.”
At Seventy Nine years old, Ligon is considered to be the longest-serving juvenile lifer in the world.
Now that his story has become public, many people have taken to social media to express their thoughts for him, saying things like:
“Now he is 79 years old and turned down the possibility of parole and has held to his claim of innocence. You may call him institutionalize but I say this is a man with nothing in this world but his innocence. His time on this Earth is nearly over and he is making his stand. Freedom is not what Mr. Joes Ligon is after. He wants admission of his innocence from the courts and the state and he is willing to die in jail if he has too.”- Clifford Harris
“Mr. Ligon sometimes when they take every damn thing from you, it makes you hold on even tighter
to the things they can’t take. Your integrity, your heart, you soul etc. Keep your head up Joseph, you still look like that 15 year old young man! That is the truth in you!”- Jack Wells
“ If he does not want to leave, at least let church groups come and get him for the day, and bring him back to his cell. That is, if he would like doing that. Maybe he could enjoy some of what is left of his life on earth.”- Michael Ehrhart
“It is just a sad situation all the way around. at 15, I doubt he had any trade skills and I doubt he learned much in prison other than to survive. he has nothing in the outside world for him, the system took his soul and any dignity this man has a long time ago.”- Brian Debowey