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Wednesday, 02 November 2022 – A man, who served 30 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, has died 6 months after he was released from jail.
Claude Garrett was released from Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in May this year.
His friend Liliana Segura wrote: “Since then, and over the past 5 months, Claude relished his freedom. He enjoyed every moment with his daughter, Deana, and especially his grandson, who he absolutely adored.”
But on October 30, the 66-year-old died in his sleep, after just six months of freedom.
In 1992 Claude had been convicted of the murder of his girlfriend Lorie Lance.
After the couple had been on a night out in local bar called Daisey Mae’s, a fire broke out in their home in Old Hickory, Tennessee.
Claude said he had fallen asleep and when he woke up he discovered a fire in the living room. He later told police that when he realised what was happening, he woke up Lorie and tried to take her with him to the front door.
But she instead turned and headed for the back door. Claude made his escape and called the local fire brigade.
When they arrived, Claude was trying to put the fire out with a hose and had tried to smash open a door with an axe.
As firefighters tried to get the fire under control, Claude kept telling them, “I don’t understand why, I don’t understand why she didn’t follow me out the door”.
After the fire was eventually extinguished, firefighters later found Lorie’s body in a utility room. She had died from smoke inhalation.
Investigators found evidence that pointed to a deliberate arson. There was what seemed to be scorch patterns that suggested heating oil had been poured onto the floor.
Despite his protestations of innocence, Claude was found guilty.
On August 20, 1993, after two and a half days of deliberations, the jury found Claude Garrett guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Earlier this year, after years of appeals, Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins wrote that Claude had shown “actual innocence”.
The forensic finding that suggested arson was dismissed as “junk science”.
Judge Watkins concluded: “The court is satisfied that Petitioner has presented clear and convincing evidence showing that no reasonable jury would have convicted Claude Garrett of felony murder in light of the new scientific evidence.”
Liliana Segura said: “Claude had plans. He wanted the state to be held accountable for his wrongful conviction. He wanted compensation. It is unfathomable to me that the people most responsible for stealing so much of his life will never have to confront what they did, that they will outlive him.”