FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 7, 2015
Contact: Mark Elliott
Director, Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP)
David Keaton, Florida and the nation’s first exonerated death row survivor of the modern era has died.
July 7, 2015, Tampa, FL – Dave Keaton, the modern era’s first death row exoneree in the U.S. and the first from Florida, passed away suddenly at home in Quincy, Florida. He was 63 and is survived by his siblings, Elise, Thawanna, Victor, and Edwardo. Keaton was active with Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) and Witness To Innocence.
FADP Executive Director Mark Elliott said, “This gentle, soft-spoken man was an inspiration to us all to keep fighting the good fight for life, human dignity, and humane treatment of all beings.
Dave Keaton was arrested in 1971 for the murder of an off-duty police officer at a Florida convenience store. After three days of relentless interrogation – with threats, lies, and beatings – investigators coerced a confession from him. Although details of the number of participants in the crime, the weapons used, and the location of the “getaway car” differed sharply from the state’s evidence, an all-white jury convicted and sentenced Keaton to death. He was 18 years old.
Once he was on death row, the case against Keaton quickly unraveled. Journalists revealed that the polygraph operator in his case had a history of extracting false confessions from frightened suspects without lawyers. Fingerprints from the scene and a tip from an informant led prosecutors to the real culprits, who were indicted and later convicted for the murder.
Ultimately, Dave Keaton spent two years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, yet received no compensation from the state for his wrongful conviction.
“Shamefully, David Keaton never received a nickel from the state of Florida for his years on Death Row for a crime he did not commit.” says Elliott, “He died in poverty.”
In addition to being the first man to be exonerated from death row in the United States, Keaton was an outstanding poet and singer, giving performances across the country as a member of Witness to Innocence. Dave also worked with Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other Florida groups. Recently at the “Rally in Tally to Abolish the Death Penalty” Dave spoke alongside Herman Lindsey and Seth Penalver, two of his 25 fellow Florida death row exonerees. His story of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death is immortalized in the motion picture and play, “The Exonerated,” in which his story has been performed by renowned actor Danny Glover and countless others for over a decade.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (FADP) is a coalition of individuals and organizations united to abolish the death penalty in Florida. For more, please visit our website at www.fadp.org.
Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (www.FADP.org)
P.O. Box 82943
Tampa, FL 33682