In 1995, a woman was carjacked in Jackson, Mississippi. She identified Matthew Norwood and Harold Hackett as the carjackers. A few days later, she recanted her identification of Hackett, but was firm in her identification of Norwood. Norwood, then 15-years-old, with no criminal record, faced up to 40 years in prison. Pursuant to a deal with the prosecution, Norwood entered an “Alford plea” under which he pled guilty but was allowed to continue to maintain his innocence. He was sentenced to six months in a boot camp. Before completing the program, however, Norwood was removed from the boot camp for minor infractions and resentenced to 15 years in prison.
Norwood completed his sentence in 2007. In 2008, during a separate criminal investigation, Jackson Police Department detectives discovered exculpatory evidence in Norwood’s case. The car that he allegedly stole had a manual transmission, but Norwood did not know how to drive a stick shift. Hackett, after being offered immunity, then admitted that he had in fact committed the crime and that Norwood was not involved. Though Norwood had already served his entire sentence, he worked with the Mississippi Innocence Project to clear his name. In October 2010, with the concurrence of the Hinds County District Attorney, a Hinds County judge vacated Norwood’s robbery conviction and dismissed the charges. Norwood has filed for compensation from the state that could total $500,000; that claim remained pending as of August 2011.
- Stephanie Denzel