Meet the Exonerees

Ryan Matthews

State: Louisiana
Date of Birth: 1982
Incident Date: 1997
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 1998
Age When Exonerated: 24
Exonerated Date: 2004
Time Served: 6
Conviction: first degree murder
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: Yes

Case Details

On April 5, 1997, seventeen-year-old Travis Hayes was pulled over by police while driving around New Orleans with his seventeen-year-old friend Ryan Matthews. Neither boy knew that several hours earlier, two men driving a similar car had shot and killed a grocer during an attempted robbery. One eyewitness tentatively identified Matthews after being shown a photographic array by police; another identified Matthews during a “show-up.” Armed with these identifications, prosecutors interrogated Hayes for seven consecutive hours without allowing him to sleep, use the bathroom, or eat. Hayes eventually buckled under the pressure and falsely admitted that Matthews had shot the grocer while Hayes served as the getaway driver. Matthews and Hayes were both convicted. Matthews was sentenced to death, while Hayes received a life sentence. Some years later, a man named Rondell Love, who had been arrested for an unrelated offense, began bragging about getting away with the grocer’s murder. When DNA found at the crime scene was tested, the results implicated Love, and both Matthews's and Hayes's convictions were vacated. Matthews had served a total of six years on Louisiana's death row.