In 1974, two months after his wedding, Isaiah Andrews’ spouse Regina Andrews was murdered. That was just the beginning of a lifelong ordeal. Andrews, who passed away this month in Cleveland, spent the next 45 years in jail for a murder he did not commit.
In 2018 Ohio Innocence Project attorneys uncovered that police concealed evidence in the original trial that tied another man, who died in 2011, to the killing of Regina Andrews. Isaiah Andrews was released in 2020 — but was forced to wear an ankle bracelet and to undergo a second trial ordered by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. The monitoring device was only removed after a jury found him not guilty in October 2021, after deliberating only an hour.
In March Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court granted a motion by Andrews’ attorneys to have him declared “wrongfully imprisoned.” This would have meant the state of Ohio would owe him money for every year he spent behind bars. But with his death at age 83 of cancer, it will take another legal fight to get the money awarded to his estate.
O’Malley ordered the ankle bracelet, along with home confinement except for medical appointments, in an attempt to pressure Andrews to plead guilty with credit for time served. Andrews, who proclaimed his innocence until his final breath, refused. This humiliating device robbed him of his freedom of movement in his few years outside of prison.
Isaiah Andrews is one of far too many people who have been sent to prison for acts they did not commit. The case exposes the rampant corruption and inherent injustice in the U.S. carceral system. Justice delayed is indeed justice denied here.
But longtime civil rights attorney Terry Gilbert, whose firm represented Andrews, wrote in a Cleveland Plain Dealer op ed piece: “His ordeal was not in vain, and his spirit as a freedom fighter will live on.”