Dan Bright & Kathleen Hawk Norman
152 x 152 cm
Oil on canvas 2008
Dan Bright: Death Row Louisiana
Conviction: 1996, Charges Dismissed: 2004
Kathleen Hawk Norman: Jury Foreperson: State v. Bright 1996
In 1996 Dan Bright was sentenced to death for the murder of Murray Barnes outside a New Orleans bar. Kathleen Hawk Norman was the foreperson of the jury at Dan’s trial.
The sole evidence linking Dan
to the crime was the testimony of Freddie Thompson, a convicted felon who was in violation of his parole. There was no physical evidence and an FBI document denying Dan’s guilt and stating the name of the true killer was available to all the legal parties but never presented in court. Dan was not called to testify and no defence was presented in court. Kathleen, as the foreperson of the jury, announced the guilty verdict and then sentenced Dan to death.
Four years later evidence was presented to Kathleen that convinced her that the jury had made
a terrible mistake and she began a determined campaign to overturn the conviction.
Finally in 2004, both Kathleen and Dan were in court to hear confirmation that material evidence had been withheld by the state and the conviction would be overturned. The prosecution dismissed all charges and Dan was allowed to go free.
I met Dan and Kathleen at the Innocence Project offices in New Orleans. Dan has a natural easy-going charm. His pride in the progress of the daughters who grew up while he was incarcerated contrasted starkly with the anger that he expressed at a system that fought for so long to suppress evidence that would clear his name. Dan still feels persecuted by the police. He tries to stay where there is CCTV and keeps all his receipts in case he needs to prove his innocence again.
Kathleen, a confident and assertive businesswoman, explained that her faith in the justice system is destroyed and she now works tirelessly for the Innocence Project in New Orleans, driven by Dan’s plea to her on their final emotional day in court - “don’t forget about the others.”
Part of the interview with Dan & Kathleen is available to listen to below but the quality may be poor so please click the button for the transcript.
'The entire trial… from the time that we started the selection of the jury until the time that I stood in open court and said that I sentence this man to death, was a day and a half" - Kathleen
"None of this is on you, you didn’t do anything wrong. You were a victim like I was a victim." - Dan to Kathleen
"Even when they realised they were wrong they still didn’t give me a new trial, they still didn’t cut me loose, they just downgraded my charge to “Life”. That’s still a death sentence to me – it’s just a slow death sentence." - Dan