Mathews was 17 when he came into contact with America’s justice system. His encounter with the discriminatory system led to his incarceration two years later for a crime he knew nothing about, spending five years on Louisiana’s death row.
Mathews’ misfortune with the law began in April 1997. A man wearing a ski mask entered Vanhoose’s store and demanded money. Vanhoose refused and the man shot him four times and fled. With his mask off, the perpetrator jumped into the passenger side window of an awaiting car. The victim was a white businessman.
Innocent and despite no evidence linking him to the fatal shooting of the businessman, Mathews was found guilty by 11 white jurors and one black and sentenced to death at the age of 19.
Mathews would later be exonerated after a stunning investigation by William Sothern and Clive Stafford Smith of the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center.
Seven years after his exoneration and release, Mathews picked up the pieces of his life and recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and science from TWU in Denton, Texas.
Mathews’ story of perseverance would become a source of inspiration to his sister and mother, who would both return to school. “I am proud, proud, proud as I could be,” the sister Monique, who is now pursuing a Ph.D. at TWU said.