Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Extraordinary couple weds after each spent more than 15 years in prison on murder charges before being exonerated

Sonia Jacobs and Peter Pringle had something unique in common when they tied the knot at a star-studded ceremony in New York. Both served at least 15 years on Death Row, one in America and one in Ireland, after being convicted of killing police officers..

And both were finally freed after their murder convictions were overturned when they were able to prove they had been unjustly accused.

Their extraordinary story was revealed following the wedding attended by actresses Brooke Shields, Marlo Thomas and Amy Irving.

'We have each lived a nightmare,' said Ms Jacobs, 64, before the ceremony. 'Now it's time to live our fairy tale,' she added.

The couple met in Galway, Ireland, at an Amnesty International conference where Ms Jacobs was speaking out against capital punishment.

Ms Jacobs, known as 'Sunny', was a 28-year-old 'vegetarian hippie' when she was arrested after a 1976 shootout with two policemen in Florida in which the officers were killed.

She was a passenger in the car with her husband, Jesse Tafero, but the driver, Walter Rhodes Junior, struck a deal with prosecutors and blamed the married couple for the shootings. A jailhouse informant also told police that Ms Jacobs confessed she was involved.

It was only after her husband, who had a prior criminal record, was executed in a Florida electric chair in 1990 that the informant recanted and Rhodes admitted he had fired the fatal shots.

She was eventually released in 1992 nearly 17 years following her arrest, after the conviction was overturned on repeal.

When he first heard the mother-of-two's story, Mr Pringle, 74, said he was 'blown away by the horror of what happened to her. 'I knew I had to speak to her,' he told the New York Times.

The Irishman knew better than most what she had gone through. He was sentenced to death for the 1980 murder of two policemen during a bank raid in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, said to have been carried out by a radical faction of the Irish Republican Army.

His June 8, 1981, hanging was commuted by the Irish president and the conviction was quashed after evidence emerged showing his 'confession' was written before he'd even been interviewed about the killings. By that time, he'd spent 15 years behind bars.

After their first meeting, the couple teamed up in the US and more than a dozen other countries to give speeches about human rights and campaign for abolishing the death penalty.

'Sure, Peter and I were also physically attracted to one another, but it was deeper than that,' Ms Jacobs told the Times. 'You know what happens to attractive, it becomes wrinkled and fat.'

The couple now lives at Mr Pringle's cottage home in Ireland.

'Sunny teaches yoga, I live on a pension. We have two hens, two ducks and eight goats. We both milk the goats and Sunny makes cheese. It's really a nice, simple life,' said Mr Pringle.

Original report here

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