Innocence Project Client Philip Barnett Released from Prison After Serving 10 Years for a Murder DNA Proves He Didn’t Commit

By Innocence Staff

Philip and Nathan Barnett, two brothers wrongly convicted, moments after Philip was released from prison on August 9.

(West Virginia–August 9, 2018) Innocence Project client Philip Barnett was released from Parkersburg Correctional Center this afternoon after having posted bail set earlier today by Judge Alfred E. Ferguson of West Virginia’s Sixth Judicial Circuit in Huntington, West Virginia. The court agreed to set bail in the amount of $50,000 while Barnett’s habeas petition based on new and exculpatory DNA evidence is pending.   

Related: New DNA Test Results Excludes Barnett Brothers

“We are grateful that Mr. Barnett was released today and are hopeful given the strength of the DNA evidence that the District Attorney will continue to move quickly to vacate the convictions against Mr. Barnett and the others who served many years for a crime they didn’t commit,” said Karen Thompson, Senior Staff Attorney with the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.  

“It’s heartbreaking to know that your only two children have spent eight-plus years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.” 

Barnett was convicted of the 2002 crime based almost exclusively on the contradictory statements of Brian Dement. The case had gone cold for five years until police arrested Dement on an unrelated charge. Dement, who was addicted to drugs at the time, was interrogated for eight hours and gave three conflicting statements implicating himself; Barnett; Barnett’s brother, Nathan; and Justin Black, a friend of the Barnett brothers.  

Related: Innocence Blog Mother’s Day Series: Tammy and Philip Barnett

All four were eventually convicted of the crime and are challenging their convictions.  Nathan Barnett is represented by the West Virginia Innocence Project, Black is represented by the Exoneration Project, and Dement is represented by the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions. In June 2018, Barnetts’ and Black’s defense attorneys received results of DNA comparisons conducted by the West Virginia State Crime Laboratory that revealed a single DNA profile on a cigarette butt found on the scene that matched to the DNA profile obtained from semen found on the victim’s pants that were removed from and left beside her body. The DNA profile identified through the DNA database belonged to Timothy Smith, a man who lived in Huntington, West Virginia at the time and who has been convicted of committing sexual assault on a minor.  Smith is currently incarcerated in Ohio for failing to update his address as a sex offender. The DNA excluded all four men originally convicted of the crime.

Nathan, Tammy, and Philip Barnett together before the wrongful conviction. Photo courtesy of the Barnett family.

Nathan Barnett, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, spent eight years in prison and was released in 2015. Black was released on parole in June. Dement remains incarcerated.

“We are grateful that Mr. Barnett was released today and are hopeful given the strength of the DNA evidence that the District Attorney will continue to move quickly to vacate the convictions against Mr. Barnett and the others who served many years for a crime they didn’t commit.”

Tammy Barnett, mother of Philip and Nathan who has been a relentless advocate for her sons, shared with the Innocence Project in April, “It’s heartbreaking to know that your only two children have spent eight-plus years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.”

Related: DNA’s Revolutionary Role in Freeing the Innocent

The case is now in the hands of the Cabell County District Attorney who must decide how to proceed with the case in light of the new DNA evidence revealing the mens’ innocence.

Nathan and Philip Barnett in court in 2011. Photo by The Herald-Dispatch.


  1. Cindy Fruda

    Corky Hammers needs to give up, DNA does not lie and that nut case still refuses to believe that the WVA justice system convicted the right people. He needs to lick his wounds and not be so eager to convict innocent people. I wonder if any of these men will get a ( oh we’re so sorry ) from Chris Childs who has never lost a case until now.

  2. Tiniqua New

    Thank God!!! I always knew the Barnett Brothers where innocent!! I knew them well and spent a lot of time with them. Never a bad vibe or anything!! Sucks that they are not going to get those 10 plus years back. But hopefully they make the best of the time they have missed. So happy for Phillip!!!

  3. Kristen Aude

    Here’s a thought… let the innocent ones go home! It’s not that effing difficult to figure out. If someone didn’t do the crime, then they shouldn’t be rotting in a prison cell. Common sense is not common, anymore.

  4. Laverne Smith

    Welcome Home Nathan!!!
    Thank God for the Innocence Project. They do good work. Glad you are out, and can start a new life. I hope and pray you will have a smooth transition back into society. Keep your head up and don’t look back.
    God be with you brother!!!!
    And if you find it hard to find employment. Please go to your local Goodwill store. They will definitely help you with employment.

    Laverne Smith

  5. Coreen Kerr

    I am so glad that Philip is finally released & back with his Family especially his Mom Tammy. Thank goodness for DNA but… I do find some Police do jump to conclusions & hearsay & convict a person in their mind b4 there is even a trial.
    Take care
    Coreen Kerr

  6. Lanie Boyde

    God Bless
    Pray all goes well
    Be safe.. And be careful , times are different and everyone is not happy for you.
    Be Encouraged and keep fighting for JUSTICE

  7. Jean Rosenberg

    Please know as you move forward, there are many who Celebrate your release and wish you a safe transition to the community where you choose to settle.
    May your future be filled with joy and hope! Jean Rosenberg

  8. Shadiah Shamsid-Deen

    Welcome home my brother. I wish you many blessings in your new found Freedom!

  9. Martin McAnallen

    We are delighted in Ireland that your conviction has not been maintained, We trust that the district attorney does the just thing. Enjoy every day of your life from this day onwards.

  10. va wright

    Thank You God for the release of these innocent men and may they walk on in the sunshine and make the most of their lives on the outside : and for the hard effort of their mother to see them set free : now it is up to the state to find a way to make restitution for all the years they have lost, the angst, the misery and the shame : we cannot call it a ‘ justice system ‘ when there are cases like this.
    welcome home guys : enjoy your lives.

  11. Bravewolf No last name

    Hi Mr Barnett.
    I was reading your story its very Sad to know that even to this day even with all the Technology, we have in the world an in the 50 states innocent people are still being arrested an charged with a crime they never committed thats totally wrong and very Sad to know. I’m glad to hear that your finally out of prison an back with your family where you belong. My name is Bravewolf but I go by Brave I’m an Inmates Rights Advocate I believe in fighting for an speaking for those who can’t speak out against the system for Fear of being severely punished an for those like yourself who where wrongly convicted of a crime you never did commit, I know how it fills to be arrested an put in jail for a crime you never committed. I was also arrested an put in jail back in 2007 in Pensacola Florida where I lived I was arrested for First degree theft of property an buying an receiving stolen property, a crime I knew I didn’t commit but I was lucky I cleared my charge by myself an was released from jail but after spending 2 an half weeks in a stupid pathetic jail for a crime I knew I didn’t do.I told the Judge to simply review the surveillance video from the pawn shop where I was supposedly pawned a stolen VCR. I’m not that damn crazy an stupid the judge did look at the video an seen it was not me walking into the pawn shop with the stolen VCR an ordered my release an all charges dropped I acted as my own attorney an was lucky I was cleared thats why I speak up for and I’m a true an loyal an 100% Dedicated fierce fighting Warrior for inmates who have been arrested an charged with a crime they never committed an I will always be a true an Dedicated inmates rights advocate.
    Sincerely Bravewolf
    Inmates Rights Advocate.
    Los Angeles, CA.

  12. Matthew Fisher

    I’m grateful to see the Innocence Projects work at first hand.

  13. Van O

    So glad you’re out! Our justice system continues to fail us. Circumstancial evidence seems to be a big issue and most jurors don’t understand how the system works. T.V. /media makes an arrested person look guilty after an arrest and that’s what people believe. We need to educate people about the law. It should be taught in schools if you ask me(I know you didn’t ask me). The police make false accusations and the judge takes their side. No justice and too much “red tape” to give someone a fair trial.

  14. Veroune Chittim

    Welcome back to your family and friends. May you be fully exonerated and restored to al!
    rights! Bless you and Bless your attorneys for their commitment to your freedom!

  15. Lee Zucker

    Hope that your State compensates the wrongfully imprisoned (to the extent that such a thing is possible).

  16. Alicia K

    Hello Mr. Barnett! Welcome home!!! I pray your brother will also be released soon so that your family can be reunited. I’m so sorry that you all had to endure punishment for something that you didn’t do. I am so happy every time I read one of the messages it brings me to tears even though I don’t know you. Praying that the rest of your lives will be the best of your lives!!!

  17. kathleen opeththa straight tail hopkins

    Unfortunately this is the state of “justice” and “criminal investigations” in America. This is why I fight every single day for REAL PRISON REFORM, and why I have studied criminology methods, including forensic science and forensic psychology, abroad. The methodology used in the US is DESIGNED to fuel mass incarceration!

    That said, I am so happy you have been released, many blessings to you and your families! Enjoy your freedom while you can, because this current unconstitutional government is attempting every dirty trick in the book to take it away! We are seriously committed to not allowing that, and to serious end to mass incarceration, which is highly profitable, and that is why they push poor methods and incarcerate innocent people. EVERYONE DESERVES A FAIR TRIAL AND A VOICE! MONEY BAIL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL! But don’t let that worry you just enjoy your families and being outside!

    Best wishes,

  18. Linda Jansen

    Thinking of you all and hoping that you can put your lives back together in some semblance of normalcy after this tragic prosecution mistake.

    I’m also thinking of Leonard Peltier, locked up for 40 years after the FBI screwed up his trial.

    Peace, but you have to fight for it, which you all have done and continue to do.


  19. Cindy LaBranche

    Welcome home, I pray everything works in you all favor.


    I’m so happy for you guys. I was also convicted for crime i didn’t committed. I was in the same mess you guys are in. I’m still trying to get someone to help me. I wish you the best. It’s a long hard road trying to get ones life back. good luck Sharon Purkiss

  21. Mary McNinch

    So glad for you and the fight for freedom,happens to the innocent daily,very sad stay strong don’t give up.

  22. Shirley Nallie

    May all those who have been unfairly and unjustifiably accused of wrongdoings be restored one day.

    Bless all Mothers who have to endure the pain of seeing their children incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.

    Shame on those prosecutors who work for a win rather than justice.

  23. Peter Haroutian

    Just happy you were released.

  24. Patricia Kirk

    Why does a DA who knows someone is innocent drag his feet about exonerating them? It’s like he thinks it’s no big deal when it is the biggest of deals.

    Hope you can forgive the people who committed such a wrong against you and live free of bitterness.

    God bless you.

  25. Angela McFall

    Thank God you made it home! I know your Mother is so relieved. I’m still fighting for my son. No faith in our justice system or law enforcement. All my faith is in God. Praying you have a smooth transition back home.

  26. Jay Bynum

    Welcome home my brothers! ! God bless you and your family. I can only imagine your heartache and mental state after enduring such a tragic ordeal like that . Innocence is only a frame of mind when it’s being judged by someone else. It’s very sad and harsh the reality we have to live in . I will pray for you and your family as well. Stay blessed guys.

  27. Derrick Mobley MD, CAADC

    Welcome back to civilization. Take your time readjusting to society.

  28. Mel Sandoval

    Welcome home!!

  29. Dennis McLain

    I will keep this positive and simply say how wonderful it is to see this happen for these men. From now on, have a wonderful life.

  30. Arthur Kennedy

    Welcome home !

  31. LeAnne Breazeale

    Wonderful news. Sad that it took so much time from you and your family though. May the rest of your lives be filled with peace and many blessings!!

  32. D Barnett Gills

    Mr Barnett, I am very grateful that you are home. Stay positive as we pray for your Guidance, Protection and Blessings all the days of your life. Debra OKC, OK

  33. Jo Kapahu

    No amount of money can give back the time loss from these two men. I know how dark that time was. They did what they could to survive this awful ordeal. Their mom never gave up and remained their beacon of hope. Our family knows too well the feeling. Praying that both men can live peacefully one day at a time trying to get back into society. Don’t waste time on the past. The past took enough away from you both. Live, Love and Laugh every minute you have. Wake up with a smile and tell your mom how much you love her and hug as much as you can. Good Luck you two, your new chapter starts now. GOD IS GREAT!

  34. Sandra Jackson

    Welcome home guys! You certainly deserve a warm welcome home! I pray that you will find peace. Leave the anger behind you. Forgive the ignorant and move forward and never look back! I have faith that you will both can and will get to see and do the things that you deserve and missed. Don’t miss a thing if you can make that happen!

    Sandi Jackson


    Welcome Home Philip, I’d also like to thank your mom, Tammy for jumping in to advocate. It’s not an easy job, and most days you just want to cry. I’m there now advocating for my husband. He is an identical twin and his brother did this to him. I’ve been working nearly 2 years researching, gathering evidence, my nose always stuck in a lawbook. It’s very stressful when your loved one is innocent and there’s no one else to carry the load upon your shoulders daily but you. I imagine it’s much easier when your not attached to a case through someone your related to or whom you love. I’m very good at the research, and the private investigating, I’m not bashful and will speak to anyone who will listen. I really thought because this case has to do with identical twins that an attorney would love a case that may establish precedence. I’ve done all the work and just need an attorney here in Texas who’d be a bulldog in the courtroom with all the proof and evidence I worked day and night to gather and finally put the correct twin right where he should be PRISON!! Philip my husband and I are originally both from Ohio, and we have been to Huntington many times, and really wish you only the best. I ‘m sure it won’t be easy, but because you have been through it knowing your innocent, same as my husband, don’t forget all the others who are innocent and fighting the good fight. The Lord blessed you, now just make sure to always pay it forward and be a blessing to others, and never forget the ones still bound in chains . I’m overjoyed that your out and home where you always should’ve been. Prayers to you and your family, God bless Dawn

  36. Ana Karen

    Congratulations!!!! I pray your future will be blessed and prosperous. May the years behind never dictate the years ahead. I’m truly sorry for the years behind. You are very blessed to have a whole team in your corner, fighting for you, as not every wrongly convicted person does. Celebrate on behalf of those still inside!

  37. Eloise Rayford

    God bless you, now and forever.

  38. Donald Stanton

    As a father who has a son who is currently in FDOC for 30 years (served 6 years so far) for a crime HE didn’t do! I am glad to see your release from prison. It gives me hope, and I pray you will enjoy everyday of freedom, God Bless, Pastor Don Stanton

  39. Dewana Munoz

    Congratulations you made it out and welcome home.

  40. Andrea Mitchell

    Oh my! You are right to want to breathe deeply! God blessed you to make it though everything- you had support and love that a lot of people don’t have.
    I am SO glad that there was a way to get you at least to this point, looking forward to the final final, and that your family is still here too, and that you are still young men enough to go forward with a newness to your life. Good For You And The Innocence Project!
    I wonder if there is some way that you can turn that time you spent in, into a way to help some other guys in some way, who are (or who were) in a similar situation: write books (for people or, for lawyers and judges giving them your perspectives and opinions), start a school to teach people about what happened to you and how to try to avoid it happening to them–I don’t know.
    But anyway, keep yourselves safe and smart and healthy in the upcoming days and weeks. Read some Bible. Find out if God has a plan and a purpose for your life [Jeremiah 29:11]. Continue to be strong and don’t stop [Proverbs 13:4. Philippians 4:13. Galatians 6:9.]. Move forward and do your best [1 Corinthians 10:13. 2 Corinthians 5:17.]. Embrace all things that are good and right, and be wise in all your decisions and plans, and thankful [Isaiah 41:10. Deuteronomy 31:6. 1 Thessalonians 5:22. James 1:17. Matthew 7:10].
    Best of life to you. Love, Andrea M.


    Welcome home, so sorry it took this long. I hope this will not have you bitter, but write about your experience so people will understand the horror of our penial system and it will also allow you release of the anger of being there so long. GOD bless your mom for never giving up, that s what we do as mom’s. I wish the best for you and your family.

  42. Felicia Corbin

    The universe said it was time to release those chains! Welcome home, hope you have all the best in your next chance of Life which was stolen from you.My cousin came home after 30 years in prison and the first thing he wanted was the iPhone x it made us all laugh and cried at the same time he is so mesmerized by his new surrounding how advanced technology is,It will take such strong support from your family to adapt to society but I know you have great support.

    Peace and Blessings brother

  43. FIRMILIAN Nailimrif

    Welcome back to Freedom !!!!!! God Bless you !!!!!!!!!

  44. Hilary Nelson

    Welcome home! May God richly bless you and your family!

  45. Karla Bateman

    Dear Mr Barnett.

    Congratulations to you and may you have a happy and prosperous life.
    Your now free to enjoy all that the world has to offer.

    Love and light


  46. Valerie Skaggs

    I hope the rest of your lives is everything you dreamed of. Good Luck to you both. Hugs and prayers from Arkansas.

  47. Brenda Thomas

    Welcome home, I know your Mom is just speechless. Thank God that this nightmare has come to an end for your family. Now please be in prayer that I can help my son who was convicted in Michigan of child porn on his company computer.

  48. Lisa Hogue

    Welcome home ! Thank God for DNA testing, for the Innocence Project and for justice being served. I am so sorry it took so long for it to happen and I keep praying for all the innocent still serving sentences especially those who have waited/served decades already.

  49. Lisa Epperson

    Congratulations….I am fighting the same fight for my baby son who has been in jail for 3 years now for something that his ex-girlfriend framed him for and then wanted to change it but it was to late once the state had picked it up. Now he is facing charges of child molesting because she wanted to say things because she was angry and now my child is facing life in prison for something he did not do. We have been fighting and will continue to fight, with God on my side he will come home soon. So again thank God for this program and the wonderful people who support it and helping these Innocent people!

    God Bless you!!!!

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