Ex-death row inmate tells story of innocence

A man convicted of first-degree murder was sentenced to the electric chair, but after five years in prison he was proven innocent and released. Jeremy Sheets, a member of the Witness to Innocence organization, came to KU to speak to students and faculty about his experience on death row and about certain aspects of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Witness to Innocence is an organization of death row exonerees who are striving to educate the public about the death penalty and to eliminate it from our justice system. According to the organization, Witness to Innocence, “Sheets was arrested for the 1992 rape and murder of 17-year-old Honors student Kenyatta Bush in Omaha. He was convicted in 1997 based exclusively on a taped confession made by his co-defendant, Adam Barnett.”

Sheets recounted his side of the story for the KU audience that attended ACE’s event. In 1997, 22-year old Sheets was serving his 11th month in the U.S. military when his long-time best friend, Adam Barnett, called him on the base phone. The phone call was set up by the police in an effort to get Sheets to admit to being an accomplice to the crime that Barnett was being charged for. Sheets was confused by the phone call. Immediately as he hung up, police swarmed in and took him to jail without an explanation for four days without contact to anyone.

Sheets sat in jail for four months before being taken to an evidentiary hearing in front of a judge. At the hearing, evidence that Sheets was guilty was to be brought in.

“At this point, Adam Barnett was telling everyone that I was innocent—and the police knew that, the D.A. knew that—so instead of bringing in this witness at the hearing to show that they have a witness against me to hold me over for trial, they didn’t bring [Barnett] in, instead they just brought a cop in,” said Sheets.

He recalled that the officer said they have a witness to testify against Sheets at trial and that was all the court needed to keep Sheets in jail.

“And this is where it gets really interesting, because right after that hearing Adam Barnett hung himself,” said Sheets.

After Barnett was dead, the court made up for his absence by choosing one of his seven statements to use against Sheets at trial.

“Adam Barnett was saying some crazy things. How it started at first was it was at a party. And all the sudden out of the blue Adam Barnett started telling some people that he and I had killed this girl. So of course they called the cops,” said Sheets.

The cops rushed to the scene to arrest Barnett for murder and Barnett began telling the police that Sheets told him about it.

Sheets explained that the cops did not believe Barnett’s response so, they asked him for another statement. Barnett’s second statement was that he and Sheets picked this girl up from her school and then Sheets stabbed her to death, but the cops didn’t believe that response either. Sheets informed the audience that the police continued to pressure Barnett for answers and assured him protection if he testified against Sheets.

The next statement Barnett made was that Sheets kidnapped, raped and stabbed the girl, which the police believed.

“They convicted me at trial. They wouldn’t let us put in the autopsy report, or acknowledge the fact that I didn’t even own the vehicle that Adam Barnett claimed I used,” said Sheets on the lack of evidence.

Six months after being convicted, Sheets was sentenced to death by electric chair. He was then transferred to death row, which he described as, “the little building smack dab in the middle of the prison with its own fence around it.”

It took four years until the Nebraska Supreme Court returned his first appeal, which on average normally takes six months. After waiting for four years, Sheets won his first appeal; the court said that Barnett’s statement was deemed unreliable and inconsistent. Sheets did not get to leave after winning his appeal; instead, he had to wait until the state appealed to the Supreme Court, which took several months before they agreed that there was no evidence.

After being locked on death row for four years, Sheets was finally proven innocent and able to return to the outside world at the age of 27.

“Within minutes I went from waiting for the electric chair to standing outside,” Sheets said.

It has been over 11 years since Sheets was released from jail. His life has never returned to the way it once was; people run away from him and his time in jail follows him like a shadow everyday.

“It’s still on my record. It says first degree murder, use of weapon to commit a felony and in little tiny letters on the side it says dismissed,” Sheets informed.

Today, Sheets feels very blessed to have found his second wife who allows him to be a stay at home dad with their five young boys in Colorado. He is currently seeking therapy to deal with his painful memories of death row.

Sheets hopes that his experience will educate people about the death penalty.

“We are killing innocent people, I guarantee you,” he said.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “Since 1973, 141 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.” Sheets urges people to acknowledge the death penalty and its issues.

By Haley Bianco



Categories: News

19 replies

  1. Glad to hear everything kinda worked out….
    I still remember the 24 hours after we got out of bootcamp & before we reported to NTC….
    Listening to beach-boys at Dunck’n doughnuts as the palm trees swayed, right after leaving Great Lake’s -20 temps…
    And of course having the Taxi drop us off at the wrong side of NTC, and having to hump our sea-bags over a mile…
    Back then, your biggest claim to fame was being a guest on Sally.
    Weird how life works some times & the stuff you find dudes you once knew went through after you parted ways……
    “SHEETS!” ~ “Sticky when wet!”

    • PAWLOWSKI. SEAMAN BAGGETT HERE. WENT TO RMA SCHOOL WITH SHEETS AND CONSIDERED HIM A FRIEND. HATE TO THINK THE ACCUSATIONS ARE TRUE BUT GUESS THAT’S BETWEEN SHEETS AND GOD. STILL MISS RTC SAN DIEGO, THE BEST 6 MONTHS OF MY LIFE

    • Where are the articles that outline who and why this child was murdered by these 2. Which it was clear it was racial hate. They have all kinds of articles about Candi Harms, but nothing about Kenyatta.

      • Second part for V Dun: they arrested Adam that following Friday. So what happened? Adam says in his last confession played in court, 1- he n Jeremy were driving around all night getting high and taking pills. 2 – They wanted to have sex w/blck girl since there white girlfriends were having sex w/ blck guys 3-spotted girl alone in school parking lot 4 – Adam said he drove up beside her Jeremy jumped out pushed her into back seat as he drove away. They-asked if she was struggling, Adam said yes but Jeremy had his fist closed around a pocket knife to make his fist solid and would hit her if she didn’t stay laying down so after a while she lay still because she didn’t want hit anymore. They took her to a trail off dodge park. Adam held her down at the top, Jeremy rape then stabs her according to Adam. This I’m trying to recall from trial and again is Adams statement. Adam is very detailed in his account, for instance he describes putting a black trash bag over the top of her because they cut her neck and putting the body in the trunk, having to bend her legs. There’s much more, but jury convicts, on appeal state supreme court says defendants have right to cross examination, Adam killed himself, and you can’t cross examine a tape. There really wasn’t much other evidence, Adam said they threw the knife in Mosouri river, which runs right by dodge park. The car they put her in was sold to scrap dealer and couldn’t be located. There was other circumstantial things, like they killed her off a trail at dodge park. Moved her farther down street to Washington county to put the body. That came up at trial because there wasn’t much blood where body was, suggesting she was killed elsewhere. Adams story fit the forensic evidence.

  2. Jeremy sheets is a racist murderer i grew up in the same neighborhood as he and Adam B as young teenagers,AND EVERYTHING OUT OF HIS MOUTH WAS NIGGER THIS AND NIGGER THAT.Truth be told Adam told the truth about Jeremy i still to this day believe it was your idea because you hated blacks so much. Is it different now? Everyone in Omaha that knew Jeremy will tell you,his whole family is racist. I’m glad you went threw what u did in jail and death row i hope it haunts u everyday and you never get over it because it haunts the Bush family even more knowing how you hurt kenyatta and left her to rot. How does it feel to have to live with your lie of murdering a young girl with so much to live for and then turn around and look in your little girls eyes as if daddy is not a killer?

    • Keisha, you are so right. The author of this bs is full of it. There needs to be a “boys don’t cry” movie or doc about this.

      • Yes they have push her off in the shadows…. no nothing about what really happened to Kenyatta. But they keep white girls in the lime light about what happened and how terrible. This is not right

      • Miss Dun. The above article one sided. The other side: the Sat before Adam was arrested he was playing a video game with a friend. That friends wife walked by as Adam asked his friend “you think we’re soft don’t you. Well we’re not, we’re the ones that killed Kenyata” . The wife freaked out, asked Adam to leave. She called her mom who called the police that Monday. The police didn’t believe them. It had been 4 years and they had different suspects, but they went ahead and set up a wire on the wife to see if Adam would repeat his claim from Sat. Wed. she met him outside on his porch as instructed by po. ” don’t go inside”. She asked him if what he said Sat. Was true? Adam, his first recording, basically said he and Jeremy were driving around, pulled up to Kenyata in school parking lot, asked her if she wanted to get high, she joined them, they stopped a few places, went to Dodge park in Omaha, we’re smoking weed and he said she must of said something to piss Jeremy off because next thing he knew he was stabbing her. I never heard that recording, only the one played at trial. The police were In a car down the street. Whatever Adam said, the police told the family, they did it. They knew just from that one conversation they sure enough did it.

  3. Did you think kenyatta was me? I will never forget that day at your house and your racist family came in with a black kitten and i asked what the kitty’s name was and you told me “little nigger” as you and your family looked at me like i was a piece of meat to be devoured, it was Adam that got me out of there quick fast and in a hurry. He told me to never come to your house EVER, EVER and not to walk home with you because even then you were a murderer and wanted to hurt me. I could have been Kenyatta. I only wish Adam would have listen to his real friends who saw the good in him and let him be his real self and left you the hell alone, he probably would still be here with nothing to do with this murder and living his life with kids and wife.
    I don’t believe you or your story and the fact that you do these appearances is just disgusting.

    • Twice in this story of lies ms Bianca says “he was proven innocent”. Untrue. What was the “proof of innocence. I understand a defendant doesn’t have to prove innocence. His conviction overturned on appeal is true. Read police reports and every word kiesha says is true.

    • Adam is my cousin. And I’ve felt so bad for kenyatta and her family. My cousin wasn’t a terrible person. Yes he was there. I don’t doubt that. But I don’t feel he was a murderer. Idk. But either way two people and there families lost someone and we live with that every day.

  4. Clearly whoever wrote this story doesnt know that there is a difference between got off on a technicality somebody being “proven innocent”. If you really think Sheets was proven innocent, then you know NOTHING about the case or law in general. People “get off” on charges all the time. I suppose OJ Simpson was “proven innocent” too right?

  5. Did you miss this in your research? Please explain if this is ok with you?

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Inmate+Jeremy+Sheets&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

  6. Did you miss this in your research? Please explain if this is ok with you?

    http://lexch.com/news/regional/former-death-row-inmate-on-probation/article_02d6cd5a-ec5f-561f-872e-2bc601c27c55.html

    Pretty scary for the teen girl he was convicted of pulling the knife on, ya think? Needs to stay home and watch those boys! Please comment Haley Bianco.

    • THANK YOU for posting this. I think of this story from time to time and came across this. I’m thinking hold up didn’t this fool attempt to do the same thing to a Hispanic chick in some parking lot??? This story is very sad I remember this day… As I went to school with Kenyatta. People thought her step dad did it… I remember LL Cool J came to the school to speak… It was very sad. Like she went to her car during school and disappeared. Very strange since North O is highly populated with blacks that they could just take this young lady in broad day light. Nonetheless, I would love to see a full documentary on this story. I have wrote the ID Channel to ask as well as A & E to no avail.

  7. Jeremy Sheets was NEVER proved to be innocent! He was released on a technicality! Kenyatta was my friend! I sat thru the trial! Things Adam Barnett said would only be know by the murderers! Which Jeremy Sheets is! He murdered my friend and one day he will face is maker and pay for what he did!

  8. Jeremy sheets and Adam Barnett killed Kenyatta. We found out 4 yrs later that we lived across the street from them. I was in the same grade and same school as kenyatta..it took 3 hours before we KNEW she was missing.

    And Jeremy and Adam sold my boyfriend and I a car for 50 dollars and the trunks liner was totally ripped out and porn mags in the trunk it smelled like death. That was 93. And Jeremy did alot of weird stuff..he was all messed up on acid and talking about death and killing ppl and all along we were sitting with the murderer of a highschool friend. They thought it was an afro American male..cause they had no leads. 4yrs later it came out And we already sold the car to some guy in Iowa. Its sooo crazy that he was let out. Adam hung himself cuz he knew they were screwed and Jeremy had Omaha’s highest paid lawyer and since the only witness hung himself they walked. That’s why Jeremy took off to the service. 4yrs later in jail..5 yrs later that show him on the news being released and he walked to the car that picked him up and he high fived the guy in the back seat.

    KARMAS IS A BITCH JEREMY…I HOPE IT GET YOU, YOU ROTTEN SICK PERSON.

  9. Jeremy Sheets is a lying piece of fecal matter.
    He WAS NOT found “innocent” of killing Miss Bush.
    This bastard was released from death row because the U.S. Constitution guarentees you the right to confront your accuser which could not be done in this instance.
    Whether Adam Barnett was an active participant or just there he was & is just as guilty of murder as this putrid punk is.
    The only other sad part of this story besides Miss Bush’s death is that Jeremy Sheets isn’t in a grave next to Adam Barnett

  10. He wasn’t released because he was “proven innocent,” he was released because his codefendents detailed and graphic signed confession and implication of Sheets was inadmissible as the codefendent committed suicide before trial and couldn’t be cross examined. Sheets was charged in a nearly.identical attack on another girl in Colorado after his release and before you posted this mischaracterization of what happened. Sheets lucked out and got away with rape and murder, he is not proven innocent.

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